Members Only | August 1, 2022 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Trump’s fear of looking like a loser could spoil the GOP’s advantage in November
Party leaders want the midterms to be about Biden.
Forget Hillary. Forget Sleepy Joe. Forget Mexicans.
Forget Rosie O’Donnell, John McCain, facemasks, truth, the American way, trans kids, food for grownups, male-pattern baldness, Mitt Romney or even Black presidents.
The thing Donald Trump hates most is paying his bills.
That’s the screaming subtext of a quiet story from last week. An RNC official said the party would stop paying for Trump’s lawyers if he announces another run for president before the midterms.
Republican pleas for Trump to wait, as legal troubles pile up and DeSantis campaigns for the GOP presidential nomination, may just push Trump in the exact direction they don’t want him to go.
The cover story for this threat is that the party must maintain “neutrality.” But if the message to Trump wasn’t obvious enough, The Cowardly Kevin McCarthy, who has repeatedly sold his soul, found the courage to tell reporters he’s been pleading with Trump not to launch his presidential campaign before the 2022 elections.
The GOP wants November to be about Joe Biden, not Trump.
Republicans would want a focus on the president even if Biden’s approval ratings weren’t low and Americans were ignorant of Biden’s accomplishments – such as the fastest and biggest job growth ever recorded under any president – because new Democratic presidents typically get hammered in their first midterms no matter what.
The last Democrat to hold majorities in both chambers through an off-year election was Jimmy Carter in 1978. Economic indicators that generally predict electoral outcomes suggest Republicans should win as many as 30 House seats, enough for a commanding majority.
So you might expect a big red Republican wave – if 2022 were a typical year. But there are several factors suggesting that 2022 isn’t.
There’s the striking down of Roe by a rightwing supermajority on the Supreme Court appointed almost entirely by popular vote losers.
There’s a J6 committee that’s making the case that the GOP is led by a man who is incalculably traitorous and incomparably incompetent. And there’s Trump himself, the two-time popular vote loser, who single-handedly ended the rights to abortion and privacy.
The RNC has good reasons to worry.
The man behind four bankruptcies managed to lose a House majority that had been gerrymandered to withstand multiple Watergates and a Senate majority with a colossal belly flop no one could have predicted – losing two seats in Georgia on the same day.
But it’s much harder to doubt Trump’s instincts when it comes to his own fortunes. For nearly four scores, he’s been floundering his way to the top, getting richer as those around him are jailed and stiffed.
In 2019, he was pretty much the only person alive who figured out that Joe Biden could defeat him. And he was willing to blackmail a foreign leader to wreck the former vice president’s candidacy.
Trump has obviously been running for president since the moment he was evicted from the White House. There was never any doubt that he would try to regain the one job that solves almost all of his legal problems and prevents him from being indicted.
Recently, he’s been teasing an official campaign kickoff for multiple reasons – to box-out Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, to re-energize his dwindling fundraising (which now trails DeSantis’ buckraking) and to regain the news domination he lost when his Twitter account was shuddered – that all connect to one underlying motivation.
Trump is terrified.
Terrified of looking like a loser.
That’s the underlying obsession fueling Trump’s Big Lie and the reason he’s still trying to persuade Republican legislators to steal the 2020 election for him. He knows the key to being the dominant figure in the rightwing is to retain his veneer of victory, despite being soundly defeated by more than 7 million votes.
Linguist George Lakoff, whose ground-breaking work on the neuroscience of our political thinking, defined the “strict-father” mentality that underlies rightwing politics, notes how important it is for Trump – or any Republican leader – to be perceived as a winner.
“The basic idea is that authority is justified by morality (the strict father version), and that, in a well-ordered world, there should be (and traditionally has been) a moral hierarchy in which those who have traditionally dominated should dominate,” Lakoff wrote.
When a “needy” sycophant like McCarthy slightly stands up to him, that means Trump is not dominating – at least not like he used to.
That’s why all these Republicans pleas for Trump to be reasonable and wait around as legal troubles pile up and DeSantis campaigns on full-blast for reelection (and the GOP presidential nomination), may just push Trump in the exact direction they don’t want him to go.
And the real problem for the RNC is that they don’t have much or any leverage beyond giving Trump another bill he won’t pay.
Republicans need Trump and his base to win the presidency again. And there’s little evidence that their beloved God-Emperor cares about the GOP at all unless he – or one of his top two favorite children – can use the party’s machinery to regain the presidency.
Otherwise, he might as well tell his fans to stay home.
There’s been a lot made about how the Murdochs and Fox seem to be separating themselves from Trump. But the experts at Media Matters, an organization that watches more Fox than you’d ever want to, say that rumors of an actual divorce are mostly BS.
Everyone on the right knows that you push Trump too far and the scam of selling racism to get tax cuts for billionaires could go bust.
Meanwhile, Trump knows the simplest way to regain his momentum and to reassert his control over the Republican Party is to attach himself to a wave of potential Republican victories this fall.
That’s why he may be willing to lunge for glory, even if making 2022 a referendum on Trump rather than Biden would break a red wave.
And if he costs Republicans control of one or two chambers of the Congress – or the governorship of Florida – what does he care?
He’s done it before.
Republicans know they have to accept it.
Jason Sattler, better known as LOLGOP on Twitter, is writer in Ann Arbor, Michigan. He was a columnist and member of the USA TODAY Board of Contributors from 2017-2021.