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McFeely: Trump isn't going away, no matter how much GOP elites wave their magic wands

Former president still holds sway over millions of voters and politicians, media bad-mouthing him now will fall in line when the time comes

President Donald Trump and Rep. Kevin Cramer share an embrace on Wednesday, June 27, 2018, at Scheels Arena in Fargo.David Samson / The Forum
President Donald Trump and Rep. Kevin Cramer share an embrace on Wednesday, June 27, 2018, at Scheels Arena in Fargo.David Samson / The Forum
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FARGO — This must be a confusing time to own a "Trump 2024" flag or a red "Make America Great Again" cap or a "Let's Go Brandon" bumper sticker. For six years those folks were told Donald Trump was the One True Way. A U.S. senator from North Dakota, Kevin Cramer, said Trump was the greatest president of his lifetime. Not long ago, Cramer said he'd welcome another four years of Trump.

Trump, conservative politicians and media said, was good for the economy, the border, the U.S. Supreme Court, gun owners, religious rights — all things Republicans hold close to their hearts.

And the forgotten people. Don't forget them. Trump was good for the forgotten people, the ones who fly the Trump flags and wear the MAGA hats.

Then Tuesday, Nov. 8, happened. The red wave imploded into a pink mist and Republicans are panicking.

Needing a fall guy, the same Republican politicians and conservative media who created Trump decided the Election Day disaster was The Former Guy's fault. So as Trump announced his 2024 run for the presidency, the switchblades came out.

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Rupert Murdoch's media empire — Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Post — are all against Trump.

Republican politicians who formerly dropped to their knees to worship Trump declined to commit their support. Cramer, who once said disagreeing with Trump was like cheating on your wife, said the former president is "not entitled" to be the GOP nominee.

Uff da.

Several big-money donors, too, publicly renounced their support.

The establishment GOP machine has traded in Trump for a younger model, in this case Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Don't be fooled. Republicans haven't stumbled across a moral compass. Their disdain for Trump isn't because they find his bigotry, racism, cruelty, incompetence, lying, election-denying and traitorous nature wrong. The Jan. 6 insurrection Trump directed doesn't register as anything troublesome.

They just don't think he can beat Joe Biden.

Period.

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This isn't about right or wrong, it's about winning and losing. The future of democracy be damned.

What's rib-tickling is the elites believe they can wave a magic wand and have millions of Trump voters turn their backs. That the cult of personality, voicing the white grievance and self-victimization of millions of his supporters, will just go away.

They think he'll be as easy to discard as an underperforming stock in their portfolios.

This is folly, of course. Trump is still wildly popular among the Republican base and most prognosticators believe he is the favorite to win the nomination in 2024. If you think Republican caucus goers in Iowa will choose anybody but Trump, there's some property with mountain views available just outside Des Moines waiting for you.

And the politicians and donors who are panicking because they think Trump will cost them power, well, they said the same mean things in 2015. But when Trump steamrolled the field early, they fell in line. They knew he was trouble, a terrible person and politician, but backed him anyway.

They'll do the same this time. Be patient. Republicans can't quit Trump, no matter how much the elites wave their magic wand.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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