“Crooked Hillary,” Donald Trump tweeted in November 2017, “bought the DNC & then stole the Democratic Primary from Crazy Bernie!” The unusually tight relationship during the 2016 primary between the Democratic National Committee and its presidential front-runner, the president suggested, might be worthy of a Justice Department investigation.
If that were true, then the FBI should have a new case on its hands: the unprecedented collusion between the Republican National Committee and Trump himself. Clinton, in August 2015, signed a secretive and controversial joint fundraising agreement with the DNC that gave her the vast bulk of money raised and eventually placed some of the party machinery under her financial control. Trump, on the other hand, hasn’t just influenced and benefited from the RNC; he’s inhaled it like a cheeseburger.
In December, the Republican Party and the president’s reelection campaign merged into a single unit, called Trump Victory, which RNC Chair Ronna McDaniel clucked would be “the biggest, most efficient and unified campaign operation in American history.” In January, the GOP passed a resolution giving the president its “undivided support.”
Political party apparatuses are supposed to be impartial arbiters of primary contests, not corner men for the reigning champions. Yet McDaniel at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February boasted that any Republican foolish enough to challenge Trump in the 2020 primaries would “lose horribly,” adding this taunt to the Bill Welds of the world: “So have at it ... waste your money, waste your time ... go ahead and lose.”
Weld, who officially launched his campaign last Monday, called McDaniel’s comments at the time “a stunning reversal of past party practice of honoring neutrality in primaries,” asking: “What is it they are so afraid of?”
That may be the most puzzling question of all. Trump is clobbering Weld in the polls — 85 per cent to 15 per cent, according to a national Emerson survey. Even in Weld’s home state of Massachusetts, where he was a popular two-term governor in the 1990s, the president has a gargantuan 82 per cent-18 pe rcent lead.
Approval of Trump among Republicans has stabilized at around 90 per cent, according to Gallup polling, and Robert S. Mueller III’s special investigation — which would-be candidates John Kasich and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan had been waiting for to help inform their decisions on whether to run — has failed thus far to land a serious blow. Sure, Republican voters may say they want more competition, but when presented with actual names, they tend to jump back into the arms of the party’s standard-bearer.
And yet the Trump machine is taking a bazooka to this thumb-wrestling match, inserting Trumpist yes men in regional party leadership positions — including in the crucial early states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Some of those apparatchiks have wondered out loud whether the party even should hold primaries next year.
“I’ve never seen anything like it and I’ve been involved in the Republican Party for most of my life,” Hogan told Politico. “It’s unprecedented.” Such a cartoonish show of force is clearly designed to scare off potential competitors before they even get in the ring. But like many exaggerated projections of strength, it’s giving off the unseemly whiff of flop sweat.It is a time-wasting folly for Democrats to expect some mythical Watergate 2.0 to solve their biggest political problem with a single bang of the gavel. If anything, the analogy is more teachable for Trump himself. It’s the smallest men who require the biggest parades, and the organizations they corrupt will be staffed by compromised opportunists.
The president should welcome a political fight — he’s certainly better at it now than any national Republican. But by stacking the deck so grossly in his favour, Trump is tacitly admitting that he just doesn’t believe in himself. Be very afraid when the president is scared.
At the time, Trump averaged just five false claims a day. In the past seven months, that total has risen to an average of nearly 23 every day, made at rallies, on Twitter, in speeches or in encounters with the media.
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