In the GOP Debate, It’s the Lost Cause Redux

In the GOP Debate, It’s the Lost Cause Redux

In the GOP Debate, It’s the Lost Cause Redux

Fighting in Alabama, capital of the Confederacy, Jim Crow, and Donald Trump, the final four GOP presidential candidates fought to be the nominee in case Trump gets sent to jail or dies.


“I’ll get the communists, socialists, beatniks and atheists out of government.”
—Alabama Governor George Wallace, 1966

“I’ll root out the communists, Marxists, fascists and radical left thugs.”
—Former president Donald Trump, 2023

Welcome to the last Nation recap of the final Republican presidential primary debate of 2023! It means less than who won on The Golden Bachelor, although the target demographic is the same.

And it was held in beautiful Tuscaloosa, Ala., a site of intra-American warfare going back to white people driving the Creek nation off their lands, enslaving Black people who came after them, persecuting and lynching those after that. in 2015, Donald Trump held an early rally in Alabama, which was the first time I thought he’d be president.

I never thought these four would be left by 2024, but at least two of them will be.

So let’s give it up for former New Jersey governor Chris Christie, the last man standing who ran this year just to say Donald Trump isn’t fit to be president. (Asa Hutchinson, who tried the same thing, only quieter, dropped out ICYMI.) All that came after Christie said the same things as a 2016 candidate, then dropped out, endorsed Trump, stood by his side during his presidency, and later got kicked to the curb like Ellen by fraudulent Golden Bachelor Gerry.

Christie, under pressure to drop out again from GOP mega-donors who still think they might have a post-Trump party behind former South Carolina governor Nikki Haley—try the Whigs again, boys—dominated the stage much of Wednesday night. He mocked his three onstage rivals for “acting as if the race is between the four of us.”

Christie went on: “The fifth guy, who doesn’t have the guts to show up and stand here, he’s the one…who’s way ahead in the polls.” He continued, telling us that Trump is “a dictator and a bully who has taken shots at everybody who disagrees with him. I understand why these three”—Nikki Haley, Florida also-ran Governor Ron DeSantis, and Internet troll Vivek Ramaswamy—“are timid to say anything about him. He just said this past week he wants to use DOJ to go after his enemies. He is unfit to be president.”

Way to go, Chris. The GOP money boys are hot on your tail trying to get you to drop out and support Haley, which you will most certainly do, because (a few) money boys are your last remaining constituency. But you did what you could, while the last three apparently standing had the guts to go on, but not to take the fight to Trump.

Not even now, when it might be their last chance. And the last chance for the Republican Party, which rose from splintered sects with Abraham Lincoln, who freed the enslaved, and now appears to be dying at the hands of Trump, who would enslave people once again if only he were smart enough to know how.

Ah, Nikki Haley. She hit Trump with a good one, I guess: “Nine. Trillion. Dollars… in debt, he did in just four years. And we’re all paying the price for that!”

Well, it would have been a good one, if Republican voters cared about that. But we know they don’t care about anything but Trump’s promise to use the power of the state to come after his enemies, people like me and Haley.

But Christie came hardest for DeSantis, asking him point blank if Trump is” fit” to be president. Meatball Ron, as Trump once tried calling the Florida governor, resisted answering, calling the legitimate focus on Trump Christie’s “thing.”

Christie escalated: “I don’t have my ‘thing’…. He’s the thing. Is he fit or isn’t he?”

He carried on: “I’m a simple guy: Is he fit or isn’t he? Ron, you’re 44 years old. Is he fit or isn’t he?”

Christie never got an answer. If you can’t tell, this was my favorite part of this godforsaken debate.

Oh, and Christie continued: “I’m in this race because the truth needs to be spoken. This is a guy who just said this past week he wants to use the Department of Justice to go after his enemies when he gets in there. The fact of the matter is he’s unfit to be president.

“This is an angry, bitter man who now wants to be back as president because he wants to exact retribution on anyone who has disagreed with him. Anyone who has tried to hold him to account for his own conduct.… His conduct is unacceptable. He’s unfit.”

DeSantis had his moment, declaring at one point, “We beat the teachers’ unions on school choice. We beat Fauci on Covid…. I have delivered for this country.”

He got some cheers, but mostly, the audience didn’t seem convinced by DeSantis. Your at-home television viewers weren’t either. This race has been over since the debates began in the spring.

Now the days are getting colder, and shorter, and 9 pm East Coast time is later than ever. Nobody wants to watch this, folks. These people have no chance to knock off Trump, barring a calamity befalling him, God forbid. In a poll I saw yesterday, Haley isn’t even hitting Trump where it should hurt him: among college-educated Republicans, the few who are left to the party.

If any of these lame-ass Republicans truly wants to beat Trump, he or she best get behind Joe Biden to do it.

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Katrina vanden Heuvel
Editorial Director and Publisher, The Nation

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