Why Donald Trump Will Not Be the Republican Nominee

Among Republicans, conventional wisdom on Donald Trump is split, in particular whether he will be the 2024 nominee. The arguments in favor boil down to four assertions:

  1. Nothing matters until the voters have their say.

  2. Never underestimate Trump.

  3. He consumes the available oxygen in the political room.

  4. And, most especially, polls showing a DeSantis surge and loss to Biden cannot be trusted due to biased lead-in questions, the underweighting of Republicans and the focus on registered voters instead of likely voters. 

In other words, Donald Trump, against the odds, remains the once and future Republican kingpin.  Despite the very legitimate concerns regarding many of Trump’s decisions and actions, Trump retains his popularity with hardcore Republicans.  Or so the argument goes.

Herewith are the counter arguments, focusing on the non-standard, that will prevail at the end of the day.  In the spirit of the holidays, they are set to music as nine reasons Trump will never be the Republican nominee.

  1. Grover Cleveland. Americans will tire of hearing that Grover Cleveland foreshadows Trump as the only president to hold office in non-consecutive terms.  Trump is no Grover Cleveland, and the political climate of today is not the same as it was in 19th Century America.  To boot, Cleveland was a popular Democrat, and at the time, he was only the third candidate to win the popular vote but lose the Electoral College to Republican William Harrison. Harrison won the nomination only as a fill-in after former Secretary of State James Blaine declined, and Harrison sealed the fate of his short-lived tenure by pushing for a high tariff regime, which was viewed as benefiting wealthy industrialists.

  2. Actual Precedent.  American history is filled with examples of one-term presidents who subsequently failed to secure a second term.  In the 19th century, John Tyler, Andrew Johnson, and Chester Arthur all failed to win re-nomination.  In modern times, while no incumbent has been successfully primaried, the effect has been the same. When Estes Kefauver won in New Hampshire, Truman left the race.  After Lyndon Johnson beat Eugene McCarthy by a slim 7 points in New Hampshire and Robert Kennedy entered the race, Johnson famously dropped out in a nationwide address.  Gerald Ford, by the narrowest of margins, won the nomination over Reagan on the next to last day of the convention.  In his comeback, Reagan decisively beat one-termer Jimmy Carter.

  3. The 11th Commandment.  President Reagan famously refused to bad mouth fellow Republicans.  Trump has followed the opposite path, attacking Republicans in his way, including Senate candidates who displeased him (“MAGA doesn’t vote for stupid people with big mouths”), and most disturbingly those he appointed: Attorney General Bill Barr (“weak and frightened”), Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (“very disloyal” if he were to run against Trump in 2024), Vice President Mike Pence (“Mike did not have the courage to act” in rejecting Electoral College results).  The ad hominem attacks extended to supportive foreign leaders (“f*** him” when Netanyahu congratulated Biden) and even family members. (After Ivanka supported Barr on election testimony, “Ivanka Trump was not involved in looking at, or studying, election results.  She had long since checked out….”)  Ivanka has publicly sworn off all involvement in the 2024 election.  Politics requires friends and Trump has few friends.

  4. OODA Loop.  Military strategy has developed a powerful, but deceptively simple doctrine known as Observe, Orient, Decide, Act, in a continuous loop, or the OODA loop.  In 2016, Trump decisively won the OODA loop campaign, getting in the heads of his 16 rivals for the nomination, with unconventional attacks, jibes, nicknames, humor, 24/7 brashness, and, as it turns out, utter media domination.  But a winning formula once has no staying power.  The greatest counter to Trump’s tactics is steely silence from DeSantis.  Trump’s novel plan of 2016 is dead on arrival, and he has no replacement strategy.  DeSanctimonious will not cut it this time.  If anything, everyone is in Trump’s headspace, not least Ron DeSantis, akin to constant bombardment in military terms and the classic sign of a losing OODA loop strategy.

  5. Preference Cascade.  A preference cascade is one of the great social observations which shows that at times, a prevailing orthodoxy will suddenly and unexpectedly fail. It happens when individuals discover all at once that their own seemingly unorthodox beliefs are widely shared.  Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit was one of the first to recognize in 2016 that Trump was the beneficiary of a preference cascade.  In 2024 no such surprise is possible.  Trump himself, his ego, and his tactics are too well-known to allow for a shocking coalition.  If anything, DeSantis will win the preference cascade this round, as it is more likely than not that Trump will lose decisively in the early primaries and never recover to mount a serious campaign.

  6. The Enemy of My Enemy.  The dictum that the enemy of my enemy is my friend is the Democrats only real strategy for 2024.  Trump is the Democrats’ one hope for victory, the enemy of DeSantis they want and need.  Hence the puzzle of criminal indictments.  Push too hard and it may sink Trump from grabbing the nomination.  Let the indictments linger and it angers core Democrats or may allow Trump to win.  In Ron DeSantis, Republicans voters have the complete solution, a true and simple opponent of the Democrats.  They will take it.

  7. Trump as Independent.  The Democrat fallback prayer is that Trump retaliates against ungrateful Republicans, definitionally true if they fail to nominate him, by running as an Independent.  Republicans should have no fear on this point.  It is incredibly difficult to mount an Independent campaign and it will not be supported after a failed primary season.  More to the point, it is not in Trump’s DNA to run as a sure-fire loser.  The better reason would be that he has genuine first-term accomplishments.  Trump in the end, will treasure his legacy over throwing an election to the Democrats.  

  8. The Straw and the Camel.  Just as one snowflake can ultimately set off an avalanche, it will never be known exactly which Trump mistake fatally harmed his candidacy.  Let the historians fight.  What is certain is that Trump regularly fuels controversy by attracting attention to himself over party and policy, never more so than the release of the Superhero NFTs.  In the end, the decisive factor may simply be that Trump is limited to one-term, making him a near lame duck from the outset.

  9. True Victory.  Biden is unlikely to be the Democrat nominee in 2024.  But nothing will make this as certain as a Trump primary defeat to DeSantis.  There is zero chance the Democrats will risk a campaign debacle pitting Biden against DeSantis: a youthful, vigorous, first-rate intellect and highly successful governor.  Trump could step aside with the satisfaction that in the end he defeated Hillary and Biden, passing the torch to the next generation.

Many reputations lie in tatters prematurely burying Donald Trump.  Yours truly does not want that shame.  If it happens, the best defense is the wisdom that “Prediction is very difficult, especially if it’s about the future.”

So Republicans should be in high cheer this season, notwithstanding the poor midterm showing and the recent House Speaker turmoil. Trump will not be the nominee.  DeSantis will be a stand-out, two-term president.  Attention will turn to assuring a meaningful Republican presidency.  Winning the House and Senate. True fiscal rectitude.  China disengagement. A 30-year nuclear power plan.  Drill baby drill to supply Europe’s energy needs.  A recentered America.

‘Tis the season for hope and wishes.

Image: Free image, Pixabay license, no attribution required.

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