Analysis | It’s a bit late for Trump to be derailed over ethical questions

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Perhaps the most important thing about the rise of Donald Trump in national politics is that he has exposed the weaknesses of institutions we thought were strong. For example, we have assumed that the federal government and the interwoven forces that govern it are stable, if not dramatically reduced. As president, Trump has proven very good at finding weak points and then swinging them. Through a mix of luck and misfires, it stayed upright.

The Republican Party establishment was not so lucky. The political equivalent of a corporate thug, Trump has deflated the GOP establishment and stripped it of its value: into the presidential polls, the various reservoirs of political power. He revealed the treachery of the institutions associated with the party, the places where candidates used to go for political support. He doesn’t need any and – because his needs are the source of those institutions’ power – he leaves behind a trail of hollowed-out organizations as he heads for Washington.

When he again sought his party’s nomination, this dynamic did not change much. One evangelical leader in Iowa, however, is offering Trump a new challenge that could help reaffirm the importance of his own organization and other institutions like it across the state. Or it could simply cement Trump’s hold on power outside the old order — and it’s time to make a principled moral stand against Trump eight years ago.

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Bob Vander Platts, the leader of the family-run religious group, has never been a big Trump supporter. In 2016He and Trump clashed, with the Republican candidate hinting that Vander Platts wanted a payment before giving his endorsement. (There’s no reason to think this is true.) Vander Platts endorsed the bid of Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas). Cruz narrowly won the Iowa caucuses that year (and not by much).

This month, Vander Platts endorsed Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) Trump has responded negatively by making similar allegations against the Vander Platts’ conduct. Vander Platt in a radio interview on Monday Hit backNot only is DeSantis the best candidate, but Trump insists he “deserves to lose my endorsement.”

What’s amazing about his argument against Trump is how he ignores everything we know about Trump.

For example, Vander Platts criticized Trump’s attacks on DeSantis and Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R), who has endorsed the Floridian.

“The character you’re seeing from the former president is emerging. Character is emerging,” Vander Platts said. He added that the attack on the governors was beyond the pale. “You throw them completely under the bus. You only call them because they have to kneel. This is not leadership.

It does not fit the traditional internal politics of the pre-Trump era that brought primaries back to the institutional-leaders-matters era. But is that era over? It would be confusing for anyone to come out in 2023 and suggest that Trump is acting out of character by attacking political rivals, he’s been doing this loudly and publicly for a long time. The last time someone expressed surprise at Trump attacking people for political reasons was before the movie “Moana.”

“Being president is not a CEO. It’s not just moving the embassy to Jerusalem, as we appreciate it. It’s not just appointing three Supreme Court justices, even if we’re happy about that,” Vander Platts said of Trump. “He was a statesman. Should you follow him?”

This question of competence is something that a religious leader in a conservative state would want to consider. But, again, the tipping point for this debate occurred during the Obama administration.

PRRI has repeatedly asked Americans over the past 12 years whether they think a public official who commits adultery in public is ethical. In the year In 2011, during Obama’s first term in office, about half of Democrats said it was likely. Only a third of Republicans and white evangelical Christians agreed.

Then came 2016 and with it, the Republican presidential candidate’s personal failings were never personal. Instead of opposing Trump on moral grounds, Republicans and evangelicals have adjusted their moral positions.

This isn’t entirely consistent with “being a statesman,” but it’s clear that the idea that Trump is unpresidential isn’t much of a barrier to serving as president. Most voters In the year In 2016, Hillary Clinton was eligible for the presidency and Trump was not – but that didn’t stop Trump from being elected to that office.

Look at this another way. Currently, Trump leads by an average of 538 national primaries. Just shy of 60 percent Support. This is the highest pre-year percentage for any candidate since 1980, when he averaged 538, regardless, except for George W. Bush’s 66 percent approval rating in 1999. , won the nomination.

“Donald Trump’s number one obstacle is that I’ve never met a father or mother or grandmother or grandfather who told me they wanted their son or grandson to grow up like him,” Vander Platts said on Monday. . “This is a big deal.”

No, no, it doesn’t matter to them because the Republican electorate voted and voted. Nor is it because most of them are members of the Republican Party. He told YouGov They see Trump as a good example of last year’s election — after years of prosperity and his efforts to reverse the 2020 election. Vander Platts didn’t say it, but many Republicans think Trump is qualified to act.

In all of this, from his criticism of Trump to his support for DeSantis, there is no reason to think that Vander Platts is insincere. But as of 2015 In 2016, it is clear that Trump could benefit from an underperformance in Iowa. That is less likely than it used to be; The lead is much wider than when Cruz was passing.

“I believe Iowa will send a message on Jan. 15,” Vander Platts said Monday, referring to the date of the caucuses, “because I think they’re seeing that.” This is smoke and mirrors. This is not the leadership our country needs.

Again, though, Iowa sent a message in 2016 that it doesn’t like Trump either. In 2012 he sent a message that he didn’t like Mitt Romney and in 2008 he didn’t like John McCain. Institutions — including state voting results — are no longer the obstacles they once were.

As this story was being written, another such notice appeared: Americans for Prosperity Action, sponsored by Charles Koch; announced That he is approving the presidential candidacy of the former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley. Remember the Kochs? Putative Republican kingmakers? later It is sitting 2016, you are weighing in 2024.

“This is a choice between liberty and socialism, individual liberty and big government, fiscal responsibility and indirect debt,” Haley said in a statement accepting the incentive.

Now please re-read the entire argument above, changing “financial constraints” to “moral guidelines”.





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