In some moods, I almost hope that Donald Trump becomes the Republican Party’s 2024 presidential nominee and that the far-far-right House GOP Freedom Caucus blocks a federal debt limit hike this year and forces a government shut-down and a default on the national debt.
Such would be a “the worse, the better” scenario for a Democratic sweep in 2024 and, perhaps, a broad Republican realization that tolerating extremism is politically ruinous.
If re-elected Trump would carry out a plan he and associates are plotting to replace so-called “deep state” federal workers (at the FBI, IRS and the Justice and Homeland Security Departments above all) with personal loyalists who’d do his bidding.
Republicans, based on their past record, would support him, either out of loyalty or fear. Democrats would resist, but could be threatened by Trump-dominated enforcement agencies and Trump-inspired armed “patriots.” We’d cease living in a constitutional democracy, but under authoritarian ”strongman” rule. So I don’t really hope for a Trump nomination. He shouldn’t be anywhere near the White House but should be in prison.
Historically, Republicans get blamed when they trigger a government shutdown or toy with a debt default. But this year the far-right Freedom Caucus perpetrators might not be dissuaded from causing chaos if they can’t force drastic cuts in domestic spending and federal operations.
If they defeated a debt limit hike and triggered a debt default, it would be disastrous for the US and world economics. So again, I don’t really want this outcome, though I might endure a short governmental shutdown.
As for the 2024 presidential race, right now polls indicate that President Biden would narrowly beat Trump again. And Biden gives every indication he intends to run again–despite polls indicating voters don’t want him to. Trump is already running.
In a recent YouGov survey, despite all Trump’s legal troubles, civil and criminal, and political setbacks, Republicans favor Trump by 44 percent to 32, though they think Florida Gov Ron DeSantis has a better chance of beating Biden. In a FiveThirty Eight rundown of 13 polls, DeSantis came out ahead of Trump by an average of five points in head-to-head matchups, but in a multiple-candidate primary field, Trump outpolled DeSantis by ten points.
If Biden does run, he’ll likely clear the field of other potential contenders. On the other hand, Biden would be 86 years old at the end of a second term and now is undergoing a federal investigation for keeping classified documents he should have turned over to the National Archives. He faces a bevy of savage probes by House Republicans over the shady activities of his son, Hunter; his mishandling of the Southern border crisis and the disastrous end of the US war in Afghanistan.
Personally, I think the country needs to move on from octogenarians Biden and Trump and give way to younger talent. Democrats do not have a weak bench. Vice President Kamala Harris is weak, but the potential field also includes Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Governors Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania, Gavin Newsom of California, and Jared Polis of Colorado.
Whitmer deserves special attention because she turned her state from red to blue. She won re-election by 11 points and brought in Democratic control of both houses of the state legislature and held onto all their US House seats despite predictions of a “red wave.”
On the Republican side there’s liable to be another multi-candidate race between DeSantis, former Vice President Mike Pence, former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Sen. Ted Cruz. If Trump can stay in, he’ll make it pyrotechnic.
As for Gov. DeSantis, there’s reason to fear he’d be a Trumpist culture warrior vowing to make “America a place where woke goes to die,” as he now says about Florida. His latest foray is to forbid Advanced Placement courses in African-American Studies in Florida schools on grounds they’d violate a law forbidding teaching of materials tending to cause students to disrespect their country. He’s made a special effort—at once populist and culture warrior—to punish “woke capitalists” who imposed mask- and vaccine mandates. He ducks questions about whether the 2020 election was stolen, but disputes that Jan. 6 constituted an “insurrection.”
While in Congress, DeSantis was a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus along with firebrand Jim Jordan and Trump’s last White House chief of staff, Mark Meadows. He has a record of supporting government shutdowns.
He’s now FoxNews’s favorite candidate after Rupert Murdoch dropped Trump following his 2022 election losses. And DeSantis, as an honors graduate from Yale and Harvard Law School, is way smarter than Trump – and as demagogically shrewd.
Meanwhile, it’s a sure bet that House Republicans will help Democrats with extremist behavior and ham-handed management. They began by allowing 21 election-denying Freedom Caucus militants to put GOP leader Kevin McCarthy and nearly 200 colleagues through an agonizing 15 ballots before electing him Speaker—exacting concessions along the way that give them choice seats on the investigative House Oversight and Judiciary Committees and the ability to force endless votes of no confidence if they’re unhappy with McCarthy.
Keeping control of the Senate is a much harder lift for Democrats in 2024 unless Trump repeats the 2022 error of promoting a batch of unelectable extremists who’d move to oust Mitch McConnell as leader. As matters stand, Democrats will have to defend 23 of the 34 seats up for election, including several in deep red states.
Theoretically, a raised debt-ceiling bill could be passed by a coalition of House Democrats and responsible Republicans, but any GOP House members teaming up with Democrats would be ostracized by colleagues and “primaried” in the next election. And if somehow McCarthy would act to save the economy, he’d be forced out of his post, as former Speaker John Boehner was, by the Freedom Caucus.
Contrary to Democratic charges, GOP leaders do have a legislative agenda—or at least an outline of one, unveiled as a campaign document—including ramping up domestic energy production, curbing illegal immigration, battling crime by hiring 200,000 police officers, and revamping Social Security and Medicare.
Any substantive GOP legislation has little chance of passage in view of Democratic control of the White House and the Senate. So the House will concentrate on passing “message bills” and harassing administration officials with damaging investigations.
The House’s first actions were to pass one bill creating a Select Committee on the Weaponization of Government to investigate alleged FBI and national security agencies’ bias against conservatives, especially Trump. Another would defund President Biden’s $80 billion initiative to beef up the Internal Revenue Service to investigate multi-millionaire tax cheats.
But the big action will be concessions to pass a raising of the debt limit. Republicans have been discussing cuts to domestic programs, especially entitlements like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps—and getting blasted for it by Democrats—and even Trump.
So far, Biden has said he will not negotiate on the debt ceiling, but that is bad politics for the president to refuse to negotiate. He should—and probably will—propose tax increases to deal with the debt, particularly repeal of Trump tax cuts estimated by his own Treasury Department to cost $2.3 trillion over 10 years. Were a default to happen, Republicans would get—and deserve—the blame.