Follow the money is a good idea in any field because it reveals what direction the strings of power are being pulled and by whom. But in politics, follow the money is the golden rule. Once you know who’s backing whom, the entire playbook unfolds. Rick Wilson is a veteran of many campaigns over the past four decades and he knows what an intricate waltz politics is. He also knows that who pays the piper calls the tune and in the runup to the GOP 2024 nomination, the scene at this year’s primary ball is interesting indeed. There is no Cinderella. The slipper was going to go to Ron DeSantis but he turned out to be a mouse, so now they’re eyeballing the pumpkin colored man and cursing their fate. Here is the sad tale of the GOP hilariously told.
First, major donors in the GOP have something in common with the Never Trump movement, the Lincoln Project, and 65% of America.
They hate Donald Trump with the fire of a billion suns.
I mean, they really, really, really hate him in every conceivable dimension. They hate his vulgarity. They hate his drooling avarice, his crude and obvious lust for attention, his casual racism, and his blistering ignorance. He’s the type of man they’d never admit to their homes without hiding the silver or to their country clubs without fear of an embarrassing cheating scandal on the links. Their contempt for his tasteless Idiot’s Guide to Pretending To Be A Billionaire lifestyle is beyond belief.
So how did they get in bed with him to begin with? Well, I think most of us have asked ourselves that question at least once or twice in our lives, amirite?
I’m going to speak capitalist for a moment; this class of billionaire donors are not free-market capitalists who feature in the dreams of the gauzy Reaganesque past; they’re part of an American financial transformation driving inequality at levels that make the Gilded Age’s mega-rich look like medieval farmers scraping in a field for one last potato before winter arrives.
This class of donors gambled this year on Ron DeSantis, an investment that paid off as predicted; from the golden child of the money class to a single-digit afterthought, he’s the junk bond of the 2024 campaign. A few have flirted with Nikki Haley and Tim Scott. Fewer still have backed Chris Christie’s doomed campaign.
So who does that leave? C’mon now, you know the answer, the new Great White Hope of the GOP, the miracle worker in that recently blue state on the east coast? Yes, Glenny Baby!
As the primary continues the long slide into irrelevance and noise, these donors will drift away from DeSantis and the rest of the second tier. Right now, they’re burning up the phone lines of Glenn Youngkin, not because he can win, but because he has all the same tribal signifiers of their cozy world of private equity; he’s wealthy, he’s credentialed, and he rocks one hell of a sweater vest.
Youngkin is already flirting with certain Never Trump activists, hoping to bring them back into the fold. No amount of money, no focus group, and no speech will solve the cultural problem of the MAGA base with Youngkin.
But there’s a problem with Glenny Baby, the MAGAs hate him because he’s exactly the kind of politician they have always hated, rich, educated, literate, articulate. Plus, he’s been described as a “kinder, gentler Trumpist.” and kind and gentle are not descriptors which apply to men, we mean real men, MAGA men, he men. Here’s Tim Miller, an openly gay man chiming in on what he thinks of the MAGA hunks.
– Winning the Super Bowl, getting paid to shill beer and getting it on with the most famous woman in the world: Gay, Beta
– Being a fat slob who tweets his feelings about celebrities: Masculine. Alpha. https://t.co/bF9oSIPRhu
— Tim Miller (@Timodc) September 25, 2023
Hear, hear! So say we all.
But all that is secondary and a distraction. Yes, in theory, the GOP wants to get away from Trump and away from MAGA. But they can’t find a way. So this is what they’re going to do.
For a moment, the donors will grumble and complain from the sidelines, but one by one, step by step, humiliation by humiliation, they’ll go back to Trump, funding his campaign machine (and by that, of course, I mean “paying his legal bills,” but I digress) and pretending Joe Biden is the second coming of Vladimir Lenin.
In the eternal sunshine of the GOP megadonors’ minds, there’s always an alternative Trump. You know, someone like them. There’s always a way where a million more here or there, or the right words from the right focus group will solve the problem of his enduring hold over the MAGA base, but it’s an illusion.
They won’t ever love Trump, but they will bend the knee and cut the checks the second it’s clear the others have no path to victory (e.g., right after South Carolina), no matter what it costs either their own bottom lines or the nation.
And, if the past three elections are any indication, particularly the 2020 midterm, which was supposed to be the red tsunami and turned out to be an anemic pink trickle instead, they will be throwing away their money.
The only question that remains is: Will Trump attempt another go in 2028? 2032? Until death he and the GOP do part? Until Trump is bundled off, drooling, to the insane asylum? Or minimum security prison? I guess we’re going to find out.