Speaking of Republicans and polls, I guess it’s time to comment on the early raft of opinion surveys about the identity of George W. Bush’s successor as GOP presidential nominee in 2008.As the latest Gallup Poll illustrates, every poll of Republican voters and leaners shows Rudy Guiliani and John McCain stomping the field (Gallup has Rudy at 33% and McCain at 30%, with Jeb Bush being the only other name that attracts double-digit support at 12%).Let me be among the first to say: it ain’t going to happen. The Republican Party is not going to nominate a pro-choice, pro-gay rights candidate like Rudy, and it’s not going to nominate a Scourge of the Conservative Movement like McCain, a man who has so consistently defied the Norquistian gospel that tax cuts trump every other national priority. If either of these gents runs for president and gains steam, the Right will unite behind someone else, either a safe ideological bet like Frist or Allen or Brownback (I don’t think Santorum is going to be in the Senate after 2006), or someone a bit less conventional like Hagel or Pawlenty or even Condi Rice, if she’s willing to take all sorts of oaths on cultural issues and taxes. Why? Because candidates like Guiliani and McCain would unravel the whole coalition of the cultural Right and the Mammon-worshippers on which today’s GOP has been so painstakingly constructed. And that coalition certainly has enough power to take down anyone it chooses in a Republican nominating contest.There’s another poll out there (reported via Jerome at Mydd) that’s a bit closer to the underlying reality of where the GOP will go in 2008: a “straw poll” taken at the recent Conservative Political Action Committee conference, which asked respondents who they thought would become the eventual nominee (NOT which candidate they personally favored). In this one Guiliani is basically tied with Rice in the high teens, and McCain’s down there tied with Frist and Allen at 11%.And that’s nearly four years out, before the Right has had the chance to mull over its options and road-test a new champion.Sure, GOPers are more than happy to let Guiliani and McCain get a lot of early attention, using them to give the party a more moderate image. But when the deal goes down, these guys will be discarded like an old Lincoln Day speech, and we’ll find out for real where the Right wants to take its wholly-owned subsidiary, the Republican Party.
TDS Strategy Memos
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By Ed Kilgore
I read a Thomas Friedman column this week that really required a smackdown. So I supplied one at New York:
How much political capital should Democrats invest in a probably doomed effort to save the political career of Liz Cheney? Earlier this week, Never Trump Republican Linda Chavez penned a column urging Wyoming Democrats to take a dive this November in order to give the incumbent a chance to survive as an independent, assuming (as it safe) that Cheney will be purged in her own party’s primary. And now, in an apparent coincidence, in comes New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman suggesting a far more radical step by Democrats to align themselves with the small slice of Republicans who follow Cheney’s example in repudiating Donald Trump. He wrote:
“Is that what America needs in 2024 — a ticket of Joe Biden and Liz Cheney? Or Joe Biden and Lisa Murkowski, or Kamala Harris and Mitt Romney, or Stacey Abrams and Liz Cheney, or Amy Klobuchar and Liz Cheney? Or any other such combination.”
Friedman phrases this as a question, but clearly he thinks it’s a good idea given the “existential moment” America would face if Trump is allowed to regain the presidency in 2024. It’s a bit of a loaded question, too, since it postulates that nothing short of a previously unimaginable “sacrifice” by Democrats and Never Trump Republicans alike can stop Trump — and that it would, in fact, succeed in stopping Trump.
I certainly agree that Democrats dumping Kamala Harris to give their vice-presidential nomination to a conservative Republican who opposes legalized abortion and is a militarist by conviction and heredity would be a “sacrifice,” to put it very mildly. It would also be very, very weird. Friedman cites the recent establishment of a mind-bending coalition government in Israel to thwart Bibi Netanyahu as a development comparable to what he is suggesting. But as he acknowledges, Israel has a parliamentary system in which multiparty coalitions are the rule rather than the exception. A presidential system in which parties invariably run separate tickets for the top job is another thing altogether.
The U.S. has had exactly one example of multiparty fusionism in a presidential election. In 1864, in the midst of the Civil War, Republicans nominated Democrat Andrew Johnson of Tennessee — then serving as U.S. military governor of Tennessee — to run with Lincoln on a “Union” ticket. The experiment did not turn out well, beginning with Johnson’s drunken inaugural address in 1865 and continuing with the racist solidarity he exhibited toward ex-Confederates after Lincoln’s assassination, culminating in his impeachment and near removal from office. There are important reasons politicians sort themselves out into major parties, which should be apparent in an era of polarization over issues other than the scofflaw behavior of Donald Trump.
Is the threat of Trump’s return to the White House the equivalent of the U.S. Civil War? Not in itself, I would contend, though that horrific development could lead eventually to grave conditions comparable if not equal to a civil war. The premise that a Biden-Cheney fusion ticket would uniquely doom Trump to failure is even more dubious. There has never been much evidence of a mass following for Never Trump Republicans, and such as it is, it is mostly composed of people who would (and did in 2020) gladly vote for Biden and Harris. The baleful effect that replacing Harris with Cheney on the ticket would have on Democratic turnout could easily offset or exceed the alleged benefits of bipartisan and trans-ideological fusion.
So Democrats should say thanks, but no thanks, to Friedman for the idea of submitting their party to some sort of unwieldy and unnatural coalition of national salvation, so long as there is the slightest possibility of beating Trump the old-fashioned way. Liz Cheney deserves great respect for the courage she has shown in defying Trump at the expense of her own career, and if Biden is reelected with her support, perhaps she deserves an ambassadorship, a minor Cabinet post, or a major sub-Cabinet position. But she has no business being at the top of the line of succession to a Democratic president.