A stampeding herd of “anti-Trump” Republican organizations and PACs has flooded the 2020 presidential campaign with ads attacking the president and endorsing his rival, Joe Biden. If beating Donald Trump in November is your main thing, this would appear to be only good news. I am forced to wonder, however, what the real intent is behind this sudden solidarity after three long years of near-silence from the deeply compromised “Never Trump” crew.
It has been a fascinating election already before these right-wing voices chimed in. Trump is running for reelection with a trio of grand pianos on his back — his handling of COVID, the uprising and the economy — all of which he put there himself. Trump has repeatedly proven himself to be a DIY kind of guy when it comes to self-inflicted campaign wounds.
Trump’s presumptive Democratic challenger, in contrast, is throwing darts from his basement and seemingly running away with the race. Biden, whose age puts him squarely in the high-risk category from COVID, has been running as if the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was in charge of his campaign. Justly so: The mere fact that Biden is acting like a responsible human being is a good portion of the reason why he is currently ahead in the polls.
At this point, Trump’s campaign staffers must flinch like dogs without their ThunderShirts whenever the Trumpian fireworks start, or as is usually the case, won’t stop. Case in point: Trump went back to his blankie yesterday for yet another Fox News “interview,” during which he said, “I think we’re going to be very good with the coronavirus. I think that at some point that’s going to sort of just disappear, I hope.”
Flinch. Everything in that sentence is wrong, infuriating and cruel. COVID is not going to disappear, even if a vaccine comes down the pipe tomorrow. “I hope” is not a policy for a nation that just notched 50,000 new infections in a single day, a record which leaves the grim daily totals from March and April in deep shade. “We’re going to be very good” from a president with his execrable COVID track record to date is the verbal equivalent of rubbing the electorate’s face in the rocks of a gravel driveway.
Donald Trump is the best campaign spokesman Joe Biden could ever wish for, because Trump will not stop damaging himself, ever. He is incapable of staying out of the spotlight, has no interest in talking points or strategy, and almost never knows what he is talking about when he starts flapping his gums at the cameras. His ceaseless lies about everything from Russian bounties on U.S. troops to the uprising to the pandemic are a feature, not a bug.
In the midst of this maelstrom, Biden pops up every so often like some grandfatherly Jack-in-the-box to remind people that, whatever else he may be, he is not that guy. He has out-raised Trump for the second month in a row, while Trump’s own campaign spends its money on ads intended only to assure the president that he’s a great guy and everything is fine.
All the momentum is on Biden’s side at present, and Trump is only going to help him as we lurch toward the reckoning in November. So forgive me for being leery of this abrupt tidal wave of Biden support from Republican-based organizations. It puts me in mind of the old joke about the French aristocrat who sees an angry mob run by and says, “I must find out where my people are going, so I may lead them.”
The newest entry into the Republican anti-Trump push is named 43 Alumni for Biden. It is a collection of hundreds of former campaign and administration members who worked for George W. Bush, the war criminal 43rd president. A list of members is not available so far as I can glean, but the group boasts a number of former Bush Cabinet secretaries and other high-ranking members whose names I’d love to know. Rumsfeld? Ashcroft? Rove? Cheney? Such is the possible character of Biden’s new allies.
“Whether you worked in the earliest days of the 43rd Administration or sprinted to the finish in January 2009, you know a thing or two about serving the grand ideals and exceptional people of our country,” reads the 43 Alumni for Biden endorsement. “Together we saw compassion in action, strength on display and the steady leadership of a true statesman who inspired us to meet some of America’s greatest challenges.”
I don’t have time to fully parse the freight of “Oy vey” in that paragraph; if you lived through the scabrous eight years of the Bush administration, you don’t need me to tell you how much unrefined bullshit is slathered on the words “compassion,” “steady leadership” and “true statesman.” Those hundreds of “43 Alumni” aided and abetted a murderous smash-and-grab robbery of an administration, and now they’re piling in behind Biden exactly when he does not need their help.
Another Republican group that has been throwing hot shade at Trump is The Lincoln Project. The ads produced by this organization have been singularly brutal and ruthlessly timely, and Trump the TV fanatic is well aware of them. Each time another Lincoln Project ad airs, Trump Twitter goes seismic. The Lincoln spots are masterpieces of inflicted political pain, and further proof that conservatives are better at making killer ads than the Democrats ever were or will be.
Many who oppose Trump have rejoiced at the way these ads have been flaying him, but it cannot be forgotten that this same gleefully lethal energy also went into creating and distributing the GOP’s racist Willie Horton ad attacking Michael Dukakis in 1988, and the wildly truthless swift-boat ads attacking John Kerry in 2004. With friends like these, etc.
In 1976, Jimmy Carter came out of the Democratic convention with a 33-point lead over incumbent Republican President Gerald Ford. Despite campaigning with the grand piano of Watergate on his back, Ford had clawed his way to a polling tie with Carter by Election Day, and only barely lost in the end.
For those seeking Trump’s defeat in November, this is instructive history, and a warning against complacency. Biden is booming along right now while barely lifting a finger, but it is a long 17 weeks to the vote, and things can change in a day. The effective damage these GOP-aligned groups can do to Trump between now and then should not be dismissed out of hand.
That being said, those working to get Trump gone must be deeply wary of this new “help.” These are the people whose policies and go-for-the-jugular campaign ethos made President Donald Trump possible, or even inevitable, in the first place. Here they are now, leaping on the Biden bandwagon in hopes we all forget the blood and tears soaking their hands.
Furthermore, if these right-wing organizations do manage to make a notable difference in the November outcome, they are going to think they are owed something for that assistance, and anything that pushes Biden even further to the right is a menace on its face for anyone seeking genuine progressive change.
Simply put: Never, ever forget who it is you’re dealing with here. These groups do not oppose Trump because of his policies. They oppose Trump because he is bad for the Republican brand, full stop. The enemy of your enemy in this case is not your friend, at all. It feels too much like The Scorpion and the Frog all over again, and folks by now should be heartily wary of getting stung.