Same old song and dance | Steve Berman

“Do you miss me yet?” 

Former President Donald Trump began his 2021 CPAC speech that seemed like a continuation of his farewell speech given at Joint Base Andrews before he boarded Air Force One for the last time.

“We began it together four years ago and it is far from being over. And you know what this is?” Trump continued. “The hardest working people, hard working American patriots, it’s just getting started and in the end we will win. We will win. We’ve been doing a lot of winning.”

No. We’ve been doing a whole lot of losing. We lost the House in 2018. We lost the White House and the Senate in 2020. But Trump is sticking with the awful fantasy that these elections were “stolen.” There’s nothing new here. It’s the same old song and dance, given to the same partakers in the St. Vitus Dance before the golden idol of Trumpism.

“I am not starting a new party. That was fake news, fake news. No.” Trump was just winding up. 

“Wouldn’t that be brilliant? Let’s start a new party and let’s divide our vote so that you can never win. No, we’re not interested in that. Mr. McLaughlin just gave me numbers that nobody’s ever heard of before, more popular than anybody.”

Reality has clearly not yet soaked in.

The reality is this: David Perdue was so damaged by his proximity to Trump, despite being a rather popular senator in Georgia, that he has declined to run again for his seat against a Democrat, Sen. Raphael Warnock, a newcomer to politics. Quoted in the AJC earlier in February:

“The Republican Party in Georgia right now is like a Jenga game where someone has pulled out the wrong block,” said Martha Zoller, a conservative commentator and former GOP congressional candidate. “It’s unstable and a mess.”

Trump, outside of his magic bubble, is not popular. In fact he’s toxic. As time progresses, his toxicity will only increase, and it’s clear that Trump has no intention of popping his own bubble, or letting it take its natural course as he fades. The huckster wants to ride his marks to the end, and to play his angle, flex his power, and flash his cash until there’s no more angle, power, or cash left (beside what he walks away with).

The reality is also this: Voters are happier with President Biden’s muddled, low-expectation, and low-key approach to coronavirus (which largely mimics Trump’s vaccine policy), than Trump’s bravado and circus show. Even in Texas, according to a University of Texas poll, Biden’s approval rating surpassed Trump’s, and even Gov. Greg Abbott’s.

After four exhausting years, we will have little break before the 2022 election cycle begins. In fact, it’s pretty much begun. Instead of playing offense, Republicans nationwide are playing defense. They are caught between the Scylla of suburban educated classical Republicans who value economic stewardship, business-friendly policy, and small government, and the Charybdis of Trump’s coalition of working-class families, and other Trumpists who listen to his siren song.

The song and dance have not changed.

“Joe Biden has had the most disastrous first month of any President in modern history, that’s true,” Trump rolled, nearly nine minutes in. “Already the Biden administration has proved that they are anti-jobs, anti-family anti-borders, anti-energy, anti-women, and anti-science.”

Disastrous? No. I’d say Biden’s first month has been rather subdued, with one likely failed nomination of Neera Tanden to run OMB, and one in danger (which, frankly, should be voted down), Xavier Becerra as head of HHS. Major nominations at Defense, State, and in national security posts have mostly sailed through in bipartisan agreement, including Merrick Garland as Attorney General.

Biden has signaled that he isn’t going to let Iran completely bully American policy by bombing some of its proxies in Syria. And despite some really terrible legislation disguised as the so-called COVID Relief bill, and the absolutely constitution-trashing Equality Act, Biden has offered about what we can expect from a Democrat in the White House. There will be no “reaching across” party lines unless Republicans show some backbone.

Democrats are playing for 2022, and Trump is playing his own game. He is singing the same old tune of immigration, the border wall, and a new one of masks or no masks, and Biden’s media confusion of school opening policies.

“It’s a scandal of the highest order and one of the most graven acts by any president in our lifetimes. It’s the teacher’s union, it’s the votes and it shouldn’t happen,” Trump said. “And I have, nobody has more respect for teachers than I do. And I’ll bet you a lot of the people within that union, they agree with everything I’m saying. Even the New York Times is calling out the Democrats.”

Most damaging, Trump is still hawking the lie that the election he lost was rigged. And people are buying it.

Donald Trump: (01:04:02)
We have a very sick and corrupt electoral process that must be fixed immediately. This election was rigged and the supreme court and other courts didn’t want to do anything about it.

Audience: (01:04:12)
You won. You won. You won. You won. You won. You won. You won. You won. You won. You won. You won. You won. You won. You won. You won. You won. You won. You won. You won. You won.

Donald Trump: (01:04:12)
We did.

Audience: (01:04:12)
You won. You won. You won. You won. You won.

Some of the policies on election security Trump mentioned are doable and even useful. Chain of custody protections, proof of citizenship requirements, signature matching are all good policy. During the pandemic, many of these policies were not followed, or were dispensed with to deal with the problems associated with massive mail-in voting. Legislatures are now dealing with that. But Trump is still pushing outright falsehoods.

“We have a little problem adjusting in Detroit. We seem to have more votes than we have people, a lot more votes, and election changing number,” Trump was a little over an hour into his speech. “We’re not talking about a number where you can’t … no, these aren’t election changing numbers. In Pennsylvania, they had hundreds of thousands of more votes than they had people voting. What’s that all about? What’s that all about? Cheating they say. Yeah, I’d say so.”

I’d say no. The sixty lawsuits, all lost, the lack of evidence, the threat of massive libel suits by Dominion Voting Systems, the retreat of media like Fox News, Newsmax and OANN over Trump’s claims, are pretty good indications that what Trump said in his CPAC speech is just more noxious, burning garbage.

Finally, Trump named names within the GOP. He was an hour and seventeen minutes in.

The Democrats don’t have grand-standers like Mitt Romney, little Ben Sasse, Richard Burr, Bill Cassidy, Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski, Pat Toomey; and in the House, Tom Rice, South Carolina, Adam Kinzinger, Dan Newhouse, Anthony Gonzalez. That’s another beauty. Fred Upton, Jamie Herrera Butler, Peter Meyer, John Katko, David Valadeo. And of course the warmonger, a person that loves seeing our troops fighting, Liz Cheney. How about that? The good news is in her state, she’s been censured. And in her state, her poll numbers have dropped faster than any human being I’ve ever seen. So hopefully, they’ll get rid of her with the next election. Get rid of them all.

Then Trump made his ask.

“If you want to help us take back the future of our country, go to donaldjtrump dot com. I don’t do this. I’ve never done this,” Trump said, hinting at his next thing. “But it’s time that we have to put forces together because these people with their big tech and the fake news media right back there.”

Mark those words. Trump is going to get into media, just like I thought he would.

Trump closed with the same practiced plea to get-rich-quick he’s used for decades. Just tell them what they want to hear. It’s the same old song and dance.

With your help, we will take back the House. We will win the Senate. And then a Republican President will make a triumphant return to the White House. And I wonder who that will be? I wonder who that will be. Who, who will that be? I wonder.

Absent some disruption beyond my (or anyone’s) ability to predict, it won’t be him. But he may take the GOP down the hole he has dug.

Do I miss him? No.

Let’s move on.

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevengberman.

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