February 27, 2024 | Reading Time: 4 minutes

Trump is so weak he can’t beat Biden without Russia’s help

It’s become a practical necessity.

Courtesy of WNCT.
Courtesy of WNCT.

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The Associated Press ran a story yesterday underscoring a facet of the presidential election that’s familiar to regular readers of the Editorial Board. While Donald Trump is popular with the Republican base, and while his nomination is all but assured, his weakness is increasingly on display.  

The former president has galvanized support in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Followers are “overwhelmingly white,” over 50 and without college degrees. But this, the AP said, is very different from the US electorate. “He’d have to appeal to a far more diverse group and possibly win over supporters of former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.”

Not only must he expand the base, the base itself has gotten smaller. The AP: “A large portion of Trump’s opposition within the Republican primaries is comprised of voters who abandoned him before this year. … At least 2 in 10 of the voters in South Carolina’s Republican primary and the Iowa caucuses said they won’t back Trump in November, while approximately 3 in 10 in New Hampshire felt that way (my italics).

But the more he accepts Russian aid, the more Russian aid will change the Republican Party, making it unrecognizable to actual principled conservatives and “that female independent suburban voter,” who are now leaving the party and making their way toward the Democrats.

Finally, there are the suburbs, “where the plurality of general election voters live,” the AP said. Voters there were not “particularly welcoming to him in this year’s GOP contests. He split the suburban vote with his opponents in Iowa and New Hampshire and won the suburbs in South Carolina by a smaller margin than in the state as a whole.”

This double trouble – the need for expanding the base even as it’s shrinking – has been understood among Republicans who are good at politics. (Trump is bad at politics.) This is why there’s a “growing chorus” of allies urging him to focus less on “grievances” and more on issues, or “hitting” Biden, to bring back GOP voters who’ve strayed.

But either he isn’t listening or he can’t help himself. (Actually, it’s both). Recently, Trump sat with Fox host Bret Baier, who asked: “What do you say to that female independent suburban voter to win her back?” Trump: “First of all, I won in 2020 by a lot. Let’s get that straight.”

While that clearly works with most Republicans, it doesn’t work with all, because, to these holdouts, it sounds like he’s “talking about being a victim,” as Haley said last week. “At no point has he ever talked about the American people. All he’s doing is talking about himself. And that’s the problem — it’s not about him. It’s about the American people.”

But even if Trump were to stick with campaign issues, like the “crisis at the border,” there’s a problem. He doesn’t care about them strongly enough to remain focused on them. He cares about defeating his enemies, to be sure, especially Joe Biden, whose administration is “victimizing” him. But actual problems? No. He doesn’t care. Problems are for exploiting to gain power to liquidate enemies, not for solving.

Republicans who are good at politics, and who are urging him to “pivot” to the genreal, also know who their party’s presumptive nominee is. He can’t adjust, won’t adjust. He’s running the same campaign in 2024 that he ran in 2016, only it’s a thousand times more dictatorial. Even when coaxed oh-so-gently into adjusting, Trump reverts to form. During a recent interview involving a question about government secrets found at Mar-a-Lago, Fox’s Sean Hannity suggested that he wouldn’t really commit crimes, would he? In essence, Trump said, ‘Sure, I would.’”

All the above is why Trump needs the Russians. His base is shrinking. He’s alienating “that female independent suburban voter.” He can’t adjust, won’t adjust. He doesn’t care about problems enough to solve them. All he can do – the one thing he’s good at – is hold steady while the Russians, in coordination with the Republicans, attack Joe Biden, smear him, wear his people down, “flood the zone with shit,” as advisor Steven Bannon once said, in a nihilistic act of “voter suppression.”

Indeed, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow pointed out recently, 2024 will be the third presidential election cycle in a row in which Vladimir Putin’s saboteurs are once against attacking American sovereignty and interfering with our democratic decision-making, Meanwhile, GOP leaders will either stand by (as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell did in 2016) or participate (as the House Republicans are now by pursuing an impeachment inquiry against the president, or as Joe Conason put it, by pursuing “a bogus case invented in Moscow.”)

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Russian sabotage of American sovereignty has become a practical necessity made more terrible by the fact that Trump and the GOP are willing to do anything to win, even openly conspire with a foreign enemy that spent scores of decades trying to sabotage American sovereignty. But a devil’s bargain comes at a price – in this case, the transmogrification of the Republican Party. It used to be a place where “that female independent suburban voter” felt at home. Not anymore.

Since 2015, the Kremlin has waged endless information warfare against the US and the Republicans have, over that period, internalized practically all of it. (They were not victims. They were hungry for lies.) The result is a party that’s not only aggressively anti-woman, it has stopped being one of the great bulwarks against Russian aggression in Europe. According to the same AP report: “It’s official: The age of a small-government, hawkish Republican Party appears to have ended.” 

However, that most Republicans support ending aid to Ukraine and preserving domestic programs is only half the story. Since the fall of Roe, states run by Republicans have become increasingly Russian in practice. They have banned books, censored speech, outlawed history, suppressed individual expression and, therefore, individual liberty. If they have not used the power of the state to control their populations, they have empowered snitches and vigilantes to reach the same goal. 

Trump is the weakest presidential candidate of our lifetimes. He needs the Russians. Republicans who are good at politics know this. They also know the more he accepts Russian aid, the more Russian aid will change the party, making it unrecognizable to actual principled conservatives and “that female independent suburban voter,” who are now leaving the party and making their way toward the Democrats.

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.

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