The Vultures Are Tepidly Gathering To Pick Trump's Bones Clean-- And Eat His Eyeballs
Last week's YouGov survey for The Economist checked out the favorability among American registered voters for several well-known figures. From highest net approval to lowest net approval:
Volodymyr Zelensky- 65% favorable, 17% unfavorable (+48)
Joe Biden- 45% favorable, 50% unfavorable (-5)
Señor Trumpanzee- 40% favorable, 57% unfavorable (-17)
Nancy Pelosi- 37% favorable, 55% unfavorable (-18)
Kevin McCarthy- 27% favorable, 48% unfavorable (-21)
Mitch McConnell- 24% favorable, 62% unfavorable (-38)
Vladimir Putin- 10% favorable, 81% unfavorable (-71)
Too bad they didn't poll for Pence or DeSantis this time, since one of them, presumably DeSantis, will be the GOP nominee when Trump admits the jig is up and backs out of another run. Trump doesn't like either of them-- feels they both betrayed him-- but I have a feeling he's going to wind up hating Pence more, especially after Pence's campaign event with Kemp in Georgia today, an existential attack on Trump's viability as party leader.
This morning, Jonathan Martin made the case that Pence is putting some distance between himself and Trump in preparation for a 2024 campaign for the Republican nomination. "After four years of service bordering on subservience," wrote Martin, "the increasingly emboldened Pence is seeking to reintroduce himself to Republican voters ahead of a potential presidential bid by setting himself apart from what many in the GOP see as the worst impulses of Trump. He’s among a small group in his party considering a run in 2024 no matter what Trump decides." In other words, according to Martin, Pence would run even if Trump does, which is a very different thing from other potential candidates saying they're backing Trump but that if he doesn't run, they'll consider doing so. Pence, asserts Martin, is building a "Trump-without-the-chaos strategy" to win in 2024.
Pence first used high-profile speeches to criticize the former president’s push to overturn the 2020 election results, stating flatly that Trump was “wrong” in his assertion that Pence could have blocked the Electoral College ratification on Jan. 6, 2021. Pence then unsubtly visited the Charlottesville, Va., memorial to Heather Heyer, who was killed in the 2017 white supremacist riot there that Trump sought to rationalize by faulting “both sides.”
Now, on Monday outside Atlanta, Pence is taking his boldest and most unambiguous step toward confronting his former political patron. On the eve of Georgia’s primary, the former vice president will stump with Gov. Brian Kemp, perhaps the top target of Trump’s 2022 vengeance campaign against Republicans who didn’t bow to his election lies.
Pence grew close with Kemp during the pandemic and 2020 campaign, and now he is lining up against Trump’s handpicked candidate, former Senator David Perdue. But more than that, Pence is seeking to claim a share of credit in what’s expected to be the starkest repudiation yet of Trump’s attempt to consolidate power, with Kemp widely expected to prevail.
It is an emphatic break between the onetime running mates, who have not spoken for nearly a year but have also not publicly waged a proxy war until now. Pence, his aides say, knows full well what going down to Georgia represents and the symbolism alone will stand without him targeting Trump or even Perdue in his remarks.
In a statement ahead of Pence’s visit to Georgia, Trump belittled his vice president through a spokesman.
“Mike Pence was set to lose a governor’s race in 2016 before he was plucked up and his political career was salvaged,” said Taylor Budowich, the spokesman. “Now, desperate to chase his lost relevance, Pence is parachuting into races, hoping someone is paying attention. The reality is, President Trump is already 82-3 with his endorsements, and there’s nothing stopping him from saving America in 2022 and beyond.”
Georgia may represent only the beginning of a new rivalry.
... Whether it’s Pence or former Trump cabinet members or a range of other elected officials, ambitious Republicans are already visiting early nominating states like Iowa and New Hampshire, courting influential lawmakers and cultivating relationships with donors.
Even if Trump runs, many Republicans believe there will still be a hotly contested race.
“I don’t think it ends the primary,” said Gov. Chris Sununu of New Hampshire, who is mulling a presidential campaign. “My sense is you’re still going to have a very robust primary here just because everyone has to earn it.”
So far, Republican contenders are voting with their feet.
Among those who have beaten a path to the early nominating states: Mr. Pence; former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo; the former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley; and Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Tim Scott of South Carolina and Rick Scott of Florida.
Should Trump run, he would most likely sideline some Republicans who would either find him difficult to beat or just as soon wait it out. A smaller group of contenders, however, may find the less crowded field more appealing.
Those ranks include former Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey, who was one of Mr. Trump’s earliest and most prominent supporters in 2016, but who has broken with him since the 2020 election.
“Given the problems the country is facing at home and abroad, if you only feel up for it if somebody else doesn’t run, well, then you better not run,” Christie said. “Everybody who is considering running for president in ’24 should have a moral obligation to make that decision regardless of who else runs.”
As for his own plans, he said: “Sure, I’m thinking about it.”
Trump’s populist and pugilist imprint on the party has been cemented, whether he runs or not. That’s why Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida is being so closely watched by conservative voters, donors and activists.
Seizing on every chance to confront the left and the news media, and to draw coverage on right-wing media for both, DeSantis has risen to second place behind Trump in a series of way-too-early polls of Republican voters.
... [There] is a quiet but persistent appetite among many in the rank-and-file to turn the page on Trump, at least as the party’s nominee.
“There is a desire to move on here and it’s not just among the John Kasich and Bill Weld crowd,” said [longtime Iowa Republican strategist Jim] Merrill, alluding to two former Republican governors who ran as anti-Trump moderates in the state’s primary.
Yet if Trump faces a divided Republican field as he did in the first wave of caucuses and primaries in 2016, he could again claim the nomination with a plurality rather than a majority in many states because of his seemingly unshakable hold on a third of his party’s electorate.
If voters are tired of what Yascha Mounk called the doom spiral of pernicious polarization in an Atlantic column Friday, the Republican voter base is not the place to look-- nor, albeit for better reasons-- is the Democratic voter base. "In the run-up to the 2020 presidential election," wrote Mounk, "the Pew Research Center reported that roughly nine out of 10 supporters of Joe Biden and of Donald Trump alike were convinced that a victory by their opponent would cause 'lasting harm' to the United States... A 2016 survey found that 60 percent of Democrats and 63 percent of Republicans would now balk at their child’s marrying a supporter of a different political party." Wow! 40% of Democrats would be OK with their child marrying a Republican. That's pretty unbelievable!
A study just published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace measures "to what degree each country suffers from 'pernicious' levels of partisan polarization. Do their citizens have such hostile views of opponents that they’re willing to act in ways that put democracy itself at risk?... No established democracy in recent history has been as deeply polarized as the U.S."
On virtually every continent, supporters of rival political camps are more likely to interact in hostile ways than they did a few decades ago. According to the Carnegie study, “us versus them polarization” has been increasing since 2005.
...As near-universal as political polarization has become, it is more pronounced in some places than in others. On a five-point scale, with 0 indicating a country with very little partisan polarization and 4 indicating a country with extreme polarization, both the U.S. and the rest of the world, on average, displayed only a modest degree of polarization at the turn of the millennium: They each scored about a 2.0. By 2020, the world average had increased significantly, to a score of about 2.4. But in the United States, polarization accelerated much more sharply, growing to a score of 3.8.
Among countries whose political institutions have been relatively stable, the pace and extent of American polarization is an eye-popping outlier. “Very few countries classified as full liberal democracies have ever reached pernicious levels,” the study’s authors write. “The United States stands out today as the only wealthy Western democracy with persistent levels of pernicious polarization.” When I spoke by phone with [lead author Jennifer] McCoy, she was even more categorical: “The situation of the United States is unique.”
To live in a country where political disagreements turn into personal vendettas is no fun, but a growing body of research reveals more systemic effects. Pernicious polarization makes good-faith efforts to tackle social problems such as public-health crises harder and bad-faith efforts to turn them into political gain easier. At worst, an erosion of trust in democratic norms and political institutions can end up as political violence and civil war.
The fundamental premise of democracy is that citizens agree to be ruled by whoever wins an election. But if many citizens come to believe that letting the other side rule poses a threat to their well-being, even their lives, they may no longer be willing to accept the outcome of an election they lose. This makes it easier for demagogues to attract fervent supporters, and even to turn them against a country’s political institutions. The January 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol is just such a symptom of the malaise.
...We urgently need visionary leaders and institutional reforms that can lower the stakes of political competition. Imagining what a depolarization of American politics would look like is not too difficult. The only problem is that America’s political partisans may already hate one another too much to take the steps necessary to avoid catastrophe.