WEST HOLLYWOOD---Here in California this past week, my city council voted to defund the sheriff's department. But West Hollywood isn’t the only American neighborhood that's given up on laying down the law. The sheriffs at Mar-A-Lago also appear to be off duty.
My late mentor Mark Perry called Harry Truman “more Democrat than American,” in reference to the revulsion by the 33rd president to his successor, Dwight Eisenhower, joining forces with the GOP. But Truman’s most notorious political observation extends properly to the party he hated: if you want a friend in Republican politics, get a dog.
Two months after former President Donald Trump looked to have the Midas touch, it’s open season on the American antipope.
We’ve been here before, with doubters galore of this Donald Trump guy. But, it should be said, it has not been quite like this in some six or seven years. Looking forward to 2024, the Republican Party seems poised for another open presidential primary.
The stark, sudden reality on this front reportedly has Forty-Five ginned up to declare his intention to become Forty-Seven---and right now, folks.
With late-millennial politicas denouncing the man in front of Congress, the Paladin of Palm Beach is not content to gut it out through what he sees as shaping up to be a low, dishonest summer. “They’re calling it the summer of Trump,” the future president beamed in 2015.
Is 2022 about to be an encore? Now, as then, Trump’s rivals do not care. They were dead wrong seven years ago; who’s right this time?
For one, has anyone gotten smarter? Are the alternatives to Trump anything more than “Bush league”? The Readers were subjected to my treatment of Florida Governor Ron Desantis last week. The intriguing (if doomed) prospect of a President Mike Pence will have to be saved for another.
Let’s dive in now on what I’ll call the “Republican third circuit.”
Governor Glenn Youngkin, of my native Virginia, is licking his chops to move to a (slightly) better river than the James in Richmond. It was just as a Youngkin associate, wearing a Youngkin hat, told me in the snack shop at NatCon II last autumn: the Governor has Potomac fever.
Youngkin would be the first president born in the Commonwealth since Woodrow Wilson, and only the second since before the state served as the damned headquarters of the wrong side of what Johnny Cash called our bloody brother war. Virginia, with some reason, feels it’s paid its dues for another turn at the White House.
And the former Carlyle Group co-CEO feels like he knows how to spot an opportunity: maybe filming some sort of commercial geared at becoming commander-in-chief, definitely booming up to New York for donor confabs, and wading into nasty politics at the venerable Virginia Military Institute. Youngkin has put his posse on the board of the state military academy, sniffing a chance at a conservative comeback two years after our national Summer of Love.
It’s an interesting fight to pick---one Youngkin evidently relishes: the fight over the schools. As a former board member of a Virginia state university and product of the Commonwealth’s public schools, I can attest to this much of a Jeffersonian legacy in that land: don’t mess with education. Left-wing overreach in the learning domain got Youngkin elected. And he’s hoping it could get him promoted 100 miles up North. He’s no Trumpist, but Trumpists cheered his victory last autumn. Youngkin’s appeal is weirdly singular.
Speaking of military academies, a bonafide product of a citadel of our national defense would like to be president more than just about anybody. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo---originally of Orange County, but more notably of the famed West Point “class of ‘86”---is showing every indication of, at least officially, running against his former boss. He’s got ads out not in New York or California, but in Iowa and South Carolina. He’s tanned, rested, and less enormous. No one can outwork him.
And speaking of The Citadel, former Palmetto State governor and Turtle Bay grandee Nikki Haley says not to count her out. I’ll bet big money she’s not the Republican nominee, but that doesn’t mean she’s not personally working to ward off recession through purchases of plane tickets to Iowa. Thank you, Madam Ambassador.
What the hell is going on? Two main theories.
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First: anyone not named Ron DeSantis is banking, contra 2016, that a consolidated opponent to Trump will emerge before the primaries (which are still a year and a half away) and that it won’t, for whatever reason, be the Florida governor. But, perhaps second: this tranche of players is betting, for all the bluster, that Trump is actually remarkably bad at being enduringly petty.
Trump-Youngkin 2024? Trump-Pompeo? Trump-Haley? All more likely if they run.