The answer to the question of how much more POLITICO this could be is “none,” but I suspect it’s still probably correct:
The most consequential development in a Republican primary this week did not come on Tuesday, but the day before, at Mar-a-Lago.
If there was ever a lane for a Trump-y — but not Trump — Republican in the 2024 presidential primary, it now appears to be that much narrower.
“Completely handed him a lifeline,” groused one Republican strategist who advises a potential rival to Trump in 2024. “Unbelievable … It put everybody in the wagon for Trump again. It’s just taken the wind out of everybody’s sails.”
For any other Trumpian candidate, the strategist said, “It’s over.”
John Thomas, a Republican political strategist who had been organizing a PAC to support DeSantis in the event he runs in 2024, said on Tuesday, “We can hang it up.”
“It couldn’t be clearer,” he said. “If Trump wants it at this point, I don’t see how it’s not his … It’ll be a coronation at this point, not a primary.”
Republicans seemed to know this Tuesday, and not just at the national level. In a Republican Party enamored by Trump’s grievance politics, the FBI search cast him more plainly than ever as a politician persecuted by the left.
Trump’s grievance politics dovetail perfectly with the persecution complex that has dominated white evangelicals in America since at least the days of the Scopes trial, and which only intensifies as aspects of the broader culture become more incongruent with reactionary Christian nationalism. The Mar-a-Lago search — which, except for its target, was otherwise a completely normal exercise in ordinary law enforcement — feeds those persecution fantasies in all sorts of obvious ways.
“This is one of the darkest days in American history: the day our Government, originally created by the People, turned against us. This illegitimate, corrupt Regime hates America and has weaponized the entirety of the Federal Government to take down President Donald Trump,” said Kari Lake, the Trump-backed Arizona Republican gubernatorial nominee. “As Governor, I will fight these Tyrants with every fiber of my being. America — dark days lie ahead for us. May God protest us and save our Country.”
This is totally normal rhetoric within the 2022 version of the Republican party. Note in particular that for these people “America” and themselves are simply synonymous. This is herrenvolk democracy in its purest form: they take the idea of a “Christian nation” very literally, and any resistance to that idea is itself the epitome of the continual Satanic persecution of Christians, meaning again them.
The 2024 presidential election is going to be a referendum on whether Donald Trump gets to pardon himself: an act which needless to say can be fit quite easily into some twisted Christological narrative (“He is risen indeed.”).
Whether that referendum will ultimately be conducted in a democratic fashion, even in the extremely loose way in which we have defined “democracy” in presidential elections, is another question. I mean how can you let Satan win? Again this question is taken totally literally by tens of millions of people in Trump’s base, and if you don’t get that you don’t understand what’s going on in this country right now.