Trump Can Win: 2024 Isn’t 2020

The American Spectator Online

Trump Can Win: 2024 Isn’t 2020
A Biden voter and non-fan of Donald Trump declines to play the derangement game.
August 13, 2023, 11:11 PM

Surmounting Trump derangement syndrome is not an easy task. This is said by someone who enthusiastically grasped three opportunities to vote against him, and can prove it. In 2016, as the records of the Federal Election Commission will reveal, I contributed generously to Governor Kasich in the primary and less generously to Governors Johnson and Weld in the general election. In 2020, I published an op-ed article in the Baltimore Sun on Election Day entitled “Two Little Words” declaring my intention to vote for Biden. The “two little words” were “stand by” addressed by Trump to the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys at the first presidential debate. “We cannot have an unstable and mercurial President whose thoughts have now turned to encouragement of armed paramilitary groups to reinforce his political position,” I wrote, two months before January 6th.

I do not share the assumption that Trump cannot be elected over Biden, Harris, Pritzker, or Newsom.

The conventional wisdom now is that three, or perhaps four, indictments render Trump a dead duck. The media has turned with enthusiasm to the task of trashing his Republican opponents on the assumption that when he is nominated, he will be un-electable. Already Governor DeSantis has received the treatment previously meted out to such menaces to the Republic as Richard Nixon (a crook), Gerald Ford (a klutz), Barry Goldwater (a warmonger), Ronald Reagan (an emptyheaded actor), George H.W. Bush (a hopeless preppy), Bob Dole (Mr. Mean), and Mitt Romney (Mr. Downsizer). (RELATED: The Enormous Influence of the Decidedly Conservative Ohio Tafts)

DeSantis (the book-burner) will doubtless be succeeded by Glenn Youngkin (the enemy of teachers) and Mike Pompeo (the lavish party-giver). Sadly, I don’t think that Trump is a dead duck. The New York state indictment is unlikely to survive trial, or the ministrations of the Appellate Division. The Florida classified documents indictment, if it results in a guilty verdict, not a foregone conclusion in Florida, will end with sentencing by Judge Cannon, probably to community service and a fine, a result similar to that suffered by Clinton’s National Security Advisor Sandy Berger, whose violation was at least as willful: stuffing original documents in his trousers at the National Archives in order to distort the historical record. The D.C. indictment adds little to what was known at the time of the second impeachment proceeding. It fails to allege any conspiracy with the paramilitary groups; this is the dog that didn’t bark. We will be well into the next presidential term before any conviction runs the gauntlet of the D.C. Circuit and the Supreme Court. (READ MORE: Fani Willis and the Corruption of Justice)

I do not share the assumption that Trump cannot be elected over Biden, Harris, Pritzker, or Newsom. What he has going for him is a variant on the three slogans that allowed Eisenhower to overcome FDR’s legacy in 1952: Korea, Corruption, and Communism. This year’s variant is the Ukraine, Corruption, and Moral Permissiveness.

Trump has an excellent chance of being elected as a “peace President.” His articulated distaste for nuclear war is one of the few consistent strains in his career. If the Democrats do not promptly disembarrass themselves of Blinken, Sullivan, and Thomas-Greenfeld, he has a ready-made and compelling issue. As for corruption, the Hunter Biden affair is at least as embarrassing as the deep freezes received by the immortal T. Lamar Caudle and Harry Vaughan during the Truman administration, and no polls record great public enthusiasm for abortion on demand in the third trimester, the escalating venereal disease rate, or the sex-change operations on minors now banned in several European countries.

The hope that Trump will be seen as an aberration is a misplaced one. In worldwide or historical terms, Trump is a usual, not an exceptional ruler; witness the recent triumphs of Duterte in the Philippines, Erdogan in Turkey, and Bolsonaro in Brazil, and for that matter Plutarch’s Lives and Suetonius’ Lives of the Twelve Caesars. Except for the wartime dictatorships of those idols of American historians, Lincoln and Wilson (both minority presidents}, America has been spared such rulers. What has hitherto spared us are the Madisonian safeguards: “filtering” through indirect election allowing the assessment of candidates by those who know them, together with the vertical and horizontal separation of powers and bicameralism. A Democratic Party that has recently talked of packing the Senate with new small states, enlarging the Supreme Court, abolishing the Electoral College, and federalizing control of elections, and that has nationalized campaign finance and the control of legislative apportionments is not in a good position to decry the ascendancy of Trump, the sort of person whom William Howard Taft once forecasted would be the beneficiary of the direct primary system.

What will the checks be on Trump if he is nominated and elected? The most important check is the Senate’s power of confirmation of cabinet officers, particularly the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General. The Biden years and previous Democratic administrations have seen the headlong expansion of federal criminal jurisdiction, which I am proud to have warned against 65 years ago (see “Chartering a National Police Force,” (1970)). Few Republican Senators are convinced Trumpists, willing to give him a blank check; control of federal force is the most obvious checkpoint. A half dozen Republican Senators voted for the second impeachment; there are not more than two or three blind Trump loyalists among Republicans in the Senate. A further check is provided by our non-professional but Democratic-oriented civil service; a third by the Supreme Court. Among the Republican appointees, Justices Kavanagh, Roberts, and Barrett are least likely to leave Presidential abuses unchecked. Justice Barrett’s lengthy concurring opinion in the student loan case upholding and explaining the “major questions” doctrine is an important and encouraging one. Paradoxically, a Senate under Republican control may prove to be more of a check than a Democratic one. Trump was able to buy off Democrats in the Senate with the inflationary last installment of his COVID stimulus payments; a Republican-controlled Senate, even one containing some Trump loyalists, will have the power to keep legislation off the floor.

Of course the media, discredited though it is, is a potential checking force, but it will not have that potential if it continues to attempt to destroy all non-Trump Republicans. Media endorsement of even the most extreme manifestations of the feminist, gay rights, and gender-change agenda also operates as a recruiting aid for Trump and a destroyer of the careers of reasonable Democrats, a vanishing species. Our columnists and editorialists must ask themselves: “Upon what meat doth Caesar feed that he is grown so great?”

George Liebmann is president of the Library Company of the Baltimore Bar and the author of books on law and history, most recently The Tafts (Twelve Tables Press, 2023).

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