With Democrats Imploding, It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like 2004
But given Bush's travails, what would a second term for Trump truly look like?
A divisive Republican president has plunged the country into a new, questionable Middle Eastern imbroglio. Seeking a renewal of his electoral charter, that president warns voters that his would-be replacements would bring about dangerous, sweeping, even un-American social change. Meanwhile, the replacements themselves are divided, with a Democratic Party torn between a safe pair of hands to take out a dangerous president, and a changing of the guard that would thrill its youth wing. 2020? Or 2004?
President Donald Trump’s explicit renunciation of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush, is well-known. The sybarite salesman has little, personally, in common with the born-again scion of traditional, center-right politicians. It’s actually unclear who Trump voted for in 2004—he’s claimed he never voted for Bush, but has also claimed the opposite. Bush’s political architect, Karl Rove, has claimed that Trump voted for Kerry as has Trump’s main 2016 primary rival, Ted Cruz.
Yet, like or not, it’s now Trump’s time in the barrel. The socially moderate Trump likely only reluctantly inherits the mantle of Bush, who waged a cynical campaign against gay marriage and war protest to secure four more, miserable years in the White House. Taking a peek at the number of Bush allies who signed an amicus brief in favor of gay marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges, and now lament the Iraq decision, as well, can make for infuriating research.
But Trump’s almost three years in office—from the Obamacare repeal disaster, to a middling tax cut, to the Iran crusade, to underperformance on immigration—have been a testament to his struggles to banish the ghosts of Republicanism past. Trump perhaps won the war, the 2016 election, and lost the peace, his time in power, and now stands poised to run “against socialism” and “for hamburgers,” some of his earliest supporters quietly grumble.
Take a look at any of the president’s recent rallies, or bear witness to the chants of “USA” as his entered the college football championship earlier this week. Helmed by the culture warrior Brad Parscale, Trump’s in danger of running a campaign that’s the heir in spirit to the Naughties bromides against “latte liberalism.” Outside of Never Trump, it’s not an accident that that some on the right most mortified by Trump’s rise—legal conservatives, tax and foreign policy hawks, traditional party operatives—have been pleasantly surprised by the reign of a politician they once regarded as a heinous interloper.
On a recent trip out of the country, a Bush alum told me he thought the president had a “100 percent chance” of re-election. Despite non-existent evidence of a coming landslide, other former Bushies have insisted to me that he could win forty-five states. Now, as then, they view the incumbent Republican president as the unlikely heir to Reagan. And in another eerie parallel to 2004, when Trump rained missiles down on Mesopotamia earlier this month, just as Bush did, it again fell to lonely voices such as The American Conservative to point out the folly of such a course.
And that’s just the Right. If you really want that 2004 energy, let us turn to Michael Moore, who recently weighed in on the controversy of the day: the spat between the socialists. “So, to be honest, the night that happened my first thought was that they will mark this day, January 13, as the day Donald Trump was re-elected, because once again the Democrats, the liberals, the left couldn’t get it together.”
The shell game between Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders has transmogrified. The brutal, post-debate exchange between the duo has the progressive left fearing repeat business from ‘04: like Howard Dean’s electric antiwar campaign, the air is coming out of the balloon at just the wrong time, only weeks ahead of the first primaries.
Already, progressives are on their back foot, with Senators Warren and Sanders forced to return to Washington to tend to a show trial, that unlike the election, has little chance of removing the president. Left on the trail is the center. That means Joe Biden, the front-runner and maybe this year’s John Kerry. That means Pete Buttigieg, a young gun hoping to surprise in Iowa and onward, as John Edwards once did. And finally, Amy Klobachur, a Midwestener like Dick Gephardt who never caught fire but could easily end up on the ticket.
It’s a long year ahead, and the deja vu is real.