Some political strategists have adopted a new idea for preventing former President Donald Trump from returning to power in 2024: just call him a "loser" — something that he both objectively is, having lost in 2020, and that he is pathologically afraid of being labeled as.
But on Friday, writing for The New Republic, Alex Shepard poured some cold water on the idea, arguing that — regardless of whether the "loser" moniker needles Trump — it wouldn't actually cost him support with the base, because it fundamentally misunderstands the reason why Trump appeals to the typical GOP voter in the first place.
"For nearly seven years now there has been an idea in American politics that if only voters — Republican voters, in particular — saw the 'real' Donald Trump, they would recoil," wrote Shepard. "On Wednesday, The Atlantic’s Mark Leibovich published a story in which several top Republican strategists made the case that it was once again time to show GOP voters the real Donald Trump. Their latest theory goes like this: If you call Trump a loser, the spell will finally break."
The problem, wrote Shepard, is that many people have already done this, going back to Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Ted Cruz (R-TX) when they were running against him for the 2016 nomination. Republican voters have been told about the allegations of Trump's business failures, con jobs, and lies about his wealth. And they have stuck with him anyway.
"One troubling thing about the 'just call Trump a loser' theory is that it fundamentally misunderstands his appeal," wrote Shepard. "Republican voters aren’t besotted with Trump because he gets things done or even because they think that he’s a winner. They like him because he fights back, he doesn’t surrender, and — paradoxically, because he’s a total con artist and a phony — he doesn’t bullshit about politics."
"Trump’s attacks often have an air of authenticity, even if he doesn’t believe them himself. Voters care that he’s a fighter and that he, like them, calls out Democrats and the political establishment as the enemy and treats them as such. 'Winning' is entirely secondary: The fact that Trump doesn’t always win doesn’t matter because he comes up punching."
This, wrote Shepard, explains why the only moment where Trump really seemed to be losing support was when he urged his followers to get vaccinated. To Trump supporters, his attacks on medical experts had been just one other way he was sticking it to the establishment, so when he agreed with them, it was seen as a betrayal.
"None of that is to say that it wouldn’t be fun to watch a Republican candidate or two take potshots at Trump in the presidential primary, or that such an act wouldn’t ultimately help a Democratic general election campaign," concluded Shepard. "But rest assured, the idea that it would succeed is lunacy. It’s been tried; it didn’t work."
You can read more here.