Old Wine in New NeverTrump Bottles

It is hard to read Rich Lowry’s syndicated column “Don’t Overestimate Trump’s Dominance This Far In Advance of 24” without noticing that it’s old wine in new bottles. Lowry is telling us nothing very different from the anti-Trump mantra that he and his magazine have featured for the last five years. National Review in its latest incarnation has incidentally picked up needed funding from anti-Trump Google to offset its shrinking subscription base. So why not continue the same shtick that has worked so well until now?

Once again, we learn about Trump’s moral defects and credibility gap. According to Lowry: “Trump has clung to his fanciful stolen-election narrative . . . to avoid the stench of defeat of a Jimmy Carter or George H.W. Bush.” But the matter is not as simple as Lowry would have us believe.

The disputed election results, as Mollie Hemingway explains in her voluminous bestseller, had less to do with election night irregularities (which Lowry is free to deny) than with the wider context of the election. What was “rigged” about the election pertained to nonstop, media lies about the incumbent and, starting in 2016, the dishonest, even criminal behavior of FBI agents, and the suppression of critical opinions about Trump’s Democratic opponent thanks to the media giants. We may quibble about the precise description of this series of outrages (theft may be too mild a characterization), but there is nothing “fanciful” about Trump’s “narrative.”

Unfortunately, he himself has not been able to express it in a coherent fashion when he has fired back at the hostile media. But Trump most certainly is not pretending to be angry because he is trying to “remove the stench of defeat” and position himself to run again. He has every right to scream about election results, given the circumstances surrounding them.

Lowry also opines that while Trump once “talked of fighting for his voters,” he now “urges those voters to fight for him based on the imperative of denying his loss, which is of overwhelming concern to his ego and continued political viability.” Since Lowry does not want us to consider the “stolen election-narrative” as anything more than “fanciful,” we are urged to scorn Trump’s charges. Lowry also believes that unless we accept the election results, we are headed for a disaster down the road. But exactly the opposite may be true. Unless we control those overpowering forces that led to the problems of last year, Republicans may fare even worse in 2024. If many Americans don’t believe that a fair election occurred, then they have ample grounds for their suspicion.

I’m struck by Lowry’s at least implicit assumption that Republican politics at the national level will move in his direction if we can put Trump behind us. This unworthy candidate can be replaced perhaps by someone more to Lowry’s taste. But would Lowry wish us to have the kind of election that unfolded last year at the expense of a candidate he liked? We would in any case be witnessing more of the same, vote harvesting, late-night deliveries of strangely marked ballots in heavily Democratic urban districts, and votes from people who have not been required to identify themselves in certain states. Moreover, why would I imagine that the media and deep state won’t smear a candidate whom Lowry finds congenial, say Marco Rubio or perhaps Liz Cheney?

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