Trump is afraid of a rematch

Donald Trump; Joe Biden Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images
Donald Trump; Joe Biden Photo illustration by Salon/Getty Images
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Longtime White House correspondent Brian Karem writes a weekly column for Salon.

Exactly one year from now, we will all be gathered for Thanksgiving. In addition to the traditional thanks offered for family, friends and loved ones, how many will be thankful for the outcome of the 2024 presidential election – which will be just three weeks in the rearview mirror?

Among those trying to become their party’s nominee, both Joe Biden and Donald Trump appear to have the inside trackt to set up a rematch of the 2020 election. Should Trump lose, he’ll obviously claim it was the work of those involved in dastardly deeds against the country and he was the victim. We are likely to see more violence and more bloodshed in a country that bathes in it. Sometimes it is nearly impossible to believe that everyone alive was the sperm that won the race.

This is what comes to mind every time I interact with politicians who remain nothing more than evidence of the randomness of life and the scarcity of intelligence. The names Jordan, Boebert, Greene, Trump, and a host of others stand prominent in the low-lives of American politics. Or, as President Joe Biden said of Rep.  Lauren Boebert in Pueblo, Colorado Wednesday, Boebert and certain members of the Republican Party represent a “massive failure in thinking.” 

As Tip O’Neill once said with a withering criticism about Republicans, “I hold them in the highest minimum regard.”

President John F. Kennedy in 1962 appeared in Louisville, KY, and infamously said, “Are we going to drift along with a majority of the members of the Congress saying 'no' to every proposal that we put forward, and having none of their own? Can you tell me one single piece of constructive legislation that has been suggested in the last 30 years by the Republican Party? Because I can’t. I can tell you what they’re against, but what are they for? Eighty-one percent of the members of the House of Representatives on the Republican side voted against aid for higher education," the Louisville Courier-Journal reported.

This means that the GOP has suffered through nearly a century of thoughtlessness.

Trump is well known for his massive failure in thinking. His former vice president, Mike Pence, as reported by NBC news recently, told us all about Trump’s failures on the run-up to the January 6 insurrection. Trump “surrounded himself with "crank" attorneys, espoused "un-American" legal theories, and almost pushed the country toward a "constitutional crisis," according to sources familiar with what Pence told investigators.

Pence said he grew concerned when, within days of the election, Trump began ignoring the advice of credible and experienced attorneys inside the White House, instead relying on outside attorneys like Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, who pushed notions of widespread election fraud and, as Pence allegedly told Smith's team, "did a great disservice to the president and a great disservice to the country."

No court – even those populated by Trump-appointed judges, has found there was any election fraud in 2020. What we’re staring at now is a divided country whose politics have long been fractured, and whose final straw was Donald Trump. 

Mick Mulvaney, who served as the director of the Office of Management and Budget during the Trump administration, wrote in The Hill this week that his guess was that it was a “gradual trajectory from ‘normal’ to whatever it is that we have today, which feels like a weird alternative universe.”

He also said, “U.S. politics more closely resembles a bad Hollywood screenplay than a competition to govern the world’s most important nation.”

I think Mulvaney, who once reminded me of Herb Tarlek in WKRP in Cincinnati, would make an excellent used car salesman. He’s also a cheerful sort, but his assessment of American politics leaves a lot to be desired

It isn’t a bad screenplay. It isn’t a weird alternative universe. It is the United States of America where many people don’t vote and won’t take responsibility for their actions. This allows the tyranny of the minority and allows people many of us would never want to speak with publicly, to become public representatives. Further, those who don’t vote are among those who scream the loudest about the results. They see a “deep state” that usurps all the authority vested in the people, and still they do not vote. 

We do not get better because we don’t put more effort into the work. American politics is a study in the lowest common denominator. Donald Trump, Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene remain the greatest examples of that study.

That means that in 2024, we are staring at two senior citizens jockeying to become president who — if the actuarial tables are to be believed — probably won’t survive the four-year job for which they’re trying to get elected.

Worse, one of those running for office is Donald Trump.

There are Democrats, Republicans and Independents who want to make sure Trump never comes back to power. It isn’t, as Trump claims, because he’s been “hounded by political wolves,” it is merely that Trump is a truly loathsome human being. He has no class, no tolerance, nothing of joy is derived by him unless it is at the expense of others. Those who’ve had the misfortune of being associated with him in anything from friendship to kinship end up grease for the engine, grist for the mill, and are run over by the Trump bus.

In her new book, "Oath and Honor," due out next week, Liz Cheney talks about a conference call in which she gave a firsthand account of the planning of January 6. CNN, in an exclusive report, exposes Trump’s actions and also raises questions about the integrity of the Republican Party and its commitment to the rule of law.

The problem is that there are too many people in the Republican Party like Lee Grant in “Ransom for a Dead Man” (The second pilot for "Columbo"). As Peter Falk’s titular detective Lt. Columbo explains to her, “You have no conscience, and that’s your weakness. Did it ever occur to you that there are very few people that would take money to forget about a murder? It didn’t, did it; I knew it wouldn’t. No conscience limits your imagination. You can’t conceive of anybody being any different than what you are. And you are greedy,” he explains.

That is the Republican Party today. We have met the enemy and he is us, Walt Kelly’s Pogo told us.

On the other side, we have the incumbent president Joe Biden. He made positive strides with such little drama that many are convinced he’s done nothing. His detractors are convinced of worse: He is either crooked or sleepy, often both, and always called by the MAGA crowd, “the most corrupt president in our lifetime.” They believe he is a man who didn’t win the last election and may or may not be a foreign spy owned by a variety of shady national and international players straight out of a bad James Bond movie — so Mick got that part right.

Sane people will note that comparing Biden to Trump sounds like a bad skit on "Saturday Night Live." 

But here we go. And right now plenty of people are questioning if Biden can pull out a victory again. “No” is the answer being repeated on social media and in several media reports that reference recent polls. The question is why? As it turns out, age and energy are the current issues — which ignores facts and the future.

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If it comes down to Biden vs. Trump, I doubt there is little reason for those other than the diehard Trump fans to vote for a man who talks openly about dismantling the Constitution. The question is, can Biden energize the rest of the country out of their stupor and vote next year? I understand Biden’s belief that he should run again, but I’m really concerned about the future of both parties. What in the hell happens even two years from now? Who is the future for the Democrats and Republicans?

Sure, Trump is anathema to the democratic process and gives people like Jordan, Boebert and others the freedom to embrace their worst angels. But none of those people have a following that would get them elected nationwide. They are so overwhelmingly loathed by even others like themselves, that a national run for office is laughable for almost every Republican other than Trump.

Some who would vote for Trump happily say they can’t stand the man, but remain faithful he’ll “drain the swamp,” which reminds me a lot of “infrastructure week” during Trump’s tenure: long on promises and short on delivery.

On policy, the difference between Trump and Biden boils down to their difference of opinion on something very simple: wind energy, as expressed this week. While Trump apparently hates wind energy, Biden does not. Trump said wind energy causes cancer, was bad for the whales (I guess there are a lot of whales on top of cliffs and in fields), birds (“kills all the birds”) and said “I know more about wind than you do,” on numerous occasions while also describing it as glitchy, pricey and a fraud. 

Biden, on the other hand, supports wind energy, and showed up Wednesday in Pueblo, CO, to speak at the world’s largest wind turbine factory, touting his administration’s efforts to support and expand American productivity.

That, in a nutshell: the two leading candidates for the highest office in the land. But do not forget there are several Republicans who’ve yet to throw in the towel, though they’ve tossed their hat in the ring. Nikki Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, just got an endorsement and lots of money from the Koch brothers. Ron DeSantis, the current governor of Florida, while floundering, is still around, as is Vivek Ramaswamy, even though his political director recently quit to join the Trump team. Why work for Darth Maul when Darth Vader is around?

The Democrats also have a few people in the race, though none of them appear to have a chance of winning. Then there are the independents. Robert F. Kennedy Jr. is in the race and gargling a box of razors. Joe Manchin, who gargles Democrats, is also eyeing an independent run for president. Those are just two candidates who could have a large influence on next year’s Thanksgiving table blessings.

But the real question remains, and it is one that we cannot dismiss lightly: Will either one of the front runners for the office win, and what is the chance of their survivability for the next four years?

Biden has the edge, not only because he’s more healthy, but also because he’s not mentally compromised like Donald Trump. Each week Trump exposes his lunacy even more because his many criminal charges are scaring him straight into oblivion. That's ultimately good for Biden and the Democrats because there are few if any other Democrats sitting on the bench who could run for president successfully right now.

And while the early, useless polls, indicate Biden trails Trump, I for one still have doubts that Trump will be on the ballot next year. 

The greatest threat to the country right now is the Republican Party, or what’s left of it. It is filled with seditionists, greedy despot wannabes and no one that appeals to a majority of voters — despite what Haley, Trump, DeSantis or anyone else in the party says.

As the author once said, I believe Trump is destined to fail in his effort to be re-elected and will go down in history, "unwept, unhonoured, and unsung."

And, right now, the only declared candidate who can do the job is Joe Biden.

But things change.