Trump is his own worst enemy

(AP Photo, File)

It’s no secret that a lot of Republicans have been abandoning former president Trump since the disastrous midterm elections. For some reason, Trump seems to keep finding new ways to alienate his supporters and lose unnecessary battles. For a man whose political instincts took him all the way to the White House despite the desperate opposition of the entire political elite, his recent moves have been shocking.

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Let’s take a look at some of the self-inflicted wounds from the past few months.

Trump’s first mistake was inserting himself back into the spotlight in the week before the midterm election wrapped up.

Doing so seemed like a no-brainer at the time, since everybody (including me!) expected a massive Republican wave. In politics, as in so many aspects of life, it pays dividends to let others do all the heavy lifting and swoop in at the last minute to declare victory and take the credit. As frustrating as it was at the time for many candidates who would have preferred Trump stay on the sidelines, at the time it seemed a smart move on Trump’s part.

I would have advised him to do it were I in his camp, so this is only a mistake in retrospect.

But it was a BIG mistake. Not a stupid mistake, as I outlined, but it hurt Trump’s brand badly when the elections turned out to be very disappointing. Trump wound up taking the blame for losses around the country.

Popping up at the end of the campaign also reminded people about his earlier mistakes in picking bad candidates in Georgia and Pennsylvania, where his hand-picked candidates underperformed. He was already taking heat for the choices, but by becoming a prominent figure at the end of the campaign he solidified the losses as his responsibility, in addition to those elsewhere in the country.

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No amount of hot air could dispel the stink of those losses, but Trump decided to double down and direct criticism at two Republicans who came out of the night looking like winners, Ron DeSantis and Glenn Youngkin. He even got into a fight with Winsome Sears, who had been firmly in his corner. Bad move.

He also took a swipe at Brian Kemp, who won comfortably in contrast to Herschel Walker. Trump firmly put himself in the corner of the losers instead of the winners. Why would you do that?

This generated a huge and well-deserved backlash. DeSantis, in particular, is a party favorite and a proven vote-getter. He turned purple Florida deep Red, and unlike Trump came out of the midterms smelling like a rose. Trump should have embraced him, perhaps even appearing at the victory party as a surprise guest to get some reflected glory and claim some credit for the victory. Instead he attacked DeSantis, and has continued to do so ever since both directly and through nasty proxies.

Whatever the merits of his criticisms–and as you know I personally think the criticisms have no merit at all–they were politically stupid. DeSantis has risen the more Trump criticizes him, and in turn Trump looks weaker the better DeSantis does. Trump created an unnecessary, or at least premature, rivalry. With some deft maneuvering he could have cozied up to DeSantis before turning on him if necessary.

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He chose a bad strategy.

Then he doubled down again, blaming the midterm losses on some of his strongest and most loyal supporters: the pro-life voters who have the most reason to be grateful and loyal to him. Ed discussed this in a post the other day, so I won’t provide any additional analysis, other than to say that this was an unforced error on Trump’s part, driven entirely by ego. The 2022 midterms are in the rear-view mirror, and every time Trump brings them up he is reopening a painful wound.

Yet Trump simply can’t quit blaming others for the loss. A smart politician would memory hole the entire fiasco, not keep bringing it up.

Trump’s latest fail was backing Kevin McCarthy for Speaker of the House. It is never a wise idea to endorse somebody if you haven’t great confidence they can win, and either Trump’s confidence was misplaced or his estimation of his influence was grossly overrated. Probably both.

Regardless of whether McCarthy eventually takes the speakership, Trump looks utterly irrelevant and indeed neutered. He failed to convince one person with his arm twisting for McCarthy, proving to the world that he doesn’t even have influence over Republicans when it counts.

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The Freedom Caucus is vaguely “MAGA,” but it was never a creature of Trumpworld. Its members are ideological true believers and Trump was never likely to convince them of anything. Yet because the outside world sees all these congressmen as MAGA acolytes, Trump looks irrelevant and washed up.

Yet Trump has doubled down again, at it makes him look like a failure when he could have avoided having anything to do with the fiasco.

The goal when running for office is to accumulate as much political capital as possible, and only spend it when you absolutely have to. Trump has done the opposite, assuming a near infinite supply of banked capital and spending it with abandon.

With all that spent capital he has nothing to show for it.

Love Trump or not, it’s hard to argue that he has been gaining support over the past couple of months. Each move he has made has backfired spectacularly, almost as if the Midas touch he once had now turns everything to lead instead of gold.

It’s sad to see. Trump accomplished much in his term, and gets far too little credit for it. Despite his personal foibles, and over the herculean efforts of his opponents, his legacy includes a conservative majority in the Supreme Court and the huge accomplishment of the Abraham Accords.

Compare that to George W Bush, whose legacy is more tarnished by the day.

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Trump would have been wise to fade away as Douglas MacArthur did. A controversial figure whose reputation as a hero grew with his graceful exit from the scene.

As with Trump, MacArthur was not known for humility; he had devoted fans; he had determined enemies; he was tossed away unceremoniously and in a manner he considered unfair. Yet when he had the opportunity to whinge, he chose the high road, and his reputation grew because of it.

Trump should consider doing the same.

 

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Ed Morrissey 11:27 PM | July 13, 2024
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John Stossel 5:30 PM | July 13, 2024
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