‘Tis the season for Republicans to distance themselves from Trump

At least, for now.

DES MOINES, IOWA - OCTOBER 09: Former President Donald Trump speaks to supporters during a rally at ...
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Former President Donald Trump hasn’t officially declared he’s running for office again in 2024, but by most indications, that seems to be his plan. You would think this would be good news to a Republican Party that has spent the past five-ish years violently contorting itself to conform to his fickle whims. And, yes, for many in the GOP — particularly the rank-and-file base and its new crop of hungry proto-fascists — another Trump term in office would be a welcome second coming. But there’s a growing rumbling among the party’s oh-so-staid senatorial upper crust that perhaps a 2024 Trump campaign wouldn’t be so great after all.

To which I say: Ha. Ha ha. Ha ha ha.

Here’s Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy throwing cold water on a potential Trump re-run during a just-released interview with Axios’s Mike Allen on Sunday:

“Trump is the first president in the Republican side at least to lose the House, the Senate, and the presidency in four years,” Cassidy explains at one point, adding that “elections are about winning.”

Asked if he’d vote for Trump if he did run again, Cassidy states plainly, “I’m not.”

Cassidy’s admission comes on the heels of multiple anonymous GOP senators offering similar sentiments to The Hill, with one complaining, “I think we’re better off when he’s not part of any story.” Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who spoke on the record, offered this lukewarm assessment of a potential Trump re-election campaign:

The 2022 election ought to be about the Biden administration and its rolling disasters so anything that would detract from the public being focused on what Democratic governance is doing to this country would be ill-advised.

Hardly an enthusiastic rah-rah go-get-‘em endorsement for perhaps the most consequential figurehead in modern GOP history. Even South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham, arguably the former president’s most obsequious toady in the whole of Congress, doesn’t seem willing to throw his weight behind Trump without qualifying his support with some pretty significant caveats: “The sooner he gets in, the more they can attack him, but also the more money he can raise,” he told The Hill. “I’ve been pushing the idea that a Draft Trump movement would be well received.”

“I think he was a good president on the things I care about,” Graham continued. “He’s going to have to deal with the problems in 2020 but, yeah, I think he’d be the most viable candidate right now.”

Notably, the basis for most of GOP’s reticence over a potential Trump 2024 campaign appears to be solely electoral calculus, and not concern over all the crimes and bigotry and uncategorizable lunacy that happened the first time around and would likely happen again. This, more than anything else, is how you know they’re all full of shit.

Consider how the GOP responded to Trump during the 2016 election. Think back to every time a Republican lawmaker swore that electing Trump would destroy the party, or was so disgusted by the then-candidate’s behavior that they were simply at a loss for words. And then take a minute to consider how quickly they all fell neatly in line the moment it became clear that Trump was in a position to not only win the White House, but make all their ghoulish conservative dreams of discriminating against immigrants and letting billionaires get even richer come true. If anything, Trump has even more leverage over the GOP today than he did during his first campaign, so why on Earth should we believe Republican senators who now suddenly want the public to believe they’ve found their missing backbones after six years of invertebrate simping?

This, more than anything else, is the hard truth of politics that conservatives intuitively seem to understand: that rhetoric and false modesty and oh-so-sincerely delivered proclamations of intense moral character are simply a means to win power. Once that power is won, there’s no point in acknowledging anything that led to that point.

Republican senators may say today that they don’t want Trump to run. But if and when he does, the only question will be how long will it take them to hop right back into formation.