Hey fam: Tonight I’ll be joined by Mona Charen and Will Saletan on the livestream at 8 p.m. in the East. We’ll talk about horseshoe theory and the uniparty. Also Biden 2024. And we’ll be discussing this thing below 👇
Tim is driving today and it’s a good one. We’ll unpack it more tonight. —JVL
1. Brokeback Party
The Republican party has barely tried anything in their effort to move on and they are already out of ideas. After a few bad weeks in the polls for Tiny D, the party poohbahs are throwing in the towel and getting back aboard the Trump Train.
Whether it’s a pheremonal attraction to his rakish, devil-may-care persona, an addiction to the small donors and the retweets, an unquenchable desire to be invited to a disgusting dinner in a gaudy dining room, a cowardly fear of being shouted down at the airport by obese hillbillies, a boner for making the libs squirm—or a little from columns A, B, C, D, and E—the GOP grownups are signing up to Do It all over again. Like the besotted Jack Twist staring at their mountain man, these Republicans just don’t know how to quit Trump.
In just the past week, the former guy has received endorsements from both the head of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, Steve Daines, and Lee Zeldin, the Republican nominee for governor in New York in 2022.
I think it’s important to step back and appreciate how insane these endorsements are, because these guys are not random backbench MAGA morons.
Zeldin was reportedly set to be a “top official” in the DeSantis campaign before he signed on with Trump. (Ouch!) This guy was puffed up as a future party leader by establishment favorite Tom Cotton on the Sunday shows and he was the secret candidate that “closet normal” Republicans were trying to recruit to take over the RNC from Ronna “Don’t-Call-Me-Romney” and the Trumpers after the midterm disappointment.
As for Daines, it is his job to manage the campaign committee that has as its entire purpose the election of GOP senators. The sole individual responsible for tanking that mission in 2022 was Donald Trump—whose endorsed candidates crashed and burned in every competitive race.
Not to mention that seven of Daines’s colleagues voted—just three years ago!—to convict Trump over his attempt to overthrow the government, a vote that carried with it the consequence of prohibiting him from being elected to federal office again in an unprecedented rebuke of a president by members of his own party. (Four of the seven GOP “guilty” votes are still in the Senate, and one of them, Mitt Romney, is up for re-election next year.)
In what world does it make sense for the guy who is ostensibly in charge of winning elections for the GOP to throw in with Trump after all that? There’s still ten months until the voting begins! And Daines decided to announce his endorsement on the disgraced, twice-impeached president’s nepo-baby’s podcast.
This is fucking madness!
In any sane world, endorsing Trump on Don Jr.’s Triggered pod would be grounds for replacing Daines with someone, anyone, who was awake in 2022. It should be a disqualifying act. Politico should be littered with pieces sourcing privately concerned Republicans on background about how they are worried the NRSC chair has lost his mind.
And yet news of the Daines endorsement was met with nary a peep from his colleagues, who are spending their time these days either hyperventilating over Bud Light or cowering in the corner in fear of a Trump bleat. Today, the big-foot Politico column about accepting a Trump nomination quotes a “shrewd” GOP strategist content to “go into the basement, ride out the tornado,” which raises the question, when exactly did you leave the basement, gimp? Yesterday, it was revealed that when the RNC looked at why they lost in 2022 they were too scared to even mention Trump’s name.
These are just the latest pieces of evidence that the number of politicians left in the party who haven’t been completely corrupted by Trump can be counted on one hand. And while the fingers of their affection might be tiny and pudgy, Ennis does have those dreamy blue eyes . . .
2. Et Tu, NRO
I’m not sure I have come across a better example of just how hard it is for people inside the GOP Industrial Complex to leave Trump than National Review’s Instagram feed.
Of all the outlets that might have the distance, the credibility, the seriousness to avoid traipsing into the social media engagement sewer for MAGA clicks, it would be the staid, DeSantis-loving grownups at NR. You might figure that the institution which ran both an “Against Trump” cover and a “Maybe Trump” editorial would be immune to the pressures that push other right-wing content creators to shill for Trump.
I went down an Instagram rabbit hole the other day and the National Review feed had me clutching my pearls.
Here are multiple recent posts about Trump schlonging DeSantis in the polls.
And here’s a meme with a victorious Trump waving goodbye at the grave of BuzzFeed News (with a little tummy tickle for the Russia Hoax crowd).
And here’s a picture of a menacing Trump staring down Alvin Bragg. (Points for not including a baseball bat, I guess?)
And here’s a victorious “He’s Back” tabloid-style picture celebrating Mr. Trump’s triumphant return to Facebook.
For starters, one option here would be to just do nothing! There is no requirement for National Review to do based Trump memes! There’s lots of other content options for them besides puffing up the guy who incited a deadly riot at the Capitol in an attempt to end our democracy. (And just to give you a peek behind the curtain: Instagram doesn’t drive meaningful amounts of traffic for publications. So there’s not even a real business case for this stuff.)
Just like Steve Daines didn’t need to jump on the endorsement bandwagon in April 2023.
But they decided to do it anyway. Why?
Well, I’m guesting on JVL’s newsletter so I’ll ape his shtick.
This is what the voters, donors, Instagram followers, etc. want! And the National Review folks—who desperately want Ron DeSantis—find themselves doing Trump Pravda memes to get their approval.
On The Next Level this week I predicted that we are about to see the same thing from Fox following Tucker Carlson’s departure. I suspect that Rupert Murdoch’s DeSantis flirtation will fade the second the network gets any whiff that it’s losing market share to more MAGA/Tucker-friendly outlets.
This is the this dynamic we get from politicians, conservative media outlets, and even anti-anti-Trump magazines that guarantees Trump Is Forever.
They can try to blame the mainstream media or the Never Trumpers because it makes them feel better, but the reality is when every single figure that could possibly help nudge people off Trump folds like a cheap suit because they want their Gram engagement numbers to spike . . . well, then Trump is what they are going to get.
(P.S. If you want to follow an Instagram feed that will never look like a Trump Airlines in-flight magazine, we’ve been sprucing up ours.)
3. Hold The Champagne
One of my best memories from childhood was the summer after I moved to Denver. My new city’s NBA team had drafted Fab Five star Jalen Rose. I was finishing Mitch Albom’s splendid book on that Michigan squad. And my brother and I got to go down to training camp to see Jalen, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, and the rest of the team up close and in person.
It’s been a few decades since then and while there have been some highs as a Nuggets fan, I’ve also had to contend with what the blog boys call NuggLyfe: experiencing the inevitable disappointment that comes with following a star-crossed franchise.
This year might be their best chance to make the NBA Finals (something the team has never done). But here to temper my enthusiasm is the Gray Lady with this beautiful profile of the franchise:
There are sadder teams in American sports, some with longer championship droughts and in decaying cities that could use more luck than Denver. For most of their titleless years, the Nuggets were good, and they were fun. They just cannot get the ending right.
The next best chance for the Nuggets comes now, eight years after the Denver arrival of Jokic, the two-time reigning most valuable player. Behind the 6-foot-11 human Swiss Army knife, the Nuggets earned the No. 1 seed in the N.B.A.’s Western Conference for the first time.
Maybe this is the year. A city awaits.
For now, the ghosts of “almost” are everywhere.
They are in Lot C next to the football stadium. They are at the downtown performing arts center at 13th and Champa.
And they are in the current arena, near the confluence of the South Platte River and Cherry Creek, where 19th-century miners set off the Colorado gold rush that would shape a city and a state and, one day, give a basketball team its name: Nuggets.
Read the whole damn thing. And Geaux Nuggs.
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Minor editing suggestion. Fix this sentence: “ This is the this dynamic”. In section two.
FWIW I commented on three of those Trump-friendly NRO Instagram posts and asked them why they were boosting Trump. I subscribe to NRO and like it, but I am puzzled by those posts. Several of their writers, like Charlie Cooke, Noah Rothman, and Jay Nordlinger are decidedly NOT Trump fans.