A Hydra is “a many-headed serpent or monster in Greek mythology that was slain by Hercules and each head of which when cut off was replaced by two others” or, when not capitalized, “a multifarious evil not to be overcome by a single effort,” according to Merriam-Webster dictionary.
The Hydra to which I refer is the noxious, dangerous Palin/Trump populism that has taken root. No matter how many times Republicans and the rest of the country cut off its head, more pop up.
And that is how we get to the GOP primary line up via Morning Consult:
Trump Continues to Lead DeSantis: An increase in Trump’s support following his indictment on criminal fraud charges in New York appears to be leveling out, but he’s still well ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. Just over half of potential Republican primary voters (53%) support his candidacy, down from a high of 57% last week. Meanwhile, DeSantis’ backing has increased marginally from a low of 22% last week to 24%.
Things are so bad for DeSantis that Republican political strategist Mike Madrid of the Lincoln Project said the latest Wall Street Journal poll was a “red alarm” for DeSantis as he has “high positives but a low base,” and ultimately, “There’s no path.”
And a new NBC News poll found that “68% of Republican voters still support Trump after he has been charged with 34 felony counts in Manhattan.”
These results seemed to surprise powerful Republican donors and establishment types, who were hoping to insert DeSantis as a withdrawal pacifier for Trump supporters.
But I’ve been warning for almost a year that the Trump base is not enthusiastic about Ron DeSantis. They tell me DeSantis seems snobby, he’s elitist, and he’s just not capturing their attention.
He’s not TRUMP.
Republicans thought that since their base has been so primed to respond to often times manipulated culture wars instead of issues (given that the only issue they agreed up was abortion and now that they have it they’re fighting among themselves about just how much control they should be allowed to have over women, more on that later) that they could easily be fed another culture war hero with a cleaner image and a less drama-filled personal life.
Republicans thought they could feed DeSantis to the base, because they know the issues don’t matter.
After all, Trump ran a campaign ad praising Dr. Fauci in 2020 and his entire base hates Dr. Fauci and pretty much all mentions of science now — unless the science is something they can weaponize or it comes from a far-right hero, but then science doesn’t usually come from far-right heroes because all far-right heroes start off one thing and end up being led into being the absolute worst versions of themselves, with a huge helping of seething resentment in their presentation. There’s way too much emotion and reaction in the extremism that dominates the Republican Party for science to have a leadership role.
But still, the base isn’t having it.
DeSantis is mealy-mouthing his way into cosplaying a strongman; for example, an ad is being run titled “Never Back Down” in which ‘DeSantis takes on Dr. Fauci and The Woke’ is highlighted.
In fact, the only big move made for DeSantis, not by but for, is this ‘Never Back Down’ account pushing their little narrative uphill with a clip of Trump praising DeSantis as governor and a Fox News clip that suggests the media is in the tank for Trump because they think Democrats have the best shot of beating Trump.
This would be a relief if it were true. A media that didn’t want their cash cow Trump reelected would be a real gift to democracy. Unfortunately, we do not have that media.
But for DeSantis, the base sees Oz getting hammered by Mickey Mouse. They see Trump mocking DeSantis for losing to a Mouse. They see DeSantis trying to — of all things! — virtue signal about Trump’s affair with a porn star, when the shamelessness is the point of this cult.
The base sees a loser, and they only want persecution-complex infected, delusional self-identified “winner” with a lot of charisma, like Sarah Palin and Donald Trump.
And as much as neither of these two people seem very remarkable on paper. Even now, who would look at Donald Trump’s resumé and say: ‘He would make a great president.’ He’s had a background in what appear to be either mafia related business activities and/or just pure scams. He’s done some reality TV. He’s sold some steaks. He’s had his name in gaudy gold letters plastered on buildings and casinos. His time in the White House was an unmitigated disaster, an international humiliation for the U.S., and culminated in untold additional deaths from Covid-19 due to his petty mismanagement and vindictiveness.
But when Trump speaks to his supporters, they feel seen. They feel that this most selfish man, most narcissistic president in modern history, is looking out for them. He signals all of his resentment to them, the way he has been left out of high society, and they think he is one of them, because they too feel left out.
And that is all that matters to them.
The psychology of the Trump supporter is both deeply disturbing in terms how at odds their perception is with reality and yet also familiar. The cultish following of a populist is terrifying in its unexamined power, a huge swath of people bending to the whims of one person can be quite easily led to hate and act on that hate. It’s also really hard to get out of cults.
So, even though I have documented a cooling of visible enthusiasm for Trump on the ground in Trump country in that, e.g., signs that have been up since 2015 have just come down, when I speak with Trump supporters they are still all in. They’re a little worn down by the “drama” and 1/6 took an edge off of their confidence. But, they are still all in.
Why can’t any of the rather large field take on Trump? The truth is none of them have actually tried. What they are doing is trying to gently tap Trump out of the way from behind while waving way too eagerly to his base. In other words, not a single one of them has had the courage to take on the party leader, even after he became a criminal defendant and even after he incited an attack on his own country.
It would be laughable if the consequences weren’t so horrific. These people are all so afraid of Trump, yet they are trying to appeal to his cult by being like him but with less charisma, less power, less Neptunian fog to disguise the absolute dearth of actual principles.
We need only listen to these Republicans on the abortion issue, the one issue they are fighting about, to discover the problem. They are all trying to establish themselves as super hardline about abortion, but they keep getting tripped up by that very stance. All it takes is someone asking them “What about rape or incest?” or “Is Trump right in saying abortion should be a states’ issue?”
Yes, that whole states’ issue has caught up with the Party of Raging Control Freaks, because while they’ve been saying forever it should be a states’ issue and the Supreme Court just gave them that in a huge win for their decades-long crusade against women’s freedom, now it’s not quite enough.
Yes, you see, now they want abortion banned “at conception.” Pause while we mourn the loss of common sense.
The anti-abortion conservative base wants abortion banned everywhere at conception, but Donald Trump knows this is not a winner. He blamed abortion (instead of himself, conveniently) for the 2022 red wave that wasn’t. So, a small slice of the anti-abortion crowd is super angry at Trump, with a policy director for the American Principles Project claiming “Donald Trump just committed to "no federal role" on the issue of abortion. In other words, he's pro-choice now.” (This tweet was later deleted after many self-identified conservatives agreed with him, but thanks to Elon firing so many engineers, it’s still available.)
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham was asked to explain Trump’s position on abortion and didn’t seem to want to actually articulate anything specific, so he took refuge in a Gish gallop of lies about abortion, thereby making the problem even that much more obvious: Republicans simply do not have an answer on abortion.
Graham, for example, claimed that Democrats want abortion “on demand” up to the moment of birth and tax-payer funded. I mean, yes, abortions should be covered, but absolutely no one wants an abortion at the moment of birth. This is an absolutely disgusting accusation that could only come from someone who has no empathy for the horrific pain parents who have to have a medically directed termination or have a stillbirth are going through.
On the other end of the spectrum in the GOP, Republican Representative Nancy Mace is trying to sell the idea that you can be “pro-life and pro-woman” and that Republicans need to show “compassion” for rape victims. What she is really arguing… drum roll pleaase… is that there should be the option to get an abortion. Otherwise known as having a choice.
It’s a wonder why some of these folks are still in the Republican Party.
The Palin/Trump populist movement echoes other populist movements in history, but in its pride for pugnacious ignorance and lack of actual policies it brings to mind the Poujadism movement articulating the grievances of shopkeepers and small businesses that were facing economic and social change in the 1950s in France, but this time around, it’s grievances about social change covering opposition to taxes for big business.
A French movement (UDCA) created by Pierre Poujade after 1953, mobilizing the lower middle classes, shopkeepers and artisans, and the peasantry in the south, in opposition to big business and the unions, the state and the administration, but mainly to taxes. Right‐wing and populist, but also republican, the Poujadists exploited widespread discontent with the Fourth Republic, winning over two‐ and‐a‐half million votes in the 1956 election and returning fifty‐three deputies. Within two years, lacking leadership and a programme, the movement collapsed.
Unfortunately, this movement here just won’t die because the Republican Party, aka party for the elites, stands down to Donald Trump. They will do whatever it takes to grab more power for their rich and powerful puppet masters. If they have to bow down to the anti-American president this country has ever had to get it, they will and they are.
The only way out for the Republican Party would be for them to find someone willing to run in a kamikaze mission to take Trump down. They would have to not care at all about winning Trump supporters, but rather focus on destroying Trump’s image as a winner. The key to that is really obvious, but not one of the primary possibles has even gone near it. It’s all about destroying Trump’s manhood. It would be very simple to do.
That is, it would be very simple to do if they cared about the United States.