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#Losing Is the New #Winning

The Trumpified Republican party doesn't want to win.
June 16, 2020
#Losing Is the New #Winning
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) outside of the Oval Office after a tree planting ceremony in recognition of Earth Day and Arbor Day on the South Lawn of the White House on April 22, 2020 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

1. Runway

Last week I made the argument that the hour is later than we think.

By every single observable metric, Trump and Republicans are behind Biden and the Democrats and there are only 20 weekends until Election Day.

Well, it’s Monday and 5 percent of that runway is now gone.

Has Trump made up any ground?


Here is what happened with that 5 percent block of time:

  • The first leaks from the Bolton book came out.
  • Polls showed that Joni Ernst is in trouble in a race that should be automatic for R’s.
  • We had a Trump epi-scandal over his health.

And that’s the week. Another 7 days gone.

Over the course of that week Biden widened his lead over Trump and Trump’s job approval continued to fall.

This is how the sand flows out of the hourglass. We’ll see time eaten up in the coming weeks by the release of the Bolton book, by Biden’s announcement of his running mate, by the DNC and the RNC, and by Labor Day. That’s roughly five more weeks worth of time that’s pre-accounted for in which Trump’s ability to turn things around is, at best, limited.

There will be debates, each of which will eat up a week and which, based on his history, are unlikely to help Trump.

And suddenly our 20 weekends for Trump to make up a big deficit has turned into 12 weekends. During which there might be things that break Trump’s way. But they might also break against him.

2. #Losing

This piece from Politico on Monday offers a . . . different perspective:

Interviews with more than 50 state, district and county Republican Party chairs depict a version of the electoral landscape that is no worse for Trump than six months ago — and possibly even slightly better. According to this view, the coronavirus is on its way out and the economy is coming back. Polls are unreliable, Joe Biden is too frail to last, and the media still doesn’t get it.“The more bad things happen in the country, it just solidifies support for Trump,” said Phillip Stephens, GOP chairman in Robeson County, N.C., one of several rural counties in that swing state that shifted from supporting Barack Obama in 2012 to Trump in 2016. “We’re calling him ‘Teflon Trump.’ Nothing’s going to stick, because if anything, it’s getting more exciting than it was in 2016.”

This year, Stephens said, “We’re thinking landslide.”

Let’s pretend that a landslide win is taking the popular vote by more than 7 points, since that’s the margin Obama won by in 2008.

If you live in Robeson County and want to make some quick money, go bet Philip Stephens the mortgage that Trump will not win the popular vote by more than 7 points.

Because whatever happens, the proposition Trump popular vote share < +7 is a stone-cold, mortal lock.

But what’s most interesting in this view is that these people view Trump as being literally unbeatable.

If everything was great in America, it would be a sign of how successful Trump had been.

But also, the worse things get, it only “solidifies support for Trump.”

This gets at something Tim Miller talked about in his piece on the Virginia Republican party.

Until recently, the Republican party was a vote-maximizing organism. It responded to market forces in pursuit of political power which it could then use to enact a series of ideological goals.

I don’t think that’s where the party is these days. The GOP is much more like a therapy group, where the people left are less interested in electoral outcomes than in their own feelings.

This transformation started with Trump untethering the party from its ideological moorings. Because once you give up on free trade or liberty or small government or fiscal responsibility as your lode stars, you lose the objective goals for the use of power.

Instead, your movement is reduced to performative emoting and the exercise of feelings.

And if your feelings are the payoff . . . well, then you don’t actually need to win elections.

In fact, I’d go a step further: For a political movement focused on the cathartic airing of grievances, losing elections is actually better than winning.

Winning means that you have to spend the next cycle working, making compromises, and defending your achievements or lack thereof.

But losing only amplifies the emotional resonance of being aggrieved. It confirms your sense that the world is against you and that the Other is out to get you. It confers the delicious righteousness of martyrdom. It lets you go on permanent offense.

For people who view the world through the lens of grievance, #Losing is the real #Winning.

That’s where the Republican party is these days, both at the elite and grass-roots levels. And it’s not clear to me how they’ll get out of it.

Or, frankly, if there’s even a majority of the party that wants to.

3. The Walking Living

Outside on the rediscovered joys of walking:

Until very recently, the idea of going for a walk for fun never crossed my mind. I preferred more heart-rate-boosting, woo!-inducing forms of exercise; my idea of a good time included sailing off lippy kickers on my mountain bike or floating through fresh powder on skis. I just didn’t have much use for walking when I didn’t have to. Walking wasn’t going to get me ripped. Walking wasn’t shredding. Walking was good for digestion and something nice I did with my aging parents. Walking too far made my feet swell and my lower back ache. Walking was boring.

But like many of us this spring, I started doing a lot of things that were out of character. I stopped drinking. I started baking bread. I planted flowers and succulents and somehow kept them alive. I played board games. And I started going on long walks.

Read the whole thing.

Jonathan V. Last

Jonathan V. Last is editor of The Bulwark.