Kathy Barnette Reminds Trump He's Just A Guest Of The MAGA Movement
The new NBC poll, released this morning, shows that now that it is under lethal attack, by an illegitimate extremist Supreme Court, support for Choice is at a record high (60%). Worse for the Republicans, the poll shows that the Choice issue is rapidly becoming a top issue driving likely turn-out and voter preferences.
One might conclude that the leader of the Republican Party is an avatar of chaos... and a shitty leader. And it isn't only progressives who are concluding that. Kathy Barnette is the most Trump-like candidate running for the open Pennsylvania Senate seat. She's a crackpot MAGA bigot, literally as bad as they come. This morning John Ellis highlighted the one thing Barnette has right: "MAGA does not belong to President Trump. Our values never, never shifted to President Trump’s values. It was President Trump who shifted and aligned with our values.” She didn't sound off on Trump until he warned his followers that she is unelectable and that they should vote for his pick: Mehmet Oz. (He's Muslim and she's an outspoken, vicious Islamaphobe, as are most of Trump's die-hard followers.)
"Trump," wrote Ellis, "didn’t create the 'base.' The base created him. Trump doesn’t program what the base thinks and believes. The base programs what he says he thinks and believes. Trump doesn’t lead the base. The base leads him. In 2016, Trump wasn’t the base’s 'messenger.' The base was the messenger. Trump, to borrow Charles Murray’s memorable phrase, was 'the murder weapon.' At every rally, when he makes his entrance, he applauds the audience, at some length, signaling his respect. He’s the only American presidential candidate and president (that I know of) who ever did or does that. He understands how much it is appreciated. And he understands, better than anyone, that he must not, ever, disrespect MAGA nation and all of its component parts. They’re loyal. They’ll forgive him any number of sins. But he must be loyal to them in return."
He occasionally slips up. At a rally last year he urged those in attendance to get vaccinated, telling them it was the right thing to do. The audience wasn’t having it. Many among them booed. Trump never raised the subject (at rallies) again.
Trump slipped up in Pennsylvania. At the urging of his wife and casino mogul Steve Wynn, he endorsed Dr. Mehmet Oz, whose conversion to the MAGA cause seemed all-too-conveniently sudden.
At the time of Trump’s endorsement, everyone “knew” it was a two-way race between Oz and Iraqi War veteran, former US Treasury official and hedge fund CEO David McCormick. On paper, that choice was a no-brainer. McCormick was and is the vastly more qualified, experienced and knowledgeable candidate. But he made Trump nervous, politically and personally.
Politically, Trump understood that someone who ran a hedge fund that did significant business in China might be a hard sell to MAGA nation. The base views hedge funds and private equity firms with suspicion at best, outright hostility often. As for China, put it this way: it wasn’t Russia that made redundant all those manufacturing jobs and laid waste to Pennsylvania’s working class.
Personally, Trump viewed McCormick as a “comer,” another Glenn Youngkin, someone who might even challenge him for the 2024 presidential nomination. Trump flies first class. He likes everyone else in coach. On top of that, McCormick had, Heaven forfend, served in the George W. Bush Administration. Trump never tried or tries to hide his disdain for what he calls “Bushies.”
McCormick went out of his way to butter up Trump; hiring a squad of Trump operatives, praising him lavishly, overlooking Trump’s disgraceful conduct on January 6th, indulging Trump’s “Stop The Steal” fund-raising scam, even saying he would vote against Mitch McConnell as the Republican leader of the Senate. But all that pandering, both before and after Trump’s endorsement of Oz, was for naught. McCormick was reduced to airing television commercials featuring amateurish video of Trump saying McCormick was a good guy. Trump, at a rally to jump-start Oz’s stagnant campaign, attacked McCormick repeatedly.
As he did, however, the ground was shifting. The McCormick jibes missed the mood. Trump’s praise of Oz was greeted with catcalls and lengthy boos. The rally itself was almost beside the point, because out there in the ether, Kathy Barnette was telling her story, in a long-form video on YouTube. It was powerful stuff and immediately went viral. One strong debate performance later (the last debate of the campaign), she catapulted from single digits into a tie for first place.
...he MAGA base was sending Trump a message: Don’t send us imposters. Send us the real thing. We’re inclined to believe that Kathy Barnette is the real thing.
Trump responded with a lame reassertion of his support for Oz and a two step hedge on that endorsement. The obligatory don’t vote for "Kathy” (and vote for Oz) was described by Trump as necessary for two reasons: (1) she would lose in the fall, and (2) she hadn’t been vetted. The press wrote this up as a major development, damaging to Barnette’s prospects, perhaps fatally so. Out there in MAGA-land, it didn’t move the needle.
For starters, who says she’ll lose? What makes anyone think that? All she has to do is say “Biden-inflation-woke-Biden-inflation-woke-DEFUND THE POLICE” and she’s got 47.8% of the vote. Getting to 50%-plus-one doesn’t seem like a bridge too far.
As for vetting, well, the MAGA base’s reaction might be translated as follows: If you come to us with a lot of TV ads based on opposition research masquerading as news stories from The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, good luck to you, because we wrote off that kind of fake news long ago. And by the way, don’t take this personally. It’s not like we’re going to elope with Ron DeSantis. We still love you. We just don’t like being told what to do. Endorsements come from us, through you.
...[H]e endorsed the MAGA gubernatorial candidate, lavishly, as if to make up for the sin of endorsing Oz. The entire GOP apparatus in Pennsylvania (and nationally) is apoplectic at the prospect of Doug Mastriano being the party’s gubernatorial nominee in the fall. They foresee decisive defeat in the offing and not without reason. Mastriano probably is a bridge too far.
Trump’s endorsement ices Mastriano’s nomination. It’s an endorsement that comes from the base, through Trump. Who cares if Mastriano can’t win in the fall? From Trump’s point of view, the more important thing is that he is back in synch with “the base.”