Trump or DeSantis?

Trump or DeSantis? Bari Wiess interviews former Trump administration Attorney General Bill Barr.

BW: … “Why should I trust these people anymore, Bill?”

AG BARR: Well, what’s the alternative? Something I’m pretty tired of from the right is the constant pandering to outrage. The picking and picking at the scab without trying to channel those feelings in a constructive direction. In my opinion, Ronald Reagan was a great populist not because he followed the frustrated instincts and the outrage of the people, but because he channeled it and was constructive with it.

I always say, “What’s the alternative?” We have these institutions that need reform. The first step is to win an election with a decisive majority that allows you to put a program into effect and fix some of these problems going forward. That is not done by just throwing fuel on the fire of outrage on one side of the equation while the other side does the same thing on their side. I don’t see anything productive coming out of that. I think we should basically try to persuade people. People like Youngkin, the Governor of Virginia, have shown that the Republican Party is a potential majority party.

The problem with Trump is that it’s all about running a base election. Whip up your base, get them all upset and outraged, and turn them out at the polls. Both sides do that. That is a prescription for continued hostility and demoralization of the country. The first side to break out of that will do so by restoring politics to what it should be, which is the politics of trying to capture a majority of the people through persuasion and with a decisive enough majority to change things. That’s what we should be focused on, but we’re not right now. That’s not Trump’s approach. …

BW: But it seems to me that Trump still carries the day. His endorsement still matters a great deal. The amount of pandering that you see to him, especially from first-time candidates, is unbelievable. It seems like the old idea was that you would surround Trump with smart people and they would keep him in line. But the opposite seems to have happened. It seems like the GOP is now pretty fully Trumpified. …

AG BARR: The defining dynamic of our period right now is the sharp leftward turn of the Democratic Party. That creates a huge opportunity because they’ve moved so far to the left, which can allow the Republicans to come in, as they did in 1980, and seize a decisive majority. That enabled Reagan to win two terms. It also forced the Democrats to elect a moderate Democrat like Clinton, who ran the country in the center.

So it’s a huge opportunity. But instead of taking it, we are purging the party and starting civil wars over whether people are RINOs. …

The idea that there are RINOs, people that really don’t support Republican principles, is simply not true. What the president is defining as RINOs are people who are true blue Republicans and conservatives but who just have a problem with Trump personally. This is all personal to Trump. Trump is doing something that I can’t think of any great leader in the past doing. He controls, in my view, maybe a third of the Republican Party. But what makes him powerful is that this is a man who’s willing to say that if you don’t do things my way and if I’m not the nominee, I’m taking my ball and going home. I will sabotage anyone you put up. He not only does that in the presidential election, but he’ll also do that in state elections. It’s my person or it’s sabotage. This pursuit of a personal agenda and personal power is weakening the Republican Party at a time when it could have a historic victory and make historic progress in “making America great again.”

I say to the people that want to make America great again, “What will it take to do that?” You don’t do it just by making your base madder and madder. It means winning big victories. I think the approach that Trump follows is weakening the Republican Party, not strengthening it. Reagan’s approach in 1980 was unifying the party and bringing over classical liberals who were upset at the turn of the Democratic Party in the 60s and 70s. We should be doing the same thing now. …

The tactic that Trump is using to exert this control over the Republican Party is extortion. What other great leader has done this? Telling the party, “if it’s not me, I’m going to ruin your election chances by telling my base to sit home. And I’ll sabotage whoever you nominate other than me.” It shows what he’s all about. He’s all about himself.

Rod Dreher:

The Left is so radical, and so destructive, that it is hard for me to imagine not voting for Trump in 2024 if he is the nominee. That said, I desperately hope he is not the nominee. …

I think the only Republican that the Democrats stand to beat in the 2024 presidential race is Donald Trump. As grateful as I am for the judges he gave us, the weaknesses of a Trump presidency — all the pointless, egotistical, self-defeating drama — are not something that we on the Right can afford up against a Left that controls the Deep State, and all the major institutions of American society.

We need a president who believes all or most of the things Trump says he believes, but who is also capable of governing with focus and intelligence (Barr tells Weiss that one surprising thing about Trump was that as a lifelong CEO, he was bad at managing people). We need, in other words, Ron DeSantis, or a candidate like him.

Some people still miss the class aspects of the new political alignment. The significance of Trump is not the man or his narcissistic personality, it’s that he gave voice to a majority of Americans whose interests were increasingly ignored by the US political system and whose very existence was derided by the trendy people in power. But Barr makes some good points.

And some people still don’t recognize that the outward signs are that there was some very serious cheating in the 2020 election, starting with the boxes of votes arriving in the middle of the night to help Biden win several swing states. If that happened in a third world country, we would all roll our eyes knowingly. It happened in the USA in 2020, and it doesn’t go away by not talking about it and censoring those who mention it.