Stories I Won’t Be Covering
Or, Adventures in Apophasis
I want to take one edition of this newsletter just to clear away a few stories from recent weeks so I can make room for the big story that will start any day now: the Ukrainian counter-offensive against Russia.
By contrast, the stories below are ones that I won’t be covering, not for a while at least, or in much depth. Except, of course, for the fact that I am mentioning them to you now and referring you to other peoples’ coverage.
The Year Zero
One of the stories I won’t be covering is the contest for the 2024 presidential nomination. That is because I don’t think there’s going to be any contest. The Democrats won’t run a serious challenger to Joe Biden, which is normal for the party’s incumbent leader. And despite some protesting noises here and there, Republicans seem to be entirely unwilling to give up on Donald Trump.
See a good piece on this by Sarah Longwell at The Bulwark describing 2016 as The Year Zero.
I’ve sat through hundreds of focus groups with GOP voters over the last four years and one thing is perfectly clear: The Republican party has been irretrievably altered and, as one GOP voter put it succinctly, “We’re never going back.”…
There’s a stark difference between DeSantis and the other potential Republican candidates. Nikki Haley et al. seem to believe that they can win the nomination by returning to the optimistic conservatism of the 2015 Republican party. DeSantis realizes that his only chance to win the nomination is to convince voters that the optimistic, conservative BT [Before Trump]-version of himself didn’t exist.
Yet whatever happens from here on out, I suspect that 2023 will be the year that puts to rest the view that the old days will return. By the time this campaign hits New Hampshire, everyone in America—even the conservative think tank donors—will understand that we aren’t living through an interregnum, but rather have passed into a new age.
The question, then, will be what AT [After Trump] Republican politics evolves into once everyone in the Republican party understands that it is the future.
The answer isn’t likely to be pretty.
I’ve been a critic of Ron DeSantis, and I will continue to be, but I don’t view him as a serious challenger to Trump. His only selling point is that Trump is loud and erratic, but DeSantis is better at systematically enacting an agenda. But as I have pointed out elsewhere, DeSantis’s war on Disney is turning into a legal quagmire. The short version: He fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is, “Never get involved in a land war in Asia,” but only slightly less well known is this: “Never get into a court battle with Disney’s lawyers.” If he can’t very conspicuously deliver the goods, Republican voters will wonder why they should buy a cheap imitation of Trump when they can get the genuine article.
But I think there’s something even more to it than that. There is a kind of victimhood complex that has taken over the post-Trump Republican Party. For all that he talks about “winning,” Trump actually thrives on losing.