Pardon Me for Taking Sides!

Although he is a decidedly leftist and unmistakably anti-Trump columnist, Jeff Greenfield has offered a plausible reason for why so many conservative Republicans want Trump renominated for the presidency. Because these fans believe election rigging took place in 2020, they continue to view Donald Trump as our real president. They see him as a gravely wronged, bold leader, who fought the Left fearlessly but was denied a second term because of massive fraud.

Unlike Greenfield, I don’t find Trump’s grievances to be without merit, and I can fully understand the anger directed against those in the Republican establishment who reacted to the results of the last presidential election with joy or relief. I, too, experienced some of the angry disgust noted by Greenfield after the election. Even now, when I read Julie Kelly or Molly Hemingway on election rigging, I am reminded of how furious I was when Trump-haters praised the honesty of the 2020 presidential election.

But our feeling about being cheated in a previous election does not amount to a justification for nominating Trump one more time. The former president missed the chance to head off some of his troubles by not sending multitudes of Republican attorneys long in advance to prevent the constitutionally dubious arrangements by which state Democratic officials were able to change voting procedures. Afterward, Trump could have articulated his procedural objections coherently and with suitable evidence instead of repeatedly exploding on TV, like an unhappy child.

The instructions that Trump gave Vice President Mike Pence not to certify the received election results predictably backfired and caused the outgoing president to be attacked by the international media for trying to overthrow the American government. (Of course, the Democrats were already tending to that task full-time.) And though we can recognize the malicious hyperbole of his enemies in the media, Trump’s response to the official election outcome showed defective leadership. For this, he was certainly responsible. If an unscrupulous enemy pushes you into rash acts, you are nevertheless responsible for your impulsive actions.

Trump also failed, as Pedro Gonzalez has observed, to come to the aid of his followers from January 6, who have been kept in prison in truly appalling conditions down to the present day. Trump could have granted these victims of Democratic brutality a pardon before leaving office. At the very least, he should have called attention to their cause instead of focusing single-mindedly on his own.

Further, even while recognizing that Trump was treated unfairly throughout his presidency, do we really want a Republican candidate who can’t or won’t turn the page? Douglas Murray may be right that another Trump-Biden contest may become a replay of 2020. Pitting Trump against Biden, according to Murray, would amount to a “clown show” that most Americans have no interest in attending. Perhaps we should choose a presidential candidate who can stop airing personal grievances. 

Is the best way to deal with such grievances in any case to organize a do-over contest, featuring the same cast? Quite possibly, the previous outcome might repeat itself. Further, dwelling on being cheated in the past does not prepare us for future challenges. Perhaps the best remedy for dealing with our justified complaints is to take all possible actions to make sure the wrongs in question don’t happen again. Keeping the Democrats from winning elections, without campaigning and with minimally sentient candidates, and then from weaponizing the permanent state against Republicans should be more important to conservatives than Trump’s political future. Unless certain first-order obstacles are removed, no Republican candidate is likely to win. Having Trump complain about his loss and his personal adversaries for one more presidential campaign won’t improve our political situation. 

Finally, conservatives should be looking for a candidate who presents his positions both forcefully and reflectively. Josh Hammer, in a recent column, reminds us of DeSantis’ measured statements about how he plans to deal with the deep state and particularly with the dangerous politicization of the Justice Department and FBI. DeSantis goes well beyond lamenting the misdeeds of “very bad people.” He offers concrete, concisely stated plans for removing those problems. To his credit, DeSantis does not lapse into emotional outbursts against his personal enemies; nor does he call his Republican challengers childish, insulting names. It may be an unintended compliment that DeSantis’ critics ridicule his rationality as well as his relentless war against the woke Left.

According to Hammer:

The 2024 Republican presidential primary is shaping up to become a grand battle royale between an eccentric, larger-than-life Baby Boomer who obsesses over relitigating the last election and is constantly distracted by self-imposed wounds and personal grievances, and on the other hand, an extremely disciplined, mission-oriented Gen X conservative who single-handedly made the nation’s largest swing state ruby-red and has overseen the implementation of the most transformative right-wing agenda in modern American history. That is the basic choice.

I couldn’t have framed the choice better myself. 

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About Paul Gottfried

Paul Edward Gottfried is the editor of Chronicles. An American paleoconservative philosopher, historian, and columnist, Gottfried is a former Horace Raffensperger Professor of Humanities at Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania, as well as a Guggenheim recipient.

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Notable Replies

  1. Excellent piece, but there are other candidates as well. The gutter tactics of Trump’s campaign style may result in a mortally wounded DeSantis should he prevail and win the nomination. Thanks, especially for calling out Trump for failure to support those who supported HIM during J6.

    I hate having to repeat myself, but am willing to suffer the label “redundant” for reiterating at every opportunity the singular importance of good character in any President. George Washington himself cited it as the most important quality in any President. Trump’s, unfortunately, is in the gutter - just as the majority of people with whom he surrounds himself!

  2. That would be Trump because DeSantis is a liar.

  3. A few points to Mr. Gottfried’s column.

    First, and probably most important, the industrial-scale cheating that wrenched the election from Trump in 2020, and the governorship in AZ–including significantly down-sizing the potentially historic congressional Republican House majority tidal wave to a mere dozen Republicans–in 2022 were not flukes. The Ruling Class / Deep State / establishment can and will steal the 2024 election to secure and grow their power.

    Second, to assume Ron DeSantis will bring the administrative monster in DC to heel is laughable on its face. The calibrated statements by DeSantis Mr. Gottfried finds so impressive are calibrated precisely to allow wiggle room for doing nothing assuming DeSantis wins the presidency–which he won’t.

    Third, the ONLY candidate espousing America-First economic policies is Donald Trump. For any other policies to work, be they cultural, foreign policy or domestic, economic nationalism must be front and center. Ron DeSantis is being supported by Wall Street and Republican billionaires who absolutely do NOT want these policies enacted, or for that matter even discussed. Follow the money, Mr. Gottfried.

    And last, it is not “personal grievances” to discuss or even lament the outrageous theft of what should have been a solid majority presidential victory for President Trump by a senile, deeply corrupt and foolish old DC Democrat who was never a favorite of Democrat voters, let alone the general public.

    Yes, the election was stolen and both Donald Trump and the American people have been violated in a way that will take generations to heal–if that is even possible.

    The worst thing, though, is that the 2024 election will likely be stolen no matter who the Republicans run. So, as I have consistently stated for almost three years, we are NOT voting ourselves out of this. And as I’ve also noted–most recently in comment to another AG column–perhaps its time for the American people to consider political remedies by other means.

  4. Avatar for cdor cdor says:

    If Trump wants to be POTUS again, and I would vote for him just like I have done twice already, he MUST stop with his imbecilic barbs against DeSantis. If he wants to be President, he must be Presidential. His base of adoring supporters will not be enough for him to win.

  5. Have you considered the fact that Republicans occupy the offices of Secretary of State and Attorney General. The first is responsible for promulgating laws that ensure clean elections. Attorneys General step in when those laws are being broken - ideally before fraudulent ballots have been certified. Once “official results” are released the courts consistently view them as political kryptonite. I live in California which is such a lost cause that no contact with elected state officials is ever productive. But if I lived in Georgia, Virginia, Pennsylvania or Wisconsin I would be asking my SoS and AG to do their jobs.

    We don’t need another civil war. We need electoral law enforcement.

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