Slack Tide of the Slack Jawed Also-rans
The proud and mighty city of Milwaukee covers the confluence of three major rivers, Lake Michigan, and for one unfortunate night the flotsam and jetsam of the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential candidates. Much as a biologist could detail the condition of the sea from dissecting a beached whale, the GOP flotsam of accidentally discarded and jetsam of things deliberately thrown overboard was on full display.
And the ridiculousness of it all was something else.
In the moment, a made for TV moment at that, the matter at hand was supposed to be a debate between the candidates on the stage. In reality, the one candidate not on the stage took his current 40+ point lead in the polls and didn’t bother showing up. The pitiful display that followed did little if anything to make that decision the least bit troublesome for Donald J. Trump, who will immediately take back the news cycle upon his booking in the Fulton County jail. The same Trump that all but two individuals – Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson – on the debate stage in Wisconsin raised their hands that they would vote for, and support should he be the nominee.
That’s it. That’s the whole 2024 GOP primary encapsulated. It’s over. Done.
Whether out of being slaves to narratives, boredom, or wistful thinking, most folks are pretending this is actually a real, contested primary despite all evidence to the contrary. Nothing of note or importance has happened in this race in weeks, months really. Donald Trump dominates the party to the point those running against him can’t even manage to criticize the former president in a meaningful manner. Those who do, like Christie, are so unpopular as to have no chance whatsoever, or like Asa Hutchinson are utterly irrelevant to a party that has passed them by. Donald J. Trump’s nearest SIX competitors all publicly affirmed they would vote for him in the submissive gestures of third graders wanting to duck out of class to the bathroom.
This is the slack tide of the campaign, where nothing is happening, but the splashes and activity of those stuck in the tidepools of irrelevance are mistaken for actions that matter. The Trump tide, diminished but still with the die-hard cult-like MAGA base that will never accept another besides their chosen one, will eventually come in. Whatever the “shoot someone on 5th Avenue” number is, if its above 30% or so in these early primaries that will be more than enough to win them. Nothing on the stage in Milwaukee did anything to move any avowed Trump supporter who has stuck it out through 4 indictments, the post-election debacles, January 6th, and four years as president of talk big and deliver small away from him. Unless the feckless eight of this GOP primary debate figure out a way to actually run against Donald Trump, voting from Iowa to the Virgin Islands is going to be a mathematical equation of there is still more support for Trump than against in the Republican Party, probably by a lot.
But if you watched closely in this debate, you could see that the candidates themselves know it. They know they can’t win running against Donald Trump’s diehards. Thus, the hands go up, and the otherwise verbose politicians on the stage, and whatever it is that Vivek is, go slack jawed knowing they don’t dare go there, not just for this election but for the elections to come. They run apparently hoping some deep blue something will rise up in the course of events and remove Trump from the field of play and clear the way to their moment of destiny without them having to do the dirty work. Vanity of vanities, all the Trump might just go away daydreaming is vanity, and it sure as hell isn’t a winning strategy.
If folks want to pretend this is a normal GOP primary, and want to follow the horserace, and want to live and die and chase the viral clips of this or that candidate, they can do that. Probably more fun that way than the reality of what is actually happening inside the hollowed-out husk of the GOP. Too many Republicans still want Trump to deny him the nomination, and everyone else in the country who votes – a far greater number – will crawl over broken glass to vote against him in the general election.
Not going to pretend otherwise.