7 September 2023
Not Them Again
by J.R. Thomas
Last time around there was a rather mean satirical joke which went basically: “Well, which do you want; the Old Crook or the Old Fool?”. Well folks, the joke is still running and increasingly it looks as though that will be the choice again. Only this time the joke is not funny; it is an informed social comment. But the good news is (desperately scrapes barrel) there is still fourteen months to go before the time arrives to grapple with the ballot paper. Much can happen in fourteen months.
We will try not to spend too much time on Messrs Biden and Trump. Mr Biden looks increasingly frail and confused at each very carefully managed public appearance, and it is increasingly rare that he gets through any event without confusion or hiccup. It is almost cruel to let him run. Why does Dr Mrs First Lady Jill Biden not suggest the time has come to spend more time polishing his Corvette (a 1967 Stingray and a very nice motor indeed)? Could she be doing a Mrs Woodrow Wilson and intend to rule the USA from the room next to the Oval Office? Last time we suggested a deep plot by Vice President Kamala Harris to take the reins shortly after Joe’s re-election, but the Dr Jill theory also appeals.
And dear old Donald? The brain seems in fine form, and he is as energetic as ever, as he indeed he needs to be, fighting four separate bunches of legal actions in Georgia, Florida, Washington DC, and New York – which, in the America way, each carry a number of indictments. Last week Mr Trump was arrested in Georgia, the charges here being that he tried to subvert the institutions of Georgia by influencing the 2020 Presidential vote in that fair state. The ex-President gurned at the camera as his mugshot was taken in a photograph which has gone round the world. All a bit rehearsed though; far from being “a helpless prisoner in the remotest dungeon of the best guarded keep in the stoutest castle…” (Kenneth Grahame, The Wind the Willows of course) our very own Mr Toad walked jauntily out and was whisked back to Florida in his private jet. The whole thing had been pre-agreed, right down to our Donald rehearsing that look of defiance and anger.
This was Mr Trump’s first visit to Georgia in recent weeks. You might expect it to have been his second. In the middle of August a number of the so-far declared Republican Presidential candidates gathered in Atlanta. All the front runners were on the stage – eight of them – and more were round and about. Essential for Mr Trump to be there, surely? Not in Mr T’s estimation. And as so often in populist Republicanism, Trump had called it correctly.
Firstly, by not turning up he showed a proper presidential contempt for the also-rans. To a front runner who around 67% of Republican electors say they will probably support in the nomination process it was not worth gracing the event with his presence. (The next most popular candidate is Ron DeSantis, with around 19% and fast declining. The other seven present were splitting the remaining 14% between them).
Second, this gathering was organised and run by the GOP establishment. The anti-Trump, if you like. They would not have allowed Mr Trump to take over, or even to shine out. Every and any candidate on that platform would probably be preferred by the party old guard. But Mr Trump is not trying to get the establishment support; he knows the support he needs is what will land in the ballot boxes in November 2024. He thinks, almost certainly correctly, that he will get more Republican votes by being the anti-establishment candidate than by suffering any anointing from the party machine. He rammed this message home just before the convention began, by recording an interview with right-leaning media star Tucker Carlson which was released on Twitter or X or whatever the thing is called this month, and captured the headlines the next day. “Do I sit there for an hour or two hours, whatever it’s going to be, and get harassed by people that shouldn’t even be running for president…. it doesn’t make sense to do them so I’m taking a pass”. Can’t argue with that. Or at least, they can’t argue with him if he isn’t there.
Those eight on the platform are a fairly impressive bunch of people. Nikki Haley or Mike Pence or Tim Scott, even Ron DeSantis, would make good, possibly very good, conventional candidates; and probably moderate unifying calming Republican Presidents. But none of them are pulling any significant support among voters. It is a sign of our times that the rising star of the moment is Vivek Ramaswamy. Mr Ramaswamy is a sort of second coming of Mr Trump, a 37 year old apparently very successful businessman, not notably modest, with a gift for saying the outrageous and capturing headlines. He has had no political experience, seems to be making policy statements off the cuff, and looks a bit uncomfortable with the media. Does he want to be President (of course he does, everybody does), or is the real game that he wants Mr T to choose him as his vice presidential runner, so he is pretty much a shoo-in if Donald retires in 2028? Given Mr Trump’s record we deliberately say “if”, in case he decides not to go at the end of his term.
But he is not Mr Trump, in our opinion. Donald has a sense of humour – usually at the expense of others (we are still laughing in this office at “Pocohontas” Warren) but he hits the spot. He, Donald, does have a real sense of what angry right leaning Americans want. He is a natural TV star. He is very rich which has meant that he has never had to kowtow for money, but also has a knack of raising large funds for specific projects, such as at the moment for his legal fees. Has Mr Ramaswamy any of this? We suspect not much; and there is a tendency among unknowns who peak too soon to go plummeting back to earth. Mr DeSantis can provide consultancy on this; Ms Haley seems to know it and is guided by it.
We are fourteen months off the election yet and there is a possibility that, when it comes, one front runner will be fighting it from a cell or courtroom dock. But that candidate is the anti-establishment one, remember, and this legal scrummage is to him, and his supporters, confirmatory evidence of that. Those lawyers who think they can bring Donald down may be the best asset he has.
Well, that and his doddery opponent and their hugely unpopular Veep. The Republicans may be in a mess, but the Democrats are more so. Alas, we have no space left for that this month.
See what Donald does? We were not going to talk about him, but somehow he just takes over. Next time we will give him fifty words and then give Joe and Kamala some air time. We promise to try, anyway.