Is Peggy Noonan back in the driver’s seat? The title and argument of her Wall Street Journal column Thursday made me wonder. “Maybe Republicans Will Finally Learn,” she intoned, explaining in a subhead, “If they aren’t serious about policy, they’ll nominate Trump in 2024 and lose a fourth straight election.”
By “Peggy Noonan,” I do not just mean that particular columnist. I mean the generators of The Narrative tout court. As a paid-up member of the establishment, Noonan has long been a Trump opponent. If you have your finger in the air, you know that that’s the way the wind is blowing. It happened in a nonce.
Of course, the NeverTrump speakers have been blaring that message since 2016. But someone flipped a switch, and the other bank of stereo speakers suddenly came to life, spouting the same message: The horrible ogre Donald Trump lost the midterm elections for the GOP. Not only that, he said disobliging things about two of his possible GOP rivals, Ron DeSantis and Glenn Youngkin of Virginia. Be done with him!
I happen to be a fan of DeSantis and Youngkin. Both are talented politicians and credible future GOP presidential candidates. But having witnessed Donald Trump’s inventory of epithets for his Republican rivals in 2016 (“Little Marco,” “Low Energy Jeb,” “Lyin’ Ted”), I am not really surprised that he is honing that rhetorical sword. Some people think it happened all of a sudden a week or two back. In fact, it has been developing for some time. Do I like it? Not really. But no one who has watched Trump over the last six years should be surprised. We don’t yet know whether he is running in 2024. Probably, we will on Tuesday when he makes his advertised big reveal. My bet? He will run.
The establishment thinks so, too, which is why you cannot turn on the news or open a newspaper without encountering warnings that there is serious “GOP pushback” to the idea.
The “Dump Trump” meme, active since he won the 2016 election, has acquired new energy following the midterms. We were promised a red wave. It didn’t materialize. It must be Trump’s fault.
Was it? Ninety-three percent of the hundreds of candidates Trump endorsed won their primary contest in the 2022 election. Eighty percent won in the general. That is a far higher percentage of wins for Trump-endorsed candidates than ever before. In 2018, for example, only 59 percent of the candidates he endorsed won in the general.
In 2022, prominent Trump-endorsed candidates like Ohio’s J.D. Vance and North Carolina’s Ted Budd won, despite being vastly outspent. As I write, Kari Lake in Arizona and Adam Laxalt, also heavily outspent, are possible winners. We’ll know about Herschel Walker after the results of the December 6 runoff. If both Laxalt and Walker win, the Republicans will narrowly control the Senate with 51 seats. [UPDATE: 11/13: Laxalt lost.]
Meanwhile, it is worth bearing in mind that where Republican candidates lost, it was not just those who Trump supported. As one report noted, “numerous strong House candidates handpicked by Kevin McCarthy lost races the consultant class had expected to win, including Yesli Vega running against vulnerable Democrat Representative Abigail Spanberger in Virginia, Rhode Island Republican Alan Fung, Mayra Flores and Cassy Garcia on the Texas border.”
It is also worth noting that, when it comes to the popular vote, GOP candidates did enjoy something like a red wave in the midterms. As of a couple of days ago, GOP candidates had garnered more than 52 percent of the votes cast, compared to just over 46 percent for Democratic candidates. I can’t quite agree with Trump that November 8 was a “GREAT EVENING” for Republicans. But neither was it the disaster that was gleefully reported.
A few weeks ago on “The Rubin Report,” Megyn Kelly said that were Trump to run in 2024, he would crush any opponent, including Ron DeSantis. “You really think the hardcore MAGA is going to abandon Trump for DeSantis?” Kelly asked. “They’re not. They like DeSantis. But they don’t think it’s his turn.” Moreover, she said, Trump’s backers “think DeSantis owes his political career to Trump. . . . They would never cross Trump for DeSantis.”
Well, a week is a long time in politics, as Harold Wilson once said, and perhaps the midterms changed everything. We’ll see.
For me, the real issue is not Trump the person but Trump’s agenda. Joe Biden dismisses it as “MAGA” or (at the instruction of his focus group) “ultra-MAGA,” as if that were something scary. It is all part of his terror campaign against Trump’s supporters, as was his raid on Mar-a-Lago in August.
But think about it. “MAGA” means “Make America Great Again.” It is a populist slogan. On the ground, from 2017 to early 2021, it meant (among other things) tax cuts, a booming stock market, bringing jobs back to America, rising wages at the lower end of the scale, historically low unemployment, especially minority unemployment, a secure border, energy independence, standing up to China, and peace in the Middle East. It also meant an attack on the administrative state, over-regulation, climate-change fanaticism, political correctness (ESG, DEI, CRT), globalist imperatives, and foreign adventurism.
I support all of those initiatives.
The establishment does not.
Two points in conclusion.
First, I note that a couple of years back, the Department of Homeland Security set up “an explicitly inward-facing domestic censorship bureau” focussed on policing the populist agenda by labeling as “misinformation” anything that criticized the globalist consensus. It really got going six months before the 2020 election. Citing “disinformation” as a “digital threat to election security,” DHS pressured social media companies to ban all skepticism about mail-in ballots and early voting drop boxes months before Election Day. They then pressured them to ban all skepticism about ballot counting issues the day of and after Election Day.
The bureau has been ramping up ever since. Unpacking that censorship initiative is a subject for another column, or several. But my point is that the newly energized campaign against Donald Trump should be seen at least in part as the product of such propaganda and policing of what the “Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency” calls “cognitive infrastructure,” i.e., popular opinion.
Second, although I have nothing but good things to say about Ron DeSantis, I do note that his single largest donor is the financier Ken Griffin. In a recent interview in Politico, Griffin said that he was ready to back DeSantis in 2024. Why? Many reasons. But one prominent reason, Griffin said, was that DeSantis “wants to . . . blunt the vein of populism that has complicated the party’s relationship with the corporate world.”
Ah, “the corporate world.” That would be BlackRock, Goldman Sachs, Davos, and the World Economic Forum. Forget about “making America great again.” The new mantra is “making globalism great again.” Trump represented a frontal assault on that initiative. He may have helped middle-class Americans. But he cost the regime class billions. They will never forgive him. The results of the midterms and Trump’s rhetorical incontinence have emboldened the anti-Trump fraternity. Now that even some of his erstwhile supporters are fraught, that fraternity will conclude that they have license to destroy him.