There is one 2024 Republican scenario that spells doom and there is nothing we could do about it.
It rests on the petulance of one man, a man not known for his emotional maturity. If it happens Republicans go down to defeat from the top of the ballot to the bottom, but especially in the presidential race.
And it’s happened before, in 1912. It’s Teddy Roosevelt’s Bull Moose option. In the current case, it would entail a third party run by Donald Trump.
By 1912 former President Teddy Roosevelt was tired of being outside of the limelight. He had been president between 1901-1909, after predecessor President William McKinley was shot and killed. Veep Roosevelt then took over.
His administration was progressive by the standards of the day and he thought his handpicked successor, President William Taft, was too conservative. Taft generally followed Roosevelt’s lead, but he didn’t have Roosevelt’s combative dash. Roosevelt was also more than a tad immature. Elihu Root, his Secretary of State, semi-jokingly said he was about 6 years old in emotional maturity.
So the 1912 Taft reelection bid comes to pass and Roosevelt, supposedly on progressive grounds but really because he couldn’t stand leaving the spotlight, challenges Taft in the general as the nominee of the newly formed Bull Moose Party. He and Taft split the Republican vote, he actually outpolls Taft, and the worst president in American history, Democrat Woodrow Wilson, is elected.
Wilson went on to be responsible on his watch for such travesties as the direct election of US senators, the income tax, Prohibition, the Red Scare, the failure of the League of Nations and, by the transitive property, the death of the Treaty of Versailles. His 1916 reelection campaign slogan touted that he kept us out of WWI. He was reelected and promptly joined the war.
If Trump does not get the Republican nomination he and his devotees are, Teddy Roosevelt-like, just petulant and vindictive enough to bolt the Republicans and run as a third party, perhaps the America First Party. They’d take at least 30 percent, maybe more, of the Republican base with them. While this fumigation would be culturally and intellectually pleasing, with the Trumper populists gone Republicans would go down to defeat from ocean to ocean. Like socialists for the Democrats, you can’t live with them, you can’t live without them.
In 1968 Alabama Governor George Wallace ran as an independent and swept the South. In 1992 Ross Perot denied reelection to George Bush the Elder. Trump could do worse and affect races in Congress and at the state level.
His people are emotionally driven, fanatical, and act accordingly. But if he’s the GOP nominee the Republicans go into the 2024 general election carrying all of his baggage. Best scenario? He loses the nomination and supports the candidate who beat him. Uh huh, yeah, sure.