I'm Giving You a Dark Christmas
Begun, the Republican consolidation has.
1. They Want Trump
I’ve been telling you since October 2020 that Donald Trump would be the 2024 Republican nominee. I was tut-tutted by people who assured me that voters hate losers; that the party would move on; that four years, or a year, or a month, was an eternity in politics; that everything could change once the actual voting started.
The Bulwark is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
The underlying theory for the Trump skepticism was that, at some point, there would be consolidation in the primaries and this consolidation would crystallize a challenge to Trump.
Behold the consolidation:
In Iowa, Trump is over the magic 50 percent mark in 5 of the last 6 polls. In New Hampshire, his lead over second-place Nikki Haley is “only” 18 points. In South Carolina, Haley’s home state and her big must-win, Trump leads her by 30.
Republican voters are consolidating behind a candidate. That candidate is Donald J. Trump.
But the Trump doubters were right about one thing: The dynamic will change once the real voting starts.
When If Trump wins Iowa running away, then he will build momentum going into New Hampshire and probably expand his lead there. When If he wins both Iowa and New Hampshire, the bottom will drop out for the rest of the field. It would not surprise me if Trump were to beat Haley in South Carolina by +40.
That’s the future. And the future starts in three weeks.
Two final political thoughts:
(1) Asymmetry. I keep talking about political asymmetries because I think they’re important for understanding the world around us. Here is another one of them.
Republicans are super excited to renominate a guy who:
lost the popular vote twice;
left office with the economy in a very bad place;
attempted a violent coup;
was twice impeached;
is currently facing 91 criminal indictments; and
was just removed from the ballot in one state because his candidacy has been ruled a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment.
Looking at all of this, both Republican voters and Republican elites are pumped to get Trumped.
Meanwhile, Democrats have an incumbent president who:
got more votes than anyone in American history;
achieved a nearly-unprecedented economic soft landing;
has kept unemployment under 4 percent and seen median household wealth increase by 37 percent; and
is generally regarded has having handled geopolitical crises as well as any president in the modern era.
Yet Democratic elites and voters are desperate to get this guy off the ticket and replace him with some unspecified, unknown quantity.
It’s just interesting. Republicans have a manifestly unfit candidate and they continue to drive past all of the off-ramps offered to them. Democrats have a successful incumbent president and all they want to do is find an off-ramp.
This dichotomy is indicative of something. I’m just not sure what. Maybe you have thoughts for the comments. I’m all ears.
(2) The DeSantii: I think it’s safe to say that Ron DeSantis’s political career is over. He will end his primary campaign having been exposed as both a weirdo, a subpar retail politician, and a terrible strategist/executive. He’s damaged goods. He’s done in Florida politics and has no route to national politics.
But wait . . .
Next up is Casey DeSantis. Want to get depressed about the future? It would not surprise me if 2026 pits Casey DeSantis against Matt Gaetz for the governorship of Florida, with the winner becoming an early contender for the White House in 2028.
Why am I throwing this at you four days before Christmas?
Because I want us all to steel ourselves for 2024.
Even if everything goes right, we are going to face a national crisis next year. I want us to meet that moment prepared. And resolved.
You know that scene in Apollo 13 when they’re preparing for reentry and one of the NASA administrators lists all of the things that could go wrong and says that it could be the agency’s darkest moment? And Gene Kranz stiffens and replies, “With all due respect sir, I believe this is going to be our finest hour.”
That’s how I want us to face 2024. With our eyes fully open about the dangers and our hearts fully committed to preserving liberal democracy.
And I want us to face it together.
Join us at Bulwark+. We want you riding with us.1 So here’s a 30-day free trial offer—meaning that we won’t charge you anything until January 20. Which is after the holidays and the Iowa Caucuses. You’ll get the next 30 days to decide if our member-only offerings—like this newsletter, the Thursday Night Bulwark livestream, my Secret Podcast with Sarah, Press Pass with Joe Perticone, and Just Between Us with Charlie and Mona—are worth the investment.
2. A History of Violence
Apologies for this in advance.
ProPublica’s Eric Umansky has done a giant piece on police body cameras and it illustrates the systemic nature of our law enforcement problems.
You may remember that 10 or 15 years ago, police officers were highly resistant to the introduction of body cameras. Even so, body cams worked their way into many departments. The problem is that body cam footage is only useful for the public if it is made public.
And in most cases, the people who decide whether or not to release body cam videos are the police themselves.
You should read every word of Umansky’s deep dive, but here’s one example that will resonate with you: Derek Chauvin.
Chauvin is the cop who murdered George Floyd in full view of a crowd, while his follow officers looked on and did nothing.
At the time of Floyd’s murder, Chauvin’s record was already full of red flags. There had been 18 official complaints against him and he’d been involved in three shootings, one of them fatal.
But Umansky discovered that there had been body cam footage of several incidents in which Chauvin had knelt on the necks of citizens in the exact same manner in which he would when he murdered Floyd.
Yet the police had kept the footage from all of those incidents under lock and key. Here’s Umansky:
In 2017, Chauvin dragged a handcuffed Black woman out of her house, slammed her to the ground and then pressed his knee into her neck for nearly five minutes. Three months later, Chauvin hit a 14-year-old Black boy at least twice in the head with a heavy flashlight, choked him and pushed him against a wall. The boy cried out in pain and passed out. Chauvin pushed a knee into his neck for 15 minutes as the boy’s mother, reaching to help him, begged, “Please, please do not kill my son!”
Not only did the Minneapolis police department keep this video locked away before the murder of George Floyd—they tried to keep it secret even after Chauvin had been convicted and sent to jail. It took a judge ordering the release of the tapes in April of 2023 in order for the public to see what this criminal had been doing under the protection of a police badge.
This is what we mean when we talk about systemic problems in law enforcement. The problem isn’t bad cops. There have always been bad cops. There will always be bad cops.2
The problem is a system—at the administrative, leadership, and even prosecutorial levels—that actively works to protect and enable bad cops.
We wouldn’t tolerate this sort of conflicted, corrupt mismanagement from any other kind of government agency. It would be scandalous if the FDA were this compromised in the drug approval process, or the NTSB were this compromised in regulating transportation safety.
But for law enforcement, this state of affairs is the norm.
The answer isn’t “defunding” the police. It’s professionalizing them and reforming the apparatus of law enforcement, at every level, to create the same standards of accountability that exist in most other highly regulated professions.
As one of the lawyers Umansky interviews says,
“Chauvin should have been fired in 2017,” says Robert Bennett, a lawyer who represented both of the victims. If the police had done that, “the city never burns. We’d have a downtown still. It’s a parade of horribles. All to keep something secret.”
3. Final Four
The People have spoken and you are all a great disappointment to me. How could you let “Christmas Wrapping” and “Christmas in Hollis” go out in the quarter finals!?!
Here are, according to you, The People, the four greatest modern Christmas songs. Finish the kumite.
Tomorrow you will choose the winner. As always, there is a correct answer and an incorrect answer. Choose wisely.
If you want to be a member, but just can’t afford it, just drop me an email and we’ll figure something out. No one gets left out just because they can’t pay.
Same as there will always be bad teachers, priests, doctors, taxi drivers, journalists, and everyone else.