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The GOP’s and Trump’s inevitable ‘Red Wedding’

With the nation two years out from deciding whether or not we want to keep him around, President Biden’s struggles and failings didn’t prevent Democrat victories in the midterms. In fact, a number of Trump-aligned candidates found themselves grounded by voters rather than elevated by the association.

2024 will either be a referendum or a reckoning, and despite what the prevailing wisdom might be, no politician is safe. No matter the outcome heads will roll in the GOP over the next two years, hopefully only metaphorically. Though, it is becoming harder to distinguish the latest hour of cable news from the prose of George R. R. Martin.

The only thing the various right-wing factions agree on is that someone needs to have their political career drawn and quartered; the question is exactly who is to blame for their shortcomings. Despite all the prognostication over what the GOP would do with the so-called “red wave,” many are saying the party establishment themselves all but built the dam to hold it back, all toward the goal of moving beyond MAGA once and for all.

In some of those races, the party largely abandoned them once the primary was won by a Trump-aligned candidate. For all the popularity and approval within the party that the former president wields, there wasn’t enough crossover with independents and disaffected Democrats to make him a kingmaker within the party.

One could argue that the “perverse support” a lot of those candidates received from Democrat PACS might have split the difference, but ultimately it didn’t make up for the quality of candidates endorsed by the former president. If you are somehow less appealing than the enfeebled John Fetterman, that should tell you something.

While that might be good news for Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy in the short term, the intraparty discord is growing. The pair would go on to cling to their seats of power despite the fallout from their historic bungling of the 2022 midterms, as most party members depend on their support for committee appointments. That said, the acrimony under the red tent is growing, and much of it is currently directed at them.

Trump world for its part made their typical grumblings about “uni-party” hacks and allusions to chicanery by Democrats in key states to “fortify” the vote in competitive races through the harvesting of mail in ballots. Their concerns over the process of ballot harvesting were put on full display in 2022, with Florida ultimately serving as the control group.

Despite its larger population and electoral reputation, Florida not only was able to certify their results before the other states in question, it was one of the few high-profile victories the GOP had. While Trumpists and conservative pundits crow about the surreal drawn-out vote counts in states like Arizona and Georgia as the cause of their failures at the ballot box, they can only do so by giving credit to Trump’s greatest rival for the party’s nomination in 2024, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

DeSantis has taken advantage of the media’s blind zealotry to great effect, elevating himself and his state to national prominence in the “Post Trump” era. While his policies and tactics certainly activate an almost Pavlovian churning of histrionic rage bait from brainless Muppets in cable news, they’ve also proven to appeal to a diverse array of the electorate in a state that has been a battleground in every presidential election since 2000.

DeSantis’ success has fueled chatter behind the scenes discouraging The Donald from having a third run at the White House, as calls for more “appealing” candidates begin to fill up column inches. Trump believes he’s entitled to an uncontested claim to the party’s nomination, something DeSantis has said he would not get in the way of if Trump announced, which he of course did in short order.

Though, within North Dakota’s delegation there is disagreement over the “Trump Question.” Sen. Kevin Cramer has thrown cold water on the notion that the Republican nomination is a settled question, which if nothing else contrasts with the recently reelected Kelly Armstrong, who voiced his support for the former president multiple times during debates.

Armstrong may just be keeping up appearances to avoid the cold venom Trump holds against allies and vassals who have turned on him. To be fair, the fact so many other formerly loyal acolytes like Cramer are not only stepping out of line but openly rebuking him speaks to how diminished Trump’s influence within the party truly has become.

It goes without saying that the nation at large and even segments of the Republican Party feel very differently about Trump and his political movement today than they did before Jan. 6th, 2021. The Jan. 6th hearings have given the proud Never Trump contingent even more ammunition, but the spurious FBI raid of Mar-a-Lago hasn’t delivered the kill shot the media has built up.

In fact, the rapacious media coverage and fruitless prognostication may succeed only in nurturing the victim complex that still fuels a great deal of the former president’s support. Trump’s intraparty foes run the risk of being on the receiving end of retribution from his supporters should he be replaced. As 2016 showed us, the Republican Party may be done with Trump, but that doesn’t mean Republican voters will be. “The North Remembers,” “elephants never forget,” and GOP leadership could suffer the consequences for going too far out of their way to twist the knife.

The Republicans are caught up in a classic “Westerosi Standoff” under their tattered red tent, but if you change the station, you can watch Democrats and every government and media institution staging the post-modern production of “Weekend at Bernie’s” that is the Biden Administration. Given the success of John Fetterman’s Senate run, Democrats are probably going to begin running candidates unable to campaign let alone perform the duties of the office, and they will win anyway.

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