Charles Cooke has a brief post at National Review today arguing that Donald Trump shouldn’t run for president again because he is super unpopular. I agree with this argument but think Republicans have other reasons they shouldn’t want him to run.
(Disclaimer: There are many reasons why I think Donald Trump should not be president. You probably know what they are. I generally subscribe to more or less every criticism liberals have about him. To the extent that this isn’t true, it’s mostly just that there are some issues where I think his bad actions weren’t as big of a deal as maybe some other people thought. But all in all, I’m onboard with the whole indictment. I also think that Trump didn’t bring out the best in liberals. His tenure as president made everything worse.)
That aside, life is about empathizing with people you don’t agree with. So this post is my attempt to articulate why I think Republicans shouldn’t want him to run for president again.
As Cooke points out, Donald Trump is incredibly unpopular.
He was unpopular in 2015. He stayed unpopular through the election. He won the electoral vote but got creamed in the popular vote. His win had a lot to do with the failures of Hillary Clinton’s campaign and James Comey.
Once he became president, he stayed unpopular.
Legislatively, he failed to enact virtually any meaningful changes. His most significant legislative win is a tax cut that is going to expire in a few years.
He enjoyed a very good economy but because of his unique personal unpopularity and inability to stay off Twitter, he caused the GOP to lose senate seats in places like Alabama.
In 2020, he was able to motivate new voters to the polls that voted Republican but he motivated a greater number of New Democrats to vote against him.
He caused deep fractures within the GOP both before his loss to Joe Biden and after, when he started a jihad against Republicans who hadn’t signed off on the fiction that he secretly won the election. Whether you think he is right and he secretly won the election or not, the fact remains that he never came within ear shot of winning the actual popular vote.
It is not impossible for Republicans to win the popular vote. It has happened in number midterms over the last few decades. It happened at the presidential level in 2004. Mitt Romney and John McCain tried to win it. They failed but it wasn’t like they were trying to shoot the moon.
Indeed, with what we know now about the 2016 election, it is hard to believe that any other Republican would have performed as poorly versus Hillary.
President Jeb or President Rubio probably would have won the 2016 election by a fair margin and entered office with a mandate. They certainly wouldn’t have provoked the tidal wave of resistance that came with Trump. Which isn’t to say they wouldn’t have had resistance! They would have. But the same reason that a lot of Republicans found the Trump election so fun is the same reason Democrats downs it so uniquely horrifying. Republicans still would have enjoyed beating Hillary with Jeb. Democrats still would have been upset. But the temperature would have been within more reasonable bounds.
Donald Trump’s greatest success—his legacy—as president is his remaking of the judiciary, specifically the Supreme Court. He appointed three conservative judges to this highest court in the land.
Any Republican president would have appointed those exact same judges. Donald Trump did not find them himself. He is not a baseball scout looking for talent in the backwater rural parts of Cuba. These justices had worked in the Bush administration and were on shortlists made by the Federalist Society.
They surely are a testament to Mitch McConnell’s legacy. I don’t think you could replace him with another Republican Senate Leader and enforced such opposition to Garland in 2016. But President Donald Trump did what any Republican President would have done in his shoes.
It is possible that a less vulgar Republican president would have been more cautious with regard to filling Ginsburg’s seat on the eve of the election in 2020. I personally think that there would have been great pressure on any Republican in the White House to fill that seat but even if Jeb pushed back and didn’t fill it, the reality is that ny Republican but Trump probably would have won reelection, and could just fill the seat after the election.
Donald Trump almost won the electoral vote, after all, and Donald Trump systematically underperforms other Republicans in general elections.
This is a long way of saying that when it comes to Donald Trump, the juice isn’t worth the squeeze.
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