I’m Sorry, But He’s Running
Trump’s CPAC speech was his 2024 blueprint.
Hey y’all, it’s Tim in for Charlie with your Monday Morning Shots (you might need to make it a Jägermeister after reading today’s).
First, a few quick housekeeping items:
Correction from the Friday pod. . . which you should listen to if you haven't, if only to learn about my very serious (and very imaginary) Dick Cheney-related medical issue. . . . The St. Louis “Why We Did It” book event is FRIDAY at Left Bank Books, not Thursday as I said mistakenly. RSVP here.
I’m also in Sacramento TONIGHT at 6:30 p.m. at Capital Books. Swing by if you’re in the area.
Other upcoming events are not yet finalized but you can see the draft schedule here.
Why We Did It has been back-ordered on Amazon and Bookshop (thank you all!). So if you have not yet purchased this smoking-hot item, head over to Barnes & Noble or browbeat your local indie into ordering it.
On to the newsletter.
Before I trigger everyone with a report from the many hours of CPAC streaming I engaged in whilst waiting for a delayed flight and not crying like a little baby about it, I want to make a clear and direct statement about my views on the 2024 presidential election.
There is nothing in the world that I, Tim Miller, want more than for Donald Trump to not run for president in 2024.
If a magic genie with a sweet William F. Buckley impersonation shows up on my stoop in Oakland and offers me three wishes, I pledge to you that I will use my very first wish to turn Donald Trump into a toad, even though that will give all the establishment Republicans who I deeply resent the gift they won’t admit they want.
I know the anti-anti-Trumpers want to project their grift onto us and claim that we Never Trumpers actually want Trump to run because we like the retweets, or think he’s easy to beat (which is insane), or whatever. But rest assured: That is not the case.
With that little bit of throat-clearing out of the way, I have some bad news to report. If you, like me, had been compartmentalizing a Trump 2024 run for mental-health purposes, I’m sorry to break it to you, but he looks like a man who is definitely running for president in 2024. His CPAC speech this weekend was a rude awakening as to both his intentions and the strength he would bring to that campaign.
First, his intentions: There was no bigger roar from the crowd during the speech than during the following section, and there was no bigger shit-eating grin on his burnt-toast face than the one that came following the roar:
I ran twice. I won twice and did much better the second time than I did the first getting millions and millions of more votes than in 2016. And likewise getting more votes than any sitting president in the history of our country by far. . . . And now we may have to do it again. We may have to do it again.
That little bit of anti-democratic vamping came right on the heels of what would be his core campaign message to the GOP base in a 2024 campaign.
The border was the best and safest in U.S. recorded history. They've turned it into a nightmare so quickly, the election was rigged and stolen. And now our country is being systematically destroyed.
If you are reading this, then you are likely a person of reason who is not persuaded by the lies and childish hyperbole.
But let’s imagine this message in the context of a 2024 Republican primary. Trump is claiming that when he was president, everything was great. Then the election was stolen. And now everything is being destroyed by the people his voters hate.
What exactly is his hypothetical challenger’s response to this? It seems to me that Trump has everyone checkmated.
They could say that Trump is a loser, and that the election wasn’t stolen, and that it was his fault everything has been destroyed. Someone could campaign on that, I guess. But . . . does that seem like a winning argument in a party that has spent most of 2022 excommunicating anyone who speaks the truth about the 2020 election?
And speaking of 2022, Trump’s speech revealed that not only will he have a tailor-made message for GOP primary voters, but he’ll have an entire army of newly-elected evangelists who have pledged a blood oath to his Megachurch.
Here’s Kari Lake performatively patting her chest and demonstrating her deep agape love for Trump from the audience after she gets her shoutout.
Here’s Tudor Dixon posing like she was just handed the first rose on The Bachelorette when Trump mentions her.
The same will happen with every other suck-up and sycophant who washes into Washington during the upcoming midterm.
Now, there are no certainties in life. Maybe the 60 percent of “Trump maybes” Whit Ayres talked about in this excellent edition Kristol Conversations will all break for Ron DeSantis. Or maybe Merrick Garland will indict Trump’s ass and find the one jury in America that will convict him. Or maybe . . . well, let’s not get into some of my more macabre fantasies.
But here’s what we know: The man speaking to an adoring crowd at CPAC was someone who is already campaigning, who has a narrative that will be tough to pierce, and who owns an entire new crop of succubus surrogates who have juice with the base.
His hands may be tiny and soft, but his grip on the party is pretty tight.
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Dorm Room David Duke 1. “Team Normal” 0.
A lot of time was spent last week on L’affaire DCCC/Meijer, but there has been less fanfare about a different result that painted a very clear picture of who is responsible for the GOP primary insanity.
In Washington state, Jaime Herrera Beutler was one of the ten Trump impeachers in the House. She bravely blew the whistle on Trump’s call with “My Kevin,” And she is likely going to lose her primary to Joe Kent, the conspiracy-addled favorite of America’s dorm-room white nationalists—even though Washington state does its entire election as vote-by-mail. (For a refresher, here’s my take-out on Kent and his support for white identity politics back in March).
You will be shocked to learn that there was not a stampede of Good Republicans™ who beat a path to Washington to help Herrera Beutler in her hour of need. And the exact same people who were outraged about the DCCC ads sure don’t seem to have the same ire for the outside support that came in for Kent from MAGAland.
Assuming Kent holds on to win, next year there will be a maximum of two Republicans left who voted to impeach Donald Trump, presuming they win in the general election: Dan Newhouse and David Valadao. The rest will have been purged.
The impeachers are the ones who have been punished for Donald Trump’s traitorous abdication of duty—not the Republicans who were complicit in it.
All because the party is still in his clutches. (See point 1.)
Listen to Charlie and me talk about Alex Jones, Viktor Orbán, and Joe Biden on The Bulwark Podcast:
Ad-free version exclusively for Bulwark+ members here.
Score Another One For “Team Normal”
It’s 2015 Groundhog Day and these assholes have learned nothing.
Two Cheers for the Inflation Reduction Act
But I have been told it was the moderates who weren’t team players…
Marco later deleted the tweet with the picture of his airline confirmation number. It had said:
"Woke up at 5 am to a 3 am email that my 8:30 am flight was cancelled but they rebooked me on an 8 pm flight tomorrow night with one connection," Rubio, a former 2016 presidential hopeful, wrote on Twitter, "Now in DC for the joy that is 'vote a rama' on a garbage bill."
Aww . . . the little brat had to do his job. Today’s youth—what with their participation trophies and sense entitlement— just don’t have the same work ethic as their elders. I guess . . .
BONUS MUSIC ITEM
Tim’s summer playlist.
Tiktok is not all bad: This Radiohead and Olivia Rodrigo song are the same?
An early version of Bowie’s “I’m Afraid of Americans” called “Johnny Downloader” was released last week and it’s hot.
"I’m Sorry, But He’s Running"
Nothing like getting hit with a 2x4 at 7 a.m. on Monday morning.
Words matter. Every word comes as a sort of cloud of colors and meanings and the colors conveyed by our English versions of those nouns are too pastel to adequately convey the reality we are trying to describe. Perhaps one reason we have as a nation failed to respond adequately in time and urgency to this now fully developed national sickness is that our discourse and terminology is too weak for the emergency.
It's not that the Republican party is in Donald Trump's clutches. It's that he expresses in his affect and actions what 40% of America really want. And what they want has never been adequately expressed in the historical context of the words we've used trying to come to grips with it. We struggle with half-applicable terms like fascism, authoritarianism, conservatism. These don't work. The locutions we need are found in German --- Macht und Herrschaft; Blut, Volk und Land; Reinigung und Verteidigung.
Even the corresponding English words don't have quite the correct redolence: "Power" in English parlance does not capture the brutality and totalitarian essence of "Macht". "Herrschaft" is not just "Rule", it's more a combination of Rule and Mastery. "Blut" and "Volk" are far more old testament than our usages of "blood" and "the People". Land is not our "land of the free" but something much darker and more atavistic. "Reinigung" is actually cleansing and purgation; this is what is meant by "taking America back" from the vermin who have infested it. Only Vengeance corresponds precisely to "Verteidigung" -- but even there the German conveys a ruthlessness our word lacks.
What we haven't come to yet in the MAGA wave is "Vernichtung". Not yet. But there are indications we are getting close.
I drove across across Western Michigan last weekend, looking at all the decals on the trucks: Michigan's mitten holding a gun, Assault Rifle icons, the signs and flags reading "God, Guns, and Trump", "Take Back America", and above all the American flag in false colors with the dividing line across the middle. This by the way in Peter Meijer's district, that supposedly leans Democratic.
That flag is the story: the blue or black stripe is a line in the sand, across which hordes of false Americans must not cross; stripes below that line are excluded, and are separated from the union field (the block with the stars); true America is the part of the flag above the line.
In that flag we see how Trump did in fact win in landslides: only the votes cast for him were admissible, because only voters who belong above the line have any right to vote. That's where we are now; only MAGA is the true America, and the rest of us need to be excluded. But the iconography of the gun portends worse. Will exclusion be the final solution?