Former AG Bill Barr has written an opinion piece for Bari Weiss arguing that Trump is the wrong person to lead the GOP in 2024 and beyond. Barr is sympathetic to Trump’s voters and praises many of his accomplishments but as Barr sees it he was always hampered by his lack of discipline.
For many, supporting Trump was an act of defiance—a protest. The more over the top he was, the more they savored the horrified reaction of the elites, especially the media. Arguments that Trump wasn’t presidential missed the point. Trump’s supporters wanted a disrupter. His voters felt that the left was taking a wrecking ball to the country, and they wanted to strike back with their own…
Unfortunately, after he was elected, Trump brought his wrecking-ball style to the task of governing the nation. He did not temper his disruptiveness and penchant for chaos. While his basic policy judgments were usually sound, his impulsiveness meant that things were almost always about to fly off the rails…
Nonetheless, Trump has every reason to be proud of his administration’s substantive achievements. Among other things, his tax reform and deregulatory efforts generated the strongest and most resilient economy in American history—one that brought unprecedented progress to many marginalized Americans. He had begun to restore U.S. military strength by increasing spending on new-generation weapons, advanced technology, and force readiness. He correctly identified the economic, technological, and military threats to the United States posed by China’s aggressive policies. By brokering historic peace deals in the Mideast, he achieved what most thought impossible. He had the courage to pull us out of ill-advised and detrimental agreements with Iran and Russia. And he fulfilled America’s long-delayed promise to move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem.
If Trump had run his reelection campaign on that platform, and dialed his churlishness back just a little, he would have won. But he lost because he insisted on running a base-only campaign.
As Barr sees it, Trump’s plan was to drive record turnout and he did. But he also drove record turnout of people voting against him and that’s why he lost. Barr compares the current moment to the late 1970s. You have inflation, high gas prices, an unpopular Democratic president and a Democratic party that many feel has gone too far left. It’s the perfect set up for a Ronald Reagan-like figure to come in and realign the country for a decade. But in Barr’s view, Trump doesn’t have what it takes to be that figure.
Reagan understood that the purpose of a political party is winning elections. That requires building the broadest coalition possible compatible with the party’s core goals.
It is painfully clear from his track record in both the 2020 election and the 2022 midterms that Donald Trump is neither capable of forging this winning coalition or delivering the decisive and durable victory required. Indeed, among the current crop of potential nominees, Trump is the person least able to unite the party and the one most likely to lose the general election.
Barr concludes that Trump’s “egoism makes him unable to think of a political party as anything but an extension of himself.” Without endorsing any other candidate, Barr argues it’s time for Trump to step aside for someone who can do the things that Reagan did for the party.
Trump is still going to have support, but at the moment no one else has entered the race against him. Still, I do think things have changed even among the base. He’s not the president running for election anymore as he was in 2020.
Former members of Trump’s administration positioned themselves as heirs to his agenda, with one of them — former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley — declaring serious interest in a 2024 bid despite once ruling out a clash with Trump. And Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis got a rock star’s reception as he touted his landslide reelection and took up the issues that fire up Trump’s base while never mentioning the former president.
Their pitches at the RJC event — an unofficial kickoff of the presidential primary season — made clear that Republicans are not running scared of Trump and are even eager for the contest, as disappointing midterm results have set off a cascade of hand-wringing and finger-pointing in the party…
“People want to move on, there’s no doubt about that,” said Sununu, who is not ruling out a run of his own and said of Trump: “He’ll have to fight for it like everybody else.”
Trump remains a formidable street fighter and has a serious war chest of funds to throw at his opponents. I don’t think it will be easy to get him to step aside but I do agree with Barr that it’s time to take a step back and look at some of the other options.