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Donald Trump is the biggest loose cannon in the world.
If Joe Biden actually ends up spending trillions of dollars to radically transform America, it will be because Trump sabotaged not one, but two U.S. Senate seats in Georgia after refusing to accept his own defeat, giving Democrats a surprise majority in both houses of Congress to go along with the White House.
He could have an even bigger, and more damaging, impact on Republicans going forward. The only thing we know for sure is that he will not be ignored. Indeed, he is already meddling.
Let’s start in Virginia, where two replacement-level stooges are competing to become the state’s next governor. The race features former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is working hard to fend off Republican businessman Glenn Youngkin. In recent years, Virginia has become a Democratic state, but polling has this race very close. To prevail, Youngkin must (a) win back lots of “normal” suburban Northern Virginia voters who might once have voted for a Mitt Romney (and may be upset about Biden’s performance and/0r hot-button cultural issues like Critical Race Theory), and (b) avoid angering or alienating Trumpy voters.
For months, Youngkin has tried hard to thread this needle, but on Wednesday night, that was complicated by a rally in support of the state’s GOP ticket that was headlined by Steve Bannon and featured a phone call from Trump himself. Youngkin wisely skipped the event, which began with the pledge of allegiance being delivered to a flag that was present “at the peaceful rally with Donald J. Trump on Jan. 6.”
It was “an opening McAuliffe campaign was waiting for—in a campaign where he's tried, sometimes in vain, to tie Youngkin to Trump,” observed ABC News’ Political Director Rick Klein. Seizing on the moment, McAuliffe tweeted, “Last night was the darkest moment of Glenn Youngkin's campaign yet—a Donald Trump rally for Glenn where supporters celebrated the Jan. 6 insurrection. Glenn, for the sake of our democracy: denounce last night's rally and Donald Trump's dangerous lies. Enough is enough.”
Again, Youngkin’s only shot is to win back normal suburban voters, while also not alienating Trump’s fans in the Commonwealth. But Trump and his supporters won’t give him the space to do that. He can’t own what happened, but he also can’t disavow it. Trump would never allow that, nor would his supporters.
This is a glimpse of what Republicans running for Congress nationwide can expect next year. Indeed, mainstream Republicans are already being ritualistically forced to affirm Trump’s supposedly stolen re-election (and the nobility of the subsequent insurrection). They are not allowed to just pretend it didn’t happen and move on.
Along those same lines, just hours before the rally in Virginia, Trump released a statement saying, “If we don’t solve the Presidential Election Fraud of 2020 (which we have thoroughly and conclusively documented), Republicans will not be voting in ’22 or ’24. It is the single most important thing for Republicans to do.”
This should be interpreted as a serious threat because it speaks to the very efficacy of voting. Trump is not saying that he will tell his voters to stay home in 2022 to punish Republicans. He is making a much more furtive and veiled threat: He will tell the voters not to waste their time voting, unless, of course, other Republican politicians (a) buy into the bogus premise that the election was stolen from him, and (b) support whatever election “reforms” he says will prevent that from happening again.
This is a devious way of holding Republican politicians hostage to his demands while avoiding being labeled a spoiler.
Nice elections you got there. Be a shame if something happened to them.
The beauty is that Trump doesn’t even have to deliver on his mob-boss threat; he just has to issue it, and Republican politicians will bend to his will. That’s because the threat is believable, first because Trump doesn’t care about the party, and second because Trump has demonstrated that he is careless and erratic. In this regard, he is employing Nixon’s “madman theory”—against his own party.
Every compromise made to appease him or kick the can down the road (in hopes he will fade away) only empowers him more.
Trump isn’t just the biggest X factor in the 2024 presidential race, he may prove the greatest unknown in the 2021 and 2022 elections. He is the elephant in the room—the “known unknown.” His actions are unpredictable and chaotic, making it impossible for Republicans to plan for, much less manage, them.
Elections come and go. Trump is forever. And all he demands is everything.