If you had asked me in mid-November 2016 if Donald Trump should be challenged in the 2020 presidential primary, my answer would have been a loud and uncompromising “yes.” A man with a long history of sexual depravity and decades of history as a New York City liberal must not be allowed to serve more than one term, I would have argued. After 19 months of Trump as President, I would say “no.”
First, it would be a fool’s errand. Trump is wildly popular with the Republican base, even among most of those who supported his opponents in the 2016 primary. Trump will not lose a primary challenge and will likely smoke anyone who steps up against him. If someone in the Republican party has ambitions of being President and has a legitimate chance of winning an open primary contest in 2024, antagonizing the base in 2020 would be a foolish move. It would make winning in 2024 much less likely and may cost him his current seat.
But more importantly, we need to be real: For as personally toxic as President Trump can be, for all of his egomania and extreme impulsiveness, Trump’s policies have been boilerplate, standard Republican polices. If any of the other Republicans running in 2016 had given us a massive tax cut, significant regulatory reform, aggressive protections of religious freedom, a stronger foreign policy that puts America first, two good Supreme Court pics and efforts to undermine legal abortion, we would be over the moon – including the Republicans hanging on to the Never Trump label.
Obviously, things could change, especially if Democrats take control of the House. One thing you can count on with Trump is he loves to be praised. If Democrats can hold back the “resistance” long enough to butter him up, Trump might be willing to go along with some of their policy schemes. This would be disastrous on many levels. The good news for conservatives is that there is far too much hatred of Trump in the Democratic base to ever allow Democrats in Congress to work with him.