Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, when testifying in from of the select committee investigating the J6 insurrection and attempted coup, said of Trump, “Anywhere, anyone, anytime has said that I said that the election was rigged, that would not be true.” Yesterday, Trump got even at a rally he held Friday to support his fascist ticket in Arizona. “Rusty Bowers, he said, “is a RINO coward who participated against the Republican Party in the totally partisan unselect committee of political thugs and hacks the other day and disgraced himself, and he disgraced the state of Arizona.” He lauded state Sen. David Farnsworth, Bowers’ far right and somewhat deranged challenger. And on the same day Trump was gaslighting is moron MAGA fans, Mike Pence was rallying for the GOP establishment candidate Karrin Taylor Robson, against Trump’s lunatic pick, Kari “Fake” Lake.
Writing for Politico yesterday, David Siders reported that “In the run-up to Trump’s rally with Lake, Stan Barnes, a former state lawmaker and longtime Republican consultant, described the Trump and Pence appearances in Arizona as ‘like some sort of celestial planet lineup that you witness every millennium… That’s what it feels like on the ground in Arizona.’ What was happening, he added, was a slow-motion, real-time ‘tearing of the fabric in the Republican Party that’s there for us to see. We have Donald Trump doing his thing with his candidate… The voters in the Republican Party in Arizona may not be aware of this yet, but they’re not just choosing a candidate to represent the party in the general election. They’re choosing the actual direction of the party.’”
Nationally, there is a similar dynamic at play. Is Trump really slipping? Are Republican voters starting to back away from him? In the latest YouGov poll for The Economist— last week before the latest select committee hearing— 43% of registered voters said they have a favorable view of Trump and 54% said they have an unfavorable view (46% of whom said very unfavorable). But among people who admitted to being a registered Republican, 83% said they have a favorable view of Trump and just 15% said unfavorable. (29% of Republicans said they have n unfavorable view of Pence now.)
Yesterday, John Cassidy asked how much damage the J6 hearings are doing to Trump and concluded that they are damaging much but that “he can’t be counted out.”
How much political damage did Trump actually do to himself? In eight televised hearings since early June, the January 6th committee has shown in great detail how the now former President incited the riot, cheered it on, expressed sympathy with the rioters’ desire to hang Vice-President Mike Pence, and, finally, as he belatedly asked the insurrectionists to leave the Capitol, told them that he loved them and that they were “very special.” The committee also convincingly illustrated how Trump pursued his false claims about the 2020 election being stolen from him even after his own legal advisers repeatedly told him these claims were “completely bullshit,” as the former Attorney General Bill Barr put it. In other words, Trump knew exactly what he was doing—using baseless claims to try and pull off a self-coup, an autogolpe.
In a properly functioning political system, these facts would surely disqualify Trump from holding any public office again, let alone the Presidency. But, at his second impeachment trial, in February, 2021, forty-three Republican senators prevented the two-thirds conviction vote that would have put him out to pasture. So here we are, eighteen months later, with the coup plotter indicating that he intends to run again in 2024, and suggesting he might even declare before the November midterms. If the Justice Department does eventually charge him, and a court convicts him, that wouldn’t prevent him from running, legal experts say.
Yet, even among Republican voters, the televised hearings, with their relentless drip-drip of damaging details, have certainly had some impact, surveys show. A Reuters/Ipsos poll that was completed just before the latest hearing indicated that forty per cent of self-identified Republicans now believe Trump was at least partly to blame for the Capitol Hill violence, up from thirty-three per cent before the hearings began. During the same period, the proportion of Republicans who say they think Trump shouldn’t run again has risen from a quarter to a third, the poll showed.
Other recent surveys have also provided some worrying findings for the former President. A Times/Siena College poll indicated that about half of Republicans would vote for someone other than Trump in a 2024 primary. Among Republican respondents under thirty-five years old, nearly two-thirds said they would vote against Trump. “Frankly, I think what I sense a little bit, even among some deep, deep Trump supporters... there’s a certain exhaustion to it,” Bob Vander Plaats, a Republican evangelical leader based in Iowa, told Politico this week. Also, some influential Republican voices that once backed Trump have turned against him. Citing Trump’s failure to repudiate the violence for more than three hours on January 6th, Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post said, in an editorial on Friday, “Trump has proven himself unworthy to be this country’s chief executive again.”
…On the other side of the ledger, Trump still has his maga movement— part nativist revival, part personality cult— and the vast majority of elected Republicans are still too frightened of him and his followers to cross him publicly. Last weekend, I took a long drive through upstate New York and northeastern Pennsylvania, and it was easy to see where this fear comes from. The small towns and back roads were festooned with “Trump 2020” signs that had the last zero covered over and replaced with a “4.” Other signs said “Don’t Blame Me, I Voted for Trump.” That’s merely anecdotal evidence, of course. But the polling data, on closer inspection, confirm that Trump and his twisted views retain a disturbing amount of support.
…By demonstrating so clearly and comprehensively Trump’s culpability before, on, and after January 6, 2021, the House select committee has strengthened the hands of his potential GOP rivals, and this could conceivably be its biggest legacy. But, even after all the committee’s sterling work, a Republican effort to take down Trump would attract a barrage of counterattacks from him and his supporters, and it would take courage and fortitude to withstand the onslaught. Outside of the offices of Liz Cheney, Adam Kinzinger, Mitt Romney, and a few others, these attributes are still in extremely short supply in GOP circles. That’s another thing in Trump’s favor.
Yesterday Ross Douthat’s column in the NY Times, Why Trump Is Weakening, used the above illustration and Douthat wrote that in “Trump’s quest to sustain his dominance over the Republican Party, his claim to have been robbed of victory in 2020 has been a crucial talisman, lending him powers denied to previous defeated presidential candidates. By insisting that he was cheated out of victory, Trump fashioned himself into a king-in-exile rather than a loser— an Arthur betrayed by the Mordreds of his own party, waiting in the Avalon of Mar-a-Lago to make his prophesied return. As with many forms of dark Trumpian brilliance, though, the former president is not exactly in conscious control of this strategy. He intuited rather than calculated his way to its effectiveness, and he seems too invested in its central conceit— the absolute righteousness of his ‘Stop the Steal’ campaign— to modulate when it begins to reap diminishing returns. That’s a big part of why 2022 hasn’t been a particularly good year for Trump’s 2024 ambitions. Across 2021, he bent important parts of the GOP back to his will, but in recent months his powers have been ebbing— and for the same reason, his narrative of dispossession, that they were initially so strong.”
While Ron DeSantis, his strongest potential rival, has been throwing himself in front of almost every issue that Republican primary voters care about, Trump has marinated in grievance, narrowed his inner circle, and continued to badger Republican officials about undoing the last election. While DeSantis has been selling himself as the scourge of liberalism, the former president has been selling himself mostly as the scourge of Brian Kemp, Liz Cheney and Mike Pence.
Judging by early primary polling, the DeSantis strategy is working at the Trump strategy’s expense. The governor is effectively tied with the former president in recent polls of New Hampshire and Michigan, and leading him easily in Florida— which is DeSantis’s home state, yes, but now Trump’s as well.
These early numbers don’t prove that Trump can be beaten. But they strongly suggest that if his case for 2024 is only that he was robbed in 2020, it won’t be enough to achieve a restoration.
This is not because the majority of Republicans have had their minds changed by the Jan. 6 committee, or suddenly decided that actually Joe Biden won fair and square. But the committee has probably played some role in bleeding Trump’s strength, by keeping him pinned to the 2020 election and its aftermath, giving him an extra reason to obsess about enemies and traitors and giving his more lukewarm Republican supporters a constant reminder of where the Trump experience ended up.
…[T]o the extent that Trump is stuck litigating his own disgraceful conduct before and during the riot, a rival like DeSantis doesn’t need the lukewarm Trump supporter to believe everything the Jan. 6 committee reports. He just needs that supporter to regard Jan. 6 as an embarrassment and Trump’s behavior as feckless— while presenting himself as the candidate who can own the libs but also turn the page.
He concluded that there is more than one way “for Republican voters to decide that the former president is a loser. The stolen-election narrative has protected him from the simplest consequence of his defeat. But it doesn’t prevent the stench of failure from rising from his well-worn grievances, his whine of disappointment and complaint.”
The new issue of Foreign Affairs warns readers that “The Nazi Party and its leader, Adolf Hitler, rose to power in a Germany wracked by economic and political crisis. Most Foreign Affairs contributors at the time recognized the dangers of the far-right movement, but they could not foresee how total and how devastating Nazi rule would become.” The re-published 4 entire articles from 1931- 1940, on Hitler’s rise, presumably to warn their readers how it could happen/is happening again. “In 1931, Erich Koch-Weser, a prominent German liberal politician, identified the Nazis as the chief threat among the groups exploiting the ‘political radicalism’ of the era— but wrote off a power grab as ‘extremely doubtful.’ In 1932, the journalist Paul Scheffer explored Hitler’s ‘reckless skill’ in playing on Germans’ anxieties, hatreds, and hopes— but remained skeptical that the Nazi movement could ‘be carried over into practical politics.’”