Republican Primary 2020
By Alex Reinsch-Goldstein
With the Democratic primary being fairly comparable to everything from a foodfight to a zoo pen full of hyenas, the Republican Party would appear to be the picture of serenity by comparison. After all, disunity cannot possibly be afforded when they are battling powerful forces of evil such as the Deep State, Jake Tapper, Hillary Clinton’s communist spy apparatus, and people who say Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas.
That makes it all the more surprising that three Republicans have thus far announced campaigns to primary Donald Trump in 2020. Which leads to the burning question…Who are they?
They are an ideologically variable group. The first to announce a primary challenge against Trump was the fluorescent-haired former Governor of Massachusetts William Weld, who began his campaign in April. Weld, perhaps the last of the moderate New England Republicans which were once an influential group, has held diverse party loyalties over the years. In 2016, he was the Libertarian Party’s nominee for Vice President, running alongside former New Mexico governor and noted Aleppo-denier Gary Johnson. Weld decries Trump’s reactionary nationalist brand of conservatism, and wishes that the Republican Party could just go back to advocating that the government shouldn’t make you wear a seatbelt when you drive a car.
Next to chuck-his-hat-into-the-general-vicinity-of-the-ring was former Illinois congressman Joe Walsh. A former die-hard Trump supporter who had said that he would take up arms if Trump lost in 2016, he apparently changed mind. Walsh agrees with Trump’s economic policies and his phobia of foreigners, but is running against Trump because of his belief that the President is “morally unfit” to hold office. He can imprison all the migrant children and ban all the Muslims he wants, but as long as he indulges in adultery, profanity, and the other forms of gluttony so near and dear to his heart, he will never be the model of a pious Midwestern cornshucker and he will never have the support of Joe Walsh.
It would be a mistake indeed to bring up the topic of adultery without mentioning Mark Sanford’s entry into the race in September. The former congressman and Governor of South Carolina wants to bring back the fiscal conservatism of the pre-Trump era, returning the party to principled concern about government spending on everything except the military. He builds on an illustrious career as governor, in which the most noted episode was him taking a week off to hike the Appalachian Trail, then pulling a sneaky one and instead flying down to Buenos Aires to meet up with his Argentine mistress. His wife left him, the legislature censured him, and he was almost impeached before the South Carolina House of Representatives decided they “had better things to do.” Rather than pulling a Joe Walsh and challenging Trump based on his endorsement of loose morals (because Sanford has no standing to do so), Sanford says that Trump needs to be replaced because he doesn’t care enough about the deficit.
What are the chances of any of this merry band of insurgents extracting any sort of good outcome? The Republican Party is Trump’s part now--any such heresy will likely meet with the same success as Mark Sanford trying to convince his wife that he was actually hiking the Appalachian Trail all along. The Republican National Committee has given its unequivocal support to Trump, barring any Republican challenger from receiving even an official acknowledgement of their existence. Several states have already cancelled their primaries, essentially saying that there is not going to be a contest--and that they won’t let one happen even if there is. The candidates themselves have criticized this as undemocratic. In 2012, even when there was no serious challenge to Barack Obama, the Democratic Party still had primaries in most states--even though people like Vermin Supreme, the anarchist with a boot on his head, or Randall Terry, the lunatic anti-abortion activist with glitter on his head (thanks to Vermin Supreme) were the only other candidates. This election, several Republicans who have actually held elected office in the past want to challenge Trump--hardly the Vermin Supremes of the world. And yet in 2020 there will not be a contest, because the Republican Party does not want to allow one.
The basic issue here is whether or not the Republican Party wants to make itself wholly the Trump party, or not. Living in perpetual fear of the soda-pop volcano of anger which made Trump president in the first place, the Republican Party feels that the electorate does not trend towards concern about the deficit and puritanical morals. They are angry at immigrants, “liberal elites,” foreigners--Trump spoke to that, and that’s why he won. William Weld and Mark Sanford and Joe Walsh will never be able to tap into that anger--their brand of conservatism is lame and old by comparison. 90s-esque fretting about deficits and government overreach will never be able to match the intense power of misdirected hatred.
What these primary challengers are doing is trying to pull the Republican Party back from the brink--back from the full embrace of Trump and everything he stands for. They believe that a party cannot survive long based on a cultish worship of one man and the emotions he cultivates--but the majority of their party does not agree with that conclusion. The Republican Party has fully dedicated itself to ensuring that the Chinese-manufactured boot of Trumpism kicks them back up the Appalachian Trail of anachronism from whence they came. And, things being as they are, they will probably succeed.