Why Trump’s 2024 chances are even worse than Georgia suggests

In part because of Trump’s influence reshaping the GOP, his distinctiveness within it is fading. This was evident in the Georgia gubernatorial primary. In the absence of a significant philosophical or governing disagreement with incumbent Gov. Brian Kemp, former senator David Perdue could distinguish himself only by his adherence to the former president’s narcissistic 2020 election vendetta. Republican voters, who rejected Perdue by a 52-point margin, were not impressed.

Richard Hofstadter, a mid-20th-century historian of American populism, wrote that “third parties are like bees: once they have stung, they die.” The Trump movement in 2016 — with its attacks on both party establishments — in many ways resembled a third party. If Trump has no sting left, Hofstadter’s analysis helps explain why.

“Major parties have lived more for patronage than for principles,” Hofstadter explained. They are risk-averse organizations designed for stable governance. Populists and third parties, meanwhile, are not geared to govern, but to “agitate, educate … and supply the dynamic element in our political life.” These two forces — steady and disruptive — influence one another, so that when “a third party’s demands become popular enough, they are appropriated by one or both of the major parties and the third party disappears.”