How to Defeat Trump?
Politico's Jack Shafer usually has interesting things to say. And his latest is
headlined "Stormy Daniels and Karl Rove Know How to Beat Trump: A Real Strategy for Ron DeSantis." There are basically
three arguments that Shafer makes:
- Attacking Trump's Character/Bad Behavior Is Useless: In essence, the voters willing to
consider Trump have already accepted that he engages in all sorts of bad behavior, from petty personal
squabbles to dodging taxes to cheating on his wife to lying constantly. They don't care. Or, at very least, they have
decided that they are willing to accept his "cons" in exchange for his "pros." Thus far, DeSantis has focused most of his
(limited) criticisms of Trump on the former president's personal shortcomings. Shafer thinks this is a big mistake.
- Attacking Trump on Policy Works: This is the lesson that Karl Rove brings to the
discussion. Rove has apparently advised anti-Trump candidates in various races (not necessarily people facing Trump
directly) to focus on the lack of substantive policy accomplishments. The wall was not built. The swamp was not drained.
The dance with Kim Jong-Un produced no meaningful results. The COVID policy was flip-floppy, sometimes too mainstream
(get your vaccinations!), sometimes too whackadoodle (inject bleach!). Shafer believes that DeSantis has begun to
internalize this lesson, as indicated by his choice to run to the right of Trump on COVID and vaccinations.
- Make Trump the Punchline: This is the lesson that Stormy Daniels brings to the discussion.
She has done a pretty good job of firing off bon mots at Trump's expense. Particularly at the expense of... Little
Donald, shall we say.
For example, she is on the record
that having sex with Trump was the worst 90 seconds of her life.
Trump does not deal well with this, as being insulted infuriates him, and he's not especially
capable of responding in kind. That is to say, he can and will punch below the belt, but he doesn't really do snark very
We don't disagree with any of this advice, per se, though we will point out two things. The first is that following
this playbook might allow DeSantis to wrest the Republican nomination away from Trump, particularly if Trump is
indicted, but it's going to leave the Governor in a perilous place for the general election. The second is that DeSantis
is even worse at snark than Trump is. Every time DeSantis tries to jab someone, the line lands with a thud. Maybe it's
something about today's Republican politicians, because Ted Cruz is also just awful at this, as is Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).
We're a long ways away from the time when Ronald Reagan was king of the zingers and Walter Mondale wouldn't
know a joke line if it bit him.
Undoubtedly, DeSantis is getting a lot of this sort of advice, not only from the media but also from people in his
inner circle. We shall see what he does with it, probably sooner rather than later, as he's currently ceding ground to
Trump in the polls. (Z)
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