It’s as if George Will watched Bill Kristol attempt to play kingmaker with one outlandish potential NeverTrump candidate after another in 2016 and said to himself, “I can top that.” Remember the wistful days of the Draft David French movement? Kristol thought he could pluck a National Review columnist out of thin air and run him as a viable alternative to Donald Trump. Will must have been channeling that vibe when he championed the long-dormant Bill Weld, who served as a Republican governor in liberal Massachusetts in the 1990s and hasn’t really done anything since, as a possible savior of conservatism in a notably silly June 2018 column. Not to be outdone, however, Kristol has been hyping Maryland liberal Republican Gov. Larry Hogan as a potential 2020 GOP challenger to President Trump.
Maybe you forgot. Lord knows, everybody else did.
What Comes After Strange?
We are truly beyond parody at this point when it comes to the ragged menagerie of Republican establishment creatures known as NeverTrumpers. With the news that Weld is considering a GOP primary challenge, we’ve officially moved from “ridiculous” to “cringe-worthy” in describing these hopelessly out-of-touch mediocrities suffocating in the stunted isolation of their incestuous swamp social circle.
Honestly, how can anybody take seriously the awkward statement Will made in boosting Weld as the white knight of conservatism? “Weld’s sandy-reddish hair is still abundant and, at 72, he is eager to build on his 2016 experience as the Libertarians’ vice-presidential nominee.” Even if you want to take at face value the batty idea that Weld, a card-carrying member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a connected globalist, holds some kind of sway with rebels outside of the two-party paradigm, the feeble attempt to portray him as some sort of fair-headed wonder boy is patently absurd. Weld may or may not be a lot of things, but one thing he most certainly is not is charismatic. This is what Trump has to fear?
Fox News reports Weld announced in New Hampshire on Feb. 15 that “our country is in grave peril and I cannot sit quietly on the sidelines anymore.” Therefore he was forming an exploratory committee for a 2020 GOP run. But, um, you didn’t sit quietly on the sidelines, Mr. Weld. You ran as the No. 2 man on the Libertarian ticket just a couple of years ago. Maybe you forgot. Lord knows, everybody else did.
Fox reports that Weld made his comments before “a large gathering of local and national reporters.” Its article even included a tweet containing a video clip in which Weld is asked if his running may help Democrats win the White House, because, you know, he’s just gonna split that GOP vote wide open with his bold insurgent campaign.
What in the world is going on here? Apparently, delusions of Republican establishment-brand viability are not limited to the NeverTrump Kool-Aid sippers. Is this very weird attempt to make a washed-up Weld seem like a serious candidate the media’s pathetic way to cling to visions of disenchantment with Trump in GOP voter ranks? One has to wonder how they think having a Weld and/or a Hogan get absolutely steamrolled by the president in GOP primaries next year will hurt Trump’s standing going into a general election. For the fact remains that Trump is still wildly popular among GOP voters. The latest Gallup poll shows him with an 89% approval rating among Republicans surveyed. That figure is remarkably consistent with his standing since he took office in January 2017.
River in Egypt
The peculiar sickness of NeverTrumpers, of course, is that they cannot admit to themselves that Trump is popular because people actually like the things that he stands for. Instead his support always has to be marked down to his unique campaign style or his abrasive personality.
“Trump has changed politics in a permanent way,” Fergus Cullen, former chair of the New Hampshire Republican Party and a NeverTrumper, told Boston radio station WBUR. “The traditional path to a presidential nomination is all out the window now.” Yes, that must be it. Trump’s victory couldn’t have been because the positions he ran on connected with an enormous swath of the American people. To accept that would force these folks into facing up to their own total rejection by the general public.
Weld’s establishment bona fides no doubt account for his success – if you want to call it that – in keeping his name in the news despite his inability to get elected to anything in well over 20 years. It seems rather remarkable that he apparently values this dubious achievement more than recognizing the fact that he has no real support whatsoever within the GOP national grassroots base. What must be seen as a vanity project on Weld’s part is also an unmistakable sign of the complete irrelevance of his kind of politician in the new Republican Party that spirited Trump into the White House in 2016. Maybe Will and Kristol will figure that out someday. But I wouldn’t count on it.