A Rant: 'Team Normal' Republicans, Stop Whining That Democrats Won't Help You
Your Trump problem is just that: Your problem.
I have a rant for you today.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the “bellyaching and scolding from establishment Republicans” about Democrats’ interventions on behalf of Trumpier candidates in Republican primaries generally and the Michigan 3rd congressional district primary specifically: Rep. Peter Meijer, who had voted for impeachment, lost to pro-Trump candidate John Gibbs, who enjoyed about a half-million dollars of supportive spending from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.
Republicans are correct that many Democrats have acted hypocritically, raising alarm about Trump being a unique threat to democracy while they act to strengthen his grip on the Republican Party. But there’s lots of hypocrisy in politics. The reason this burns so much for the “Team Normal” Republicans is that Democrats are making life more difficult for them on two dimensions — they’re making it harder (at the margin, anyway) for them and their allies to win Republican primaries, and they’re helping to saddle the party with Trump’s preferred candidates, who are less likely to win general elections.
How do I know that’s the real reason Republicans are so indignant? It’s because when Democrats take actions that are consistent with their purported view that Trump is a danger to democracy — such as, for example, pursuing a criminal investigation of his activities — the “Team Normal” Republicans complain about that, too. Right now, the Republican bellyaching is the FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago — it’s unprecedented! it strengthens his hand! it’s “overreach,” whatever — even though the actions of the Democrat at issue here (Merrick Garland) are perfectly congruent with viewing Trump as a legitimate and direct threat to democracy.
Here’s Dan McLaughlin of National Review complaining that the raid is going to make it harder to get Ron DeSantis nominated in 2024:
What the “Team Normal” Republicans would like is the arrangement they had before 2015 — they would like Trump to help stir up their own voters and generate “energy,” but they don’t want to have to defend his unpopular actions and characteristics to swing voters who have a negative view of him and they also don’t want to have intraparty fights with the candidates he supports. What they’d like to do is move not against him but past him. They see that Trump is absorbed by his own hobby-horses and searches for vengeance; he does not seem especially animated by the new culture wars of the day; maybe he can just be allowed to fade away, screaming into a void, as the party nominates DeSantis.
When Democrats help prop up candidates who are committed to avenging Trump, they interfere with this project. And if they indict Trump — raising the salience of Trump’s personal grievances and putting Trump’s fixation on his own alleged persecution into more plausible alignment with the locus of Republican primary voter interest in 2024 — they will also interfere with the project.
In the view of the Republicans who cry foul at these actions, it’s the Democrats’ responsibility not to back Trump or oppose him — it’s to ignore him, as they try mightily to do the same, in hopes that it will cause him to disappear in favor of another stronger potential nominee. That is, Democrats are supposed to participate in their strategy to get DeSantis nominated in 2024 — it’s their duty, even if it entails giving Trump a pass on criminal acts, and even though it will make Democrats less likely to win the 2024 election.
Well, it’s fine to want things. But why on earth would Democrats do that, simply because Republicans want them to? That your party is led by an inept, impulsive, criminally inclined man, who is viewed negatively by most voters, who cares very little about whether your party wins elections or achieves policy goals, and who keeps causing the party to nominate his unappealing weirdo personal friends in otherwise-winnable Senate races, is your problem — one largely of your own making. No self-respecting set of political opponents would respond to this in any other way than by putting the screws to you as hard as is possible.
I just find it galling to watch a set of people who have failed so abjectly, both morally and strategically, as the Republican establishment — very much including the commentators at National Review and elsewhere, whose complete irrelevance in shaping the direction of the party was exposed by Trump’s rise and reign — stand up and demand that their opponents show them mercy and forbearance and assistance in their fight to ensure their party should win elections despite its association with Donald Trump. Who do you people think you are?
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This is excellent.
I'm agnostic on the question of whether democracy is truly imperiled at the moment, but I've read that the way to beat back authoritarian movements is to very much treat them like you would any political movement -- hit them where they're weak while campaigning on what makes you popular, instead of investing them with the dark glamour of being a World-Historical Evil (which somehow attracts people who are desperate to feel strong).
I.e., whether or not politics is "normal," you have to keep calm and act like it is.
Which is very much an argument against doing any favors for "normal" Republicans.
That was a deliciously cathartic read. Thank you