The Iowa Republican voters have spoken, but we wasted our time waiting for results of the caucuses. We knew that a four-times-indicted man would win the caucus vote. We did not know whether DeSantis would finish behind Nikki Haley or the reverse, but we knew that DeSantis’ dream of bringing book-banning to the White House is not looking good. And we knew that Vivek Ramaswamy would head back to Cincinnati after the caucuses with a lighter wallet but without gaining an ounce of maturity.
So, the Iowa caucus is over. Is it a virtual certainty that Trump will be his party’s nominee? Trump has proven himself right—he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and still win elections. We also learned that with each passing day, Trump is becoming bolder. If you believe what Trump says, things like shooting drug dealers on sight, be afraid. Trump’s flippant remarks about being a dictator sound less flippant every day.
Despite his win, Trump is showing his vulnerabilities. Except in Georgia, where Trump-nominated Judge Aileen Cannon is dutifully repaying her debt to Trump by postponing Trump’s trial for the presidential documents heist until after election day, Trump’s legal problems are worsening. The possibility of having a convicted president win in November is increasing. And the probability of Trump pardoning himself, several allies, including the not yet indicted Andy “Handgun” Harris, and the “January 6 hostages,” will be a certainty should Trump win.
The alternative scenarios to Trump winning the nomination are few. They include Trump falling ill; an unlikely “aha” moment in which Trump cultists realize their leader is a godless, principleless grifter who really does not care about them; or Special Counsel Jack Smith getting Trump to jail sooner than now seems possible.
Thus, count on Trump being the party’s nominee. But what about Nikki Haley? There is a sliver of hope for the former U.N. Ambassador. Despite finishing third in Iowa, she remains likely to be the party’s nominee if it is not Trump. She will trounce DeSantis in New Hampshire.
Most of us would welcome Haley as the GOP nominee, but that is it. She has promised to pardon Trump; is squiggly on key issues like abortion; and is something of a wild card. What Nikki Haley would be president? A pragmatist? A right-wing conservative who would get to work on winning a second term on day one? Or something else? I do not want to find out. I already know who Biden is and like his policies.
Eventually, DeSantis will slink his way back to Florida. Fortunately for Floridians, DeSantis has damaged his popularity in his own state. Floridians now know they have nothing special. DeSantis is just a Trump-wanna-be who thought Trump’s days were over and sought to step into his shoes. The shoes were too big, and the minuscule DeSantis fell out.
The last Republican I will mention is the clown who described himself as “Super MAGA.” Vivek Ramaswamy, one of the smarmiest candidates for president ever. Ramaswamy had a moment in the sun before people started listening to him and his plans to ban affirmative action, abolish the FBI, Departments of Education and Justice, and even the Center for Disease Control. Ramaswamy, a self-identified genius, is a climate change denier who wants to repeal the federal safety net that keeps tens of millions of Americans from living in poverty. He also has promised to pardon Trump and the January 6 insurrectionists.
For a while, after Trump listened to Vivek’s fawning praise, the ex-president liked him. Trump might even have selected him as VP. Alas, last week Trump threw Ramaswamy under the bus after he saw a photo of Vivek with supporters wearing “Support Trump, Vote for Vivek” in Iowa. That outrage prompted Vivek being called a “fraud” and worse. Ramaswamy should have seen Trump’s attack coming. What kind of a Harvard man is so stupid as to trust Trump?
Vivek ended his campaign yesterday. One might have assumed he would catch the plane available to the Queen City, but instead Ramaswamy telephoned Donald Trump to endorse him. Why would he do this after Trump’s attack? My guess is that Vivek still dreams of being Trump’s VP. He should not hold his breath. He may also dream of a cabinet appointment that might keep him in the news and give him a chance to run for president again.
The most likely outcome for Ramaswamy is that he will soon fade from public memory. To the extent he is remembered, it will be a synonym for a toady. He kissed Trump’s behind. As they say, you reap what you sow.
How about the general election? It is too early to make projections, so I will not, other than to say that the dreaded Biden-Trump rematch is likely. Except it will not be a two-person fight—Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., the Covid-nut, will be on several state ballots and steal votes from Biden. (Of course, if Trump persuades Kennedy to run as his VP, that could hurt Biden even more.)
We also have not seen signs of Jill Stein or Cornel West cancelling their candidacies. And what about “No Labels?” When I think of them, I think, “Monkey Wrench.” Why the rocket scientists behind this movement want to help Trump win the presidency is beyond me. My message to “No Labels” is “Stop! For the sake of Democracy, stop!”
Stay tuned. Yes, it will get worse but let us not give up hope. That is what Trump wants us to do. If you have no hope, if you have lost faith in democracy and constitutional government, and if you think people of color, LGBQT+ folks, and China are taking over America, stay home or vote for Trump. If you have hope and cherish democracy, get to work. All is not lost. Biden can win but he will not without your help.
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, and other subjects.