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Help Us, Obi-Don Kenobi--Your Death Is Our Only Hope

Donald Trump and the Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope character Obi-Wan Kenobi have quite a bit in common. They're both getting up there in years. They both retired to a warm-weather climate. They both had a disciple who betrayed them. And for both, their lightsabers maybe aren't working quite as well as they once used to. (And yes, that's 3 of the last 5 days we've made a joke about Trump's... small hands, shall we say).

Yesterday, in an item about Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), the aforementioned disciple who has betrayed Trump, we observed that the Governor is quite clearly waiting for Trump to be indicted, in hopes that clears the decks of him without DeSantis having to engage in outright attacks on the Dear Leader, thus alienating Trump's loyal followers.

An article that came out in The Atlantic over the weekend makes clear that there are some Republican operatives whose thoughts are... more extreme. Here's the central point of the piece:

Press them hard enough, and most Republican officials—even the ones with MAGA hats in their closets and Mar-a-Lago selfies in their Twitter avatar—will privately admit that Donald Trump has become a problem. He's presided over three abysmal election cycles since he took office, he is more unstable than ever, and yet he returned to the campaign trail this past weekend, declaring that he is "angry" and determined to win the GOP presidential nomination again in 2024. Aside from his most blinkered loyalists, virtually everyone in the party agrees: It's time to move on from Trump.

But ask them how they plan to do that, and the discussion quickly veers into the realm of hopeful hypotheticals. Maybe he'll get indicted and his legal problems will overwhelm him. Maybe he'll flame out early in the primaries, or just get bored with politics and wander away. Maybe the situation will resolve itself naturally: He's old, after all—how many years can he have left?

Yep, they are hoping that Trump will shuffle off this mortal coil, and that will finally rid the GOP of him.

This strikes us as hopelessly naive. And no, we don't mean they are overlooking the fact that Trump comes from a family with a history of living long lives despite poor health habits. We mean that Trump is clearly not the central problem for the Party anymore, Trumpism is. Consider the above item about Ilhan Omar. That is exactly the kind of thing that is done to cater to the Trumpists in the Republican Party, of which there are many. The Trumpy stunts like that, the Trumpy "policy" positions, the Trumpy complaints about the deep state, the Trumpy insistence that Democratic electoral victories are fraudulent—would any of that go away if Trump were to keel over tomorrow? Of course not. That stuff works well with the voters that many Republican politicians are trying to win to their banner.

In fact, the evidence is mounting that Trump—who is not only still alive, last we checked, but is a declared presidential candidate—is already fading in relevance. A new poll from The Bulwark says that while the former president retains the loyalty of 30% of Republican voters, more than two-thirds of the GOP would like to move on to someone different. It's true that The Bulwark is anti-Trump, but their polling is legitimate, and this result is not especially out of line with other recent polls.

Further, Trump's fundraising has gotten... pretty dismal. The latest report by his political operation to the FEC shows that in the last month of 2022, Team Trump took in about $5 million. That's not great for the first month after announcing one's candidacy, particularly for someone with as high a profile as Trump's. But it gets much worse. In order to raise that $5 million, the campaign spent $2.5 million on texting, $1.7 million on online advertising and $950,000 on list rentals. The staff mathematician is busy commemorating Brandy Alexander Day, but even with our less refined math skills, we can tell that adds up to more than $5.1 million. In other words, Trump spent $5.1 million to make... $5 million. Sounds like vintage Trump to us.

Maybe there are reasons his haul was so bad. People were saving their money for Christmas? The election is still very far away? He didn't actually do any campaigning? We don't know, but it certainly isn't a good sign for him. And it's entirely possible that he's gotten all the fleece out of the rubes that he's going to get, and they are so weary of him, or of being bombarded with his fundraising pleas, or of his sleazy fundraising tricks ("uncheck the tiny, almost hidden box at the bottom if you don't want this to be a recurring donation") that he will not be able to open the money spigot the way he once could. Just another data point suggesting that while Trumpism remains in full effect, Trump himself may be yesterday's news.

One last observation. Obi-Wan Kenobi's last line in Star Wars is: "If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine." If Trump does die, as some Republicans are quietly rooting for, then Trumpy politicians will have Trumpism to run on, and Trump's memory to deploy, while at the same time they won't have to worry about Trump himself taking potshots or doing other things that embarrass the party, like having dinner with antisemites. In other words, for those wishing death on the Donald, we remind them that you should be careful what you wish for, because you just might get it. (Z)

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