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Danziger Draws

Jeff Danziger lives in New York City. He is represented by CWS Syndicate and the Washington Post Writers Group. He is the recipient of the Herblock Prize and the Thomas Nast (Landau) Prize. He served in the US Army in Vietnam and was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal. He has published eleven books of cartoons and one novel. Visit him at DanzigerCartoons.

Risking Everything, Republicans Bet On Angry Trumpist 'Lifestyle Brand'

Reprinted with permission from DailyKos

The Republican Party, this year more than any other since I've been covering politics, has become a fascination for me. While some readers here say it's all business as usual, it seems anything but to me. Sure, the underlying motivators of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, anti-LGBTQ hate, and amassing wealth and power have been and continue to be driving forces for the party and are simply more transparent than ever.

But on the other hand, Republicans' roadmap to obtaining power is perhaps more murky than at any point in my lifetime. When Mitch McConnell comes out and starts threatening American corporations, a sea change is at hand.

In fact, what seems to have happened since Donald Trump receded from the national stage is that congressional Republicans and some state officials have had to effectively become him in order to keep his base voters engaged—or should we say, enraged. So now, just like Trump threatened companies that angered him, McConnell is doing the same. And just like Trump swindled his base voters into donating gobs of money to him, House Republicans are now running the same scam. Perhaps even more telling, House Republicans are essentially presenting those donor solicitations as if they are coming from Trump himself. (Of course, Trump also relaunched his own fundraising operation this week complete with "Don't Blame Me — I Voted for Trump" swag. Not a joke. So now Trump's base will be getting fleeced from multiple directions.)

But it's a stunning turn of events—the party that once kowtowed to corporate America is now publicly jeering at them. That schism will only deepen as Republicans grow increasingly and more glaringly out of step with the culture of young, diverse, upwardly mobile consumers American businesses hope to cultivate. Meanwhile, GOP lawmakers are only getting more brazen and dug into their anti-culture politics. As I noted yesterday, Georgia's Republican House Speaker, David Ralston, defended the punitive measures they were targeting at their corporate detractors like this, "You don't feed a dog that bites your hand."

Ralph Reed, evangelical fire-breather and perennial GOP strategist, said the performative bellicosity had become the single most animating feature for Republican voters, describing it as a "virtue."

"It has become the overarching virtue Republicans look for in their leaders," Reed told the New York Times.

But the description of the GOP and its base that really brought it home for me this week came from Jonathan V. Last at The Bulwark. "Republican voters—a group distinct from Conservatism Inc.—no longer have any concrete outcomes that they want from government," he wrote. "What they have, instead, is a lifestyle brand."

That to me, is the best summation possible of the hollowed out, defunct, and unmoored Republican Party—it's no longer a political party, it's a lifestyle brand.

The questions I'm left with are: just how enticing will that newfangled lifestyle brand be to Trumpers; and can it appeal to the voters who still harbor a fondness for the political party they formerly belonged to? Because for all sorts of reasons, it's hard to imagine that Trump voters alone—even if they turn out readily in 2022, and it's a big if—will be enough to bring home big wins for Republibrand in the midterms.

There's already been signs of dissatisfaction within the GOP ranks since last November, though it's impossible to know exactly what to make of them. Identification with the Republican Party appears to have taken at least somewhat of a hit since last November and the Capitol attack, in particular, though it's not clear how significant or meaningful that hit is.

Bottom line—somebody's unhappy but it's hard to tell exactly who, how unhappy they are, and what that will mean for GOP turnout in the midterms. That said, there's nothing ideal about having a base that's a moving target and having almost zero data other than November 2020 to guide your turnout calculations.

Perhaps the biggest problem for Republibrand lawmakers is that they are courting two groups of voters that seem to be stylistically at odds with each other: angry Trumpers and suburbanites. I continue to be skeptical of the notion that the brass-knuckle tactics that have become a "virtue" for much of the GOP base hold nearly as much appeal in the more mild-mannered American suburbs, where people seem generally more inclined to want to work their jobs, spend time with family, and carve out a "comfortable" existence. Those folks typically want a growth economy that grows with their family, not a war on Major League Baseball at all costs or attacks on American businesses that interferes with their bottom lines. What suburbanites want is a measure of predictability so they can plan for the future with some measure of confidence that the world as they know it today won't be radically and fundamentally different from the world tomorrow. And nothing about the new Republibrand inspires confidence and stability.

Probably the best case study to date in how the new Republibrand will play in the suburbs during the midterms comes from the suburban vote in Georgia both last fall and in the January Senate runoffs.

In one instance, Trump is on that ticket and, in the next instance, Trump isn't. So we get to measure that difference. As an added bonus, both Republican candidates doubled down on Trumpism as they fought to win their runoffs. Sen. Kelly Loeffler went all in on racism, and Sen. David Perdue became the Trump mini-me of grift, notching a new stock-trading scandal almost weekly. Perdue also just decided to skip out on his debates with Democratic rival Jon Ossoff and he did so with impunity. In other words, both GOP candidates behaved about about as we can imagine many Republican candidates will in 2022.

Meanwhile, the Democrats ran like they were part of a political party, promising policy solutions aimed at meeting the needs of their constituents. One of their biggest promises, in fact, was passing a new coronavirus relief package that would include $2,000 direct payments.

In the runoffs, Ossoff ultimately defeated Perdue by just over a percentage point, 50.6 percent – 49.4 percent; while Democrat Raphael Warnock triumphed over Loeffler beat Loeffler by 2 points, 51 percent – 49 percent. But let's use Ossoff as an example since he was the squeaker.

In the general election, Joe Biden's win was powered by the shift among voters in the suburbs, college graduates, and high-income earners, according to turnout data from the New York Times. Here's how they shifted from 2016 to 2020:

  • High-income earners: +7 points more Democratic
  • Majority college graduates: +6 points more Democratic
  • Suburban: +6 points more Democratic

Biden won the state 49.5 percent - 49.2 percent. Ossoff ran a touch behind Biden, losing to Perdue 47.9 percent– 49.7 perent. It was good enough to force the runoff, but also left Perdue with a reasonable opening to win reelection.

But the two Democratic Senate candidates prevailed in January based mostly on two factors: increased Black turnout in both suburban and rural counties, and depressed Trump turnout. Suburban voters of all races, particularly those surrounding Atlanta, helped contribute to those wins, though the biggest demographic shift in turnout was among Black voters specifically.

But for our purposes, the Republican Senators didn't fare much better among suburban voters in January without Trump on the ticket and, in fact, mostly fared worse. In suburban Cobb County, for instance, Ossoff ran +10.54 ahead of Perdue (53.96-43.42) in the general election but did even better in the January runoffs, running +12.08 (56.04-43.96) ahead of Perdue. The same was true for the largely suburban counties of Gwinnett, DeKalb, and Henry—Ossoff won with a bigger margin than in November.

So if the Georgia Senate runoffs are any gauge, Republibrand didn't pan out so well for the GOP in suburban America, even as voter turnout among Trumpers sank.

In truth, it's nearly impossible to know how all this will play out in the 2022 midterms. But the GOP brand is evolving and its base will necessarily evolve too. There's just no way Republicans can continue down this path of radical transformation without it having electoral consequences for their base. It's a fascinating turn of events given that just several months ago GOP lawmakers in Washington had a chance to abandon Trump. Now they are doing their level best to embody him and recreate the electoral magic that cost them the House, the Senate, and the White House. It seems nothing short of desperate, but they have also concluded it's their last best option.

At RNC Conference In Palm Beach, Trump Sets Himself Up As 2022 Kingmaker

By Steve Holland WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former President Donald Trump sought to position himself as the Republican Party kingmaker on Saturday, telling party donors he will help them win seats in 2022 Congressional elections but shed no new light on whether he will seek a second term in 2024. Trump played host to a dinner at his Mar-a-Lago Club for Republican National Committee donors who are spending the weekend charting the future course of the party in Palm Beach, Florida. "We are gathered tonight to talk about the future of the Republican Party - and what we must do to set our candidates o...

"The Role Model": A One-Act Play

Inside Donald Trump's study at Mar-a-Lago.

JASON MILLER: Mr. President, it's Matt Gaetz calling. Should I put him through? I don't think so.

TRUMP: I've been waiting for his call. And get me a Diet Coke.

(Picks up phone)

TRUMP: Where have you been, Matt? You never write, you never call.

GAETZ: I'm glad Don and Kimberly worked this out. We're such close friends, a real threesome.

TRUMP: No one can accuse her of being seventeen.

GAETZ: Mr. President, you're our greatest president, greatest economy ever, greatest foreign policy, greatest against cancel culture. Remember when I tweeted, "Impeachment is the zenith of cancel culture?" Remember when I called the Democrats' impeachment presentation "an 8th grade book report?"

TRUMP: Was that the first or second?

GAETZ: Second.

GAETZ: The election was a travesty of the cult of cancel culture. First, they came for Dr. Seuss, then they came for Mr. Potato Head. He's going by Potato X. He can't be Mr. Potato, See, to me the whole concept of the Mr. Potato Head was you could move the parts around. Mr. Potato Head was America's first transgender doll and even he got canceled. And then they came for you. You won in a landslide. Biden rigged it on the dead vote, moved around all those dead people.

TRUMP: I only wish I had more defenders like you. You're like a good son.

GAETZ: Like an adopted son. We're both Florida Man. Same place, same family. Florida's like an amazing woman: adventurous, beautiful, mostly sunny, sometimes a little crazy, and always here to encourage and support success. In contrast, New York is like a bad ex-husband. Mean, won't let you go out to dinner. You're less safe. You're spiraling financially downward. And they may kill your grandparents.

TRUMP: Great, great people in The Villages, great retirement community, big vote for me there. Big, big fan of The Villages. Remember how they smeared me because I retweeted a little video of a rally at the The Villages. So, one guy is chanting, "White power!" One guy! Two seconds. It's like when they smeared me because I tweeted I had a "consensual presidency." Consequential!

GAETZ: They love you in Florida. Republicans in Florida would do unspeakable things for the numbers I have with the base. And you have better numbers.

TRUMP: Giant numbers. They couldn't care less about cancel culture. They're vaccinated against it.

GAETZ: I'm your vaccine. That's why I went on Fox News to defend you. And you retweeted the video of that. "President Trump should pardon Flynn, the Thanksgiving turkey, and everyone from himself, to his admin, to Joe Exotic if he has to. The Left has a bloodlust that will only be quenched if they come for those who fought with @realDonaldTrump to deliver for the American people."

TRUMP: "Bloodlust." You've got a way with words. Should have given that blanket pardon. A lot under that blanket. I don't know why I ever listened to those shysters in the White House, not looking out for the president, just plotting about going back to those big jobs in those big, big law firms, you know the kind, rake in the bucks for telling people what not to do to stop them from doing what they should do, telling them what not to say about what they didn't do so they look guilty, and telling them what not to say about what they did do so they can't show they're innocent. Always sending a bill. You're not like them, Matt, you did so much for me, a great, great warrior.

GAETZ: Band of brothers. We did our part over in the House for January 6th.

TRUMP: A lot more than tour guides at the Capitol.

GAETZ: Mr. President, I remember every little thing I did for you, every single thing that group of us in the House did.

TRUMP: I bet maybe your memory is fading about some of that. Believe me. Happens. Can't recall.

GAETZ: So, I was wondering, Mr. President, if you might make a statement for me. I understand about the pardon, but just a statement, a few lines.

TRUMP: You're such a winner, gone to the wall for me. I would want to return a favor. That's the reason I didn't grant you the pardon. Not giving it was the favor. It would have hurt you, thrown a spotlight on you, made you look guilty. No one had heard of anything then. Not me. Never heard. So, pardon, not such a hot idea.

GAETZ: But a statement now…

TRUMP: Been there, done that, take my word. Nobody is accusing you of rape. No pee tape, right? Everybody involved must be happy. I had the beauty pageants, the modeling agency. People are talking about photographs? Are you kidding? Ever see Melania in British GQ? She had a gun, a big gun, a James Bond gun. Bang! But no hula hoop. You still have that picture? The hula hoop photo? So, really, what are we talking about here? You paid for the hotels, the dinners. Sounds like you're a regular gentleman. Am I right? I knew Jeffrey Epstein, you're no Jeffrey Epstein.

GAETZ: That's why I'd like you to offer a character reference.

TRUMP: Why couldn't Tucker remember that dinner with you and the girl? Nothing wrong with a nice dinner. His wife was there, too. She must remember. I bet she does. Tucker can get a little squirrelly. He said I "recklessly encouraged" my followers who protested the stolen election at the Capitol. If Tucker wants to be me, he should choose his words more carefully. He could take a lesson from you.

GAETZ: We could all take lessons from you. We've had "perfect family man" presidents before, after all, and many of those men sold out our country, even if their wives were happy the whole time, We've been lucky to have a president who didn't care for puritanical grandstanding or moralistic preening. America First.

TRUMP: Let me give you some pointers. I could do that. Better than a statement. I've had a lot of experience. I should get paid as a crisis manager consultant. Read me what you put out.

GAETZ: "Matt Gaetz has never paid for sex. Matt Gaetz refutes all the disgusting allegations completely. Matt Gaetz has never ever been on any such websites whatsoever. Matt Gaetz cherishes the relationships in his past and looks forward to marrying the love of his life."

TRUMP: Signed "Matt Gaetz," right? Good branding. Love "the love of his life." What's her name?

GAETZ: Luckey.

TRUMP: No, what's her name?

GAETZ: Luckey, that's her name.

TRUMP: Better be. Now, because I like you like a son I'm going to let you in on the real secret. It's not any statement to the fake media, it's not any tweet, it's not any posting on Facebook, it's not any appearance with Tucker.

GAETZ: The secret? There's a secret? What's the secret?

TRUMP: (Pauses) The fundraising letter.

GAETZ: Do you take Bitcoin?

TRUMP: Maybe I should adopt you.

Sidney Blumenthal, former senior adviser to President Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton, has published three books of a projected five-volume political life of Abraham Lincoln: A Self-Made Man, Wrestling With His Angel and All the Powers of Earth. His play This Town, about a scandalous White House dog, was produced in 1995 by LA TheatreWorks. This is the sixth in his "Trump Cycle" series of one-act plays published in The National Memo, including The Pardon, Epstein's Ghost, Ivanka's Choice, Sunset Boulevard, and The Exclusive.