Florida Man Update

Florida Man is seemingly fading toward irrelevance, and I couldn’t be much happier about it. My metric is the ease with which I’m avoiding wallowing in articles about him.

But over a few weeks, I have collected a few, and if you just skip them, bully for you.

Counted cross-stitch

There was a lovely, classic prayer at a Eric Trump and Michael Flynn rally [a few weeks ago]. It went like this: “God, open the eyes of President Trump’s understanding, that he will know how to implement divine intervention. And you will not surround him with RINO trash . . . in the name of Jesus.” You know, I think I’ve seen that one sewn onto pillows.

Nellie Bowles

Media omens

“This is a baseball country,” Mr. Christie said. “It’s always three strikes and you’re out.” Mr. Trump struck out in 2018, 2020 and 2022. He never came close to a plurality of the popular vote. When Mr. Christie ended his tenure as chairman of the RGA, in 2014, there were 31 Republican governors. Next year there will be 26. The reason, he said, is that Mr. Trump weighs the party down and picks candidates based not on issues or electability but personal loyalty. It is an electoral narcissism that is killing the party.

How to convince Trump supporters? “Give him credit for what he’s gotten done . . . but they need to be told again and again: A vote for Donald Trump is a vote for a Democratic president.”

As to Mr. Trump’s speech, it was a wan, deflated enterprise. But something in the media coverage was interesting. No broadcast network carried it, none of the major cable-news networks stuck with it to the end, and one didn’t take it at all. All covered the announcement or reported it, but it wasn’t treated as an epic event, only a news event. This suggests that this time the media will be judging Mr. Trump by normal candidate standards, not Special Phenomenon standards. But when you don’t treat Mr. Trump like he’s special, you marginalize him. I don’t think the cable networks will be giving him the oxygen they fed him so freely in 2016, in part because none of their executives want to be accused of what Jeff Zucker was accused of that year: giving him unlimited airtime to get ratings, and making him president.

Worse for Mr. Trump, those executives may simply doubt his audience is still a huge one.

Peggy Noonan

Just peeved at his losing streak

Donald Trump is done. I keep hearing and reading that, and I have no reason to disbelieve it: Announcing his 2024 candidacy at Mar-a-Loco on Tuesday night, he was less a phoenix rising than a balloon deflating. I could almost hear the helium seeping out of him.

But while that should have been music to my ears, it wasn’t. The prompt for his sudden abandonment by many Republicans is all wrong. They’re rejecting him not because of the countless ways in which he inflamed and imperiled this country, not because he’s an offense to decency and an enemy of democracy, not because he degrades almost anything and anyone he brushes up against. They’re just peeved at his losing streak.

There’s no reckoning at hand, none of the necessary grappling with all that Republicans condoned under Trump, with how perilously close to the edge they pushed America. There’s no reclamation of rectitude by a party that once bragged of a monopoly on it.

There’s just a new calculation. Republicans talk of Trump as if he’s a stock that has lost value. But the values that they betrayed in their surrender to him? They ignore or gloss over that part.

Through two impeachments, countless examples of incompetence, the profoundly destructive claim that election results couldn’t be believed and the deadly violence of Jan. 6, Trump retained the party’s support because its leaders ran the numbers and deduced that the price of shunning him was too high. In the wake of the midterms, not shunning him seems to be the costlier play.

The party hasn’t changed any more than he has. Only the numbers are different.

Frank Bruni

I’d like to think that “he’s a loser” is is being used as a narrative to pry away from him primary voters who seemingly were undeterred by his “two impeachments, countless examples of incompetence, the profoundly destructive claim that election results couldn’t be believed and the deadly violence of Jan. 6.” But the ones saying it are not the usual suspects (The Lincoln Project, The Bulwark) there are rhetorical tics and mannerisms that suggest that “loser” really is the only reason these former supporters are abandoning him, and that winning outweighed all the evil.

Christian values

Resolved: Most arguments against Vladimir Putin being a defender of Christian values in Europe also argue against Florida Man as a defender of Christian values in America.

Anyone care to take the negative on this resolution?

Wishcasting?

… Biden likely wants to run against Trump again in 2024 because he’d be the easiest Republican to beat …

Excerpt from The Morning Dispatch

Every once in a while, I get the feeling that the Dispatch is wishcasting, but I’ve got to admit that Trump is looking smaller and smaller:

[U]nlike the last time Trump claimed political persecution—after the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago in August—the Republican Party’s response has been far more muted. Former Vice President Mike Pence described the move as “very troubling,” Sen. Ted Cruz labeled it “Trump derangement syndrome … with a gun and badge,” and a handful of House Freedom Caucus members sent some angry tweets. But by and large, GOP leaders—either burned by their knee-jerk instinct to defend Trump after the Mar-a-Lago raid or quietly happy to see him bogged down heading into 2024—have kept their thoughts on [Special Prosecutor Jack] Smith to themselves.

How 2024 could go badly

Imagine a dozen candidates get in and all of them train their fire on DeSantis, this year’s frontrunner to be The One True Alternative. In order to supplant him and reach the one-on-one phase against Trump, a rival might reason that he first has to destroy DeSantis’ base of support.

That’s a recipe for a splintered field and another easy Trump primary victory. So much so that I suspect Trump will recruit a populist toady to run for president as a stalking horse and task them to attack DeSantis nonstop. Picture Marjorie Taylor Greene or Kari Lake laying into the governor of Florida at every campaign event in hopes of helping their patron to the nomination.

Nick Catoggio, Strength In Numbers

Legacy?

[Florida Man’s] legacy as the most popular right-wing leader since Ronald Reagan may lie in ruins.

It should already lie in ruins after he tried to orchestrate a coup against the duly elected president two years ago, and for roughly 52 percent of the electorate it does. But it’ll take more than merely attempting to end American democracy to shake the faith of that other 48 percent. To lose them, Trump will need to do something really bad—like harming the Republican Party’s chances of winning power.

Nick Cattogio, Trump Is About to Wreck His Legacy

Shall I compare him to a historic fiend

There are so many labels for Florida Man, such as “authoritarian,” “white supremacist,” and others. I’m not sure many of them hold up under even light scrutiny.

So here’s a reminder of what I think is the core problem with him: toxic narcissism. That’s the source of his reflexive cruelty to anyone who bucks him, his inability to let anyone capture limelight that he thinks belongs to him, and so much more. It’s what has rendered him incapable of admitting that he lost the election in 2020 — and I’m not convinced that his “stolen election” schtick is simply a calculated lie.

We got lucky last time that his big meltdown came only at the end. He is too incapable of seeing reality to let him near power again.


[S]ubordinating truth to politics is a game which tyrants and bullies always win.

Jonathan Rauch, The Constitution of Knowledge

To believe that wealth is the only significant measure of the worth of an individual, a family, or a community is to reject the teaching of nearly every religion and wisdom tradition that ever was.

Mark Mitchell and Nathan Schlueter, The Humane Vision of Wendell Berry

The Orthodox “phronema” [roughly, mind-set] cannot be programmitized or reduced to shibboleths.

Fr. Jonathan Tobias

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