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You-Know-Who Made It Official—And It’s Already A Trumpster Fire

One-term Republican President Donald Trump announced his intention to run for the Republican nomination again in 2024, but the news has proven very divisive in the GOP.

You-Know-Who Made It Official—And It’s Already A Trumpster Fire
cloudytronics/Getty Images; @KariLake/Twitter; @RpsAgainstTrump/Twitter

It was the most highly anticipated yet oddly banal of moments.

Former President Trump made his big announcement from his South Florida residence of Mar-a-Lago—which is also now the scene of very serious crimes under investigation—he is indeed running for the third/fourth time to be President. Trump briefly ran in 2000 in addition to 2016 and 2020.

He threw his hat in officially—to no one’s surprise, yet still to much dread and consternation within the GOP. True to form, he was surrounded by sycophants, but notably absent were his two eldest children, Don. Jr. and Ivanka, the latter saying she wants to focus on her family and steer clear of politics.

How should we process and prepare for this elephant in the room, this horse in the hospital, this raging bull in the “Chyyna” shop?

There are many things that could be said about both the timing and the hubris of the announcement, but I want to focus on four points in particular.

Election Fatigue

Americans just went through a stressful midterm election. The period of time that we all get to experience after the dust has settled is normally a welcome and quiet one.

But by announcing this early, Trump has put national elections back into the headlines. He is forcing people to pick sides, and early.

This could be a bad miscalculation.

Voters are exhausted, especially those in swing states who were barraged with non-stop negative advertising. Democrats would do well to message that it’s time to stop campaigning and start getting to work, and no one wants to talk about 2024 yet.

By kicking off the 2024 election while the nation is still decompressing from the 2022 midterms, Trump risks generating voter disgust and a hardening of attitudes against him, especially among independents who just denied his extremist cronies key offices in the critical battleground states.

The GOP is Already Teetering on Chaos

Following the disastrous showing in the midterms, GOP leaders are scrambling to fend off challenges from the right wings of their caucuses. After a secret vote on Tuesday, Kevin McCarthy finds himself around 30 votes short of the support he will need in January to assume the office of Speaker of the House.

In the Senate, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is being challenged by Florida Senator Rick Scott to lead the party. There is also plenty of finger-pointing and blame-assigning across right wing media.

Trump has received his share, with Murdoch-owned properties such as The New York Post running a front page caricature of him as “Trumpty Dumpty” with a headline saying:

“Don (who couldn’t build a wall) had a great fall—can all the GOP’s men put the party back together again?”

Meanwhile, the winner in all of this has been Florida Republican Governor Ron DeSantis, who trounced his opponent for governor and seemingly has built an impenetrable GOP fortress in Florida. There has been much talk of a DeSantis presidential run in 2024, but Trump’s announcement is now calling the question for any who were thinking about switching horses.

DeSantis has remained steadfastly quiet on the subject as the only other current figure in GOP politics who could lead the party in 2024. But ever the cunning and machinating politician, DeSantis also understands that the Trump MAGA faithful would still likely crush any of his personal aspirations in the primaries.

He will likely lay low and let Trump rage.

Trump Is Putting the Georgia Runoff at Higher Risk

GOP leaders are wringing their hands over the effect that the Trump announcement might have on the December 6th election for the Senate seat still up for grabs in Georgia.

In the general election, voters there already preferred Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock by nearly a percent over Trump’s handpicked, stable genius candidate from Texas, Herschel Walker. And polls across the nation showed that Trump’s perceived presence on the ticket, particularly among candidates he publicly endorsed and campaigned for, was a serious drag upon the party’s chances.

Instead of the election only being a referendum on an unpopular President, it became a choice between two unpopular ones. Nationally, 32 percent of voters said their vote was “to oppose Joe Biden” but 28 percent answered “to oppose Donald Trump”—even though Trump was nowhere on the ballot and he’s not even in office.

Senator Warnock’s campaign likely will tie Walker to Trump to peel away moderate voters and fire up his own liberal base.

Republicans know that a loss in Georgia will mean no more split Senate, which means no more negotiated, evenly divided Judiciary Committee and therefore a revving up of judicial appointments by the Biden Administration.

Democrats have much to gain from an extra seat while Republicans have already lost their majority, so it will be hard enough for Walker to motivate Republican voters to turn out for him. His campaign has remained eerily silent on whether they would like Trump himself to appear beside Walker in the remaining weeks.

And Republican leaders in Georgia are openly signaling they would prefer no appearances or rallies by Trump.

The president of the conservative Georgia-based Frontline Policy Council said:

“I hope President Trump has a great time at Mar-a-Lago."
"And I believe that he will stay there, and I believe that he should stay there.”

Trump’s Announcement Won’t Stop the Investigations

A common concern cited by defenders of democracy is that the announcement will throw a wrench into ongoing investigations by the Department of Justice and the Fulton County District Attorney’s office.

We shouldn’t place much worry or concern here.

First, it’s not as if the Department prosecutors and Fani Willis were not already keenly aware that Trump would make this announcement. It’s been public news for some time that he would do so right after the midterms.

It’s therefore doubtful that the announcement will have an effect upon the ongoing work of the investigators because they suddenly realized, “Uh oh, he’s announced, we’d better stop everything!”

They’ve known this was coming for a long time. That didn’t stop them then, and it won’t stop them now.

Second, what this really gives Trump is added rhetorical ammunition about the investigation and any eventual charges, especially when speaking to and raising money from his base.

He will claim, incorrectly, that he is being targeted because he is a political adversary and this is being done solely to prevent him from winning back the presidency.

Never mind that the probes began long before he ever talked about a return to the White House, and never mind that, if anything, prosecutors have been careful not to make any public announcements about the investigations that might affect a national election and therefore have the appearance of partisan motivation.

Third, and legally speaking, a presidential candidate doesn’t receive some kind of magical, bullet-proof legal protection because of a candidacy announcement. It doesn’t change Trump’s legal jeopardy one way or the other, because the Department’s rule against indictment only applies to a sitting President.

If the facts and the evidence point to a criminal case that can be made before a jury beyond a reasonable doubt, then Trump will be indicted, without regard to this former station or his current candidacy.

Finally, and ironically, Trump himself mistakenly may believe that his announcement confers upon him greater legal protection by dissuading Merrick Garland from continuing the investigation.

But the very opposite may be true—Garland has said, unequivocally, he will pursue the facts and the evidence up as high as they might go. By strongly implying Garland would not do this, Trump is essentially calling Garland’s bluff.

And you really should never do this when the other side already knows it has the winning hand.