I didn’t watch the Trump town hall on CNN because, well, it was on CNN and I’ll be dead and in the cold, cold ground before I give them any ratings. But I did monitor the reactions on Twitter.
The MAGA folks were, of course, entirely thrilled with Trump’s performance. Discount that: that could easily be just partisan confirmation bias.
Never Trump: from the first minute were calling it an unmitigated disaster. Discount that: just as easily confirmation bias. But I did notice something…as the night wore on, the later Never Trump comments about it were “well, he talked too much about the 2020 election and nobody cares about that” and “Trump is doomed because everyone cares about January 6th.”
That was all extreme wish-casting. I don’t know how many people actually care about the 2020 vote…but even those who don’t care, if they aren’t committed anti-Trumpers, all pretty much agree that there was quite a lot of illegality and impropriety in the vote. People believe this because it was obvious. As I’ve asked people (and never get a response on), “they covered up the windows in the counting rooms because ____?”. They can’t answer it. They never will answer it. Because the only answer to “why did you hide the count?” is “because we were stuffing the ballot boxes”.
Nobody cares about January 6th. The Democrats and their MSM lapdogs (seconded by the chihuahua-like yapping of Never Trump types) tried to make the J6 hearings into another Watergate and nobody cared. Mostly nobody cares because nothing really happened that day save for the unfortunate shooting of an unarmed and peaceful demonstrator (which, of course, the J6 boosters never talk about). At the end of the day, with a little bit of rowdiness early on, the Establishment got what they wanted on J6: Pudding Brain certified as the winner. You’re not allowed to complain about things going your way: and the complaints they make about J6 merely seem like pathetic whining.
But it was the Left comments which were most telling: they were ballistic over it. I mean completely unhinged. It was like their world was coming to an end…because Trump, to all appearances, was calm, cool, collected, funny and made some really telling points in response to the gotcha questions of the host.
Pay attention to that: if the Left is pissed off about it, then it worked out well for Trump.
I’ve said for a while now – and it remains true – and plenty of Trump voters are willing to move on. DeSantis is the obvious first choice with Vivek Ramaswamy being the surprising second choice. There is a rational case to make for dropping Trump in favor of some other tool we think may be better suited to break down the Establishment and restore America. But as I’ve also been saying – and I’ve said it since 2015 when I was opposing Trump for the nomination – that the only way to beat Trump is to out-Trump him.
One very particular thing came up in that town hall which is getting little play is Trump’s proposal to pardon most J6 detainees. This has caused monkey-screeches from the Left, of course, while the DeSantis people are (very reasonably) pointing out that Trump could have done that January 7th. But the really crucial thing about it is Trump rising to the defense of the J6 detainees. If DeSantis really wants to break down Trump’s core support – and DeSantis will have to do this to beat Trump – then it should have been DeSantis calling for this first. And that, in my view, is the breakdown in the DeSantis effort: for all the good things he’s doing (and they are fantastic, with the education reforms holding the most long-term potential for us), he’s yet to show to the Trumpsters that he will go to war with the Establishment. Going after Disney: Great. Going after Drag Queen Story Time: Wonderful. But these are fairly run-of-the-mill GOP positions now (being anti-Corporate has actually been taking hold on the right for about ten years). DeSantis needs to pick out a position which is so Trump-y that Trump hasn’t got there yet. The J6 people were the easiest. Now he’ll have to find something else.
What can DeSantis do? That will be up to him but if I were in his position, I’d announce that if elected, every person who illegally crossed the border after January 20th, 2021 will be deported regardless of circumstances. No refugees, no Dreamers: no nothing. I’d announce it as the only means to tell these people that they can’t take advantage of an Administration too corrupt to control the border. That no matter how well they try to blend in before January 20th, 2025, they will be deported. Alternately, DeSantis can call for a suspension of American aid to Ukraine by X Date unless Ukraine agrees to peace talks with Russia. The main thing here is to take something that the Establishment wants very badly (open borders, endless war, etc) and propose to take it away. That demonstrates a willingness to fight: and that is what DeSantis must do if he wants to transfer the love the Trumpsters feel over to himself.
Because that is the key to it all and so far nobody gets it. They call the Trumpsters “MAGAts” or “Trump Cultists” or what have you. They don’t realize that for these people, supporting Trump is an act of love. A pledge to America and to future greatness. You’ll only get them over to you if you give them a reason to love you more. And, hey, maybe they are misguided. Maybe they’re not seeing some crucial things. But anyone who has ever experienced love knows that you can’t talk someone out of it…you bend with it. But it is also important to understand that love – real love – is a matter of loving the beloved before they are lovable. The anti-Trump people keep trying to make Trump seem hateful when all that does is make those who love him love him even more. They see the flaws. They are not blind. But that doesn’t deter the lover. In fact, it makes the true lover even more devoted. You can’t break that by shouting insults. You can only break it by loving even more than they do.
This is why I pointed out to various people who have recently been calling for Trump to back out over his legal troubles that they are making a huge mistake. They aren’t helping their cause, at all. They are, in fact, shooting themselves in the foot. And in two ways:
- First off, they are essentially going along with a Democrat op. A “get Trump” effort which has entirely divorced itself from law or any sense of decency as it seeks to destroy Trump by any means necessary. Calling for Trump to back out is merely to play along with a smear. And if it actually worked, then that smear would then be turned on the next guy and the next and the next and the next.
- It is alienating Trump supporters. Every time a Never Trump Conservative calls for Trump to back out or be pushed out, it simply tightens up Trump’s support. It makes his supporters ever more willing to stick with him. The proper tactic to take here is to relentlessly attack the Democrat effort as the illegal, unjust and cruel effort it is. That way when you talk to Trumpsters, they’ll listen.
I don’t know how this will come out. I’m still very certain that we’re going to lose next year. But this is primarily because I see the divisions in the Right. They are fostered by the Left and they are setting MAGA and anti-Trump at each other’s throats and convincing them to take Only Trump or Never Trump positions, respectively. Blood is getting up and heads are getting down and whomever emerges with the GOP nomination will find a fractured GOP going up against a united Democrat Party with endless supplies of money, the MSM and a paid army of influencers at every level. I think it will still end up a close race (Pudding Brain is monumentally unpopular), but I do believe that they shove him over the finish line…even if it once again takes some manufactured votes in key States (there will be less of this in 2024 than in 2020 because no Covid and some law changes…but there’s still just enough wiggle room in just enough States to allow some last-minute vote creation to tip the scales).
But however it comes out, the key to victory in 2024 or any future race will have to be the anti-Trump people making their peace with MAGA. This means ditching entirely all MSM talking points about Trump (after all, what the Trump haters hate about Trump is all stuff the MSM told them without having a shred of evidence to back it up). It means talking positively about MAGA. It means acknowledging – without any hedging – the good things Trump accomplished while at the same time agreeing with the obvious: he would have been able to do to a lot more if the GOP leadership and pundit classes had backed him up, as they were morally obligated to do.
Trump isn’t going away. His supporters aren’t going way. You can’t win without Trump and MAGA. It is just the plain facts of life. You can’t “move on” from Trump in the sense of ditching him and pretending he didn’t happen and that his voters will get back into the Neo-Con, Globalist loser fold. You have to show MAGA that you love them; that you want them; that you care about them and will do your best for them. This will require the adoption by everyone in the GOP of large aspects of Trumpist policy and attitudes. Or you can cope and seethe about it as you lose.