Zachary Faria of the Washington Examiner is doing the work. His latest column is dedicated to trying to convince Republicans not to ruin a golden opportunity to win back the White House by backing Donald Trump as their 2024 presidential nominee. It’s interesting to see how he goes about it.
The main argument is statistical. He looks at President Joe Biden and Vice-President Kamala Harris’s upside-down approval numbers, the widespread concern about Biden’s age, and the head-to-head polling numbers for matchups between Biden and Trump versus Biden and DeSantis. According to the polls he selected, DeSantis is about even with Biden and ahead by 11 points in key swing states while Trump is narrowly behind and tied in swing states. These are the only candidates Faria discusses, making me wonder if he’s connected to the DeSantis campaign in some way. But his point is that Biden is vulnerable and Trump can’t take advantage while someone else could. One reason Trump can’t take advantage is that he’s almost as old as Biden. The other is that he’s just a proven loser.
Again, those are swing states that Trump has already lost. He lost Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin to Biden in 2020. He then lost in all of those states again as his picks in the 2022 midterm elections flamed out. Do Republicans really want to take the coin flip chance in those states when it is clear the coin will be weighted against them?
Over the last three election cycles, Trump has done nothing but lose. He has empowered Democrats both through his own failures as a candidate and through his handpicked nominees in high-profile races. He is the only candidate who is as unpopular as Biden. He is the only candidate who is as old as Biden. He is the only candidate who has lost to Biden already.
There is only one mention in the piece that Trump has any substantive defects. Faria writes “He wouldn’t be protected from the Deep State (that he didn’t dismantle) or from indictments. He would be a loser, again.”
Trump “wouldn’t be protected…from indictments.” That’s it. As for the merits of those indictments, Faria writes, “Biden’s Justice Department is targeting Trump, in part, because Biden and his team want GOP voters to rally around him. Everyone knows that Trump is the most likely candidate to get Biden and Harris back into the White House.”
The calculation here seems to be that it’s pointless to criticize Trump for anything other than being a loser. In fact, to get taken seriously at all, it’s necessary to concede that Trump’s legal problems are illegitimate and that he’s a victim of a Deep State plot and Democratic conspiracy.
The problem is obvious. If Trump is innocent, then he deserves support. If he doesn’t belong in prison, and the only way he can avoid prison is to win the presidential election, then Republicans should try to make that happen. Anything less would not only be an injustice but it would reward bad behavior from Trump’s enemies.
Faria really can’t overcome this logic, although he tries by using the reverse psychology argument that the conspiracy is designed to make Republicans rally to Trump’s side, so don’t fall for it!
To spell it out, Faria is saying that Trump is going to be unjustly imprisoned but Republicans should just let that happen because opposing it is a trap.
It’s just not compelling. It doesn’t take the moral high ground at all. It asks Republicans to throw Trump to the wolves out of pure cynical calculation, not because he deserves it but because the plot against him is too strong to be effectively resisted.
Again, I believe the reason Faria takes this approach is because he thinks it’s impossible to make any argument against Trump on the merits. Republicans won’t take the charges against Trump seriously and will tune out anyone who gives those criticisms any purchase. But the poll that matters right now is the one cited by Faria showing “President Donald Trump leads Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) among GOP primary voters 60%-36% in a head-to-head matchup.”
That’s the poll that inspired Faria to write this column in the first place and ask “How badly do Republican voters want to lose?” It may be hard to convince Republicans that Trump is guilty as charged, but characterizing him as an innocent victim is giving up without trying. I don’t see how it can possibly move the numbers in the way that Faria clearly wants. If no one on the right will make the moral argument against Trump, he will be the nominee again, because not supporting him amounts to lending a hand to an unjust persecution.