Is Dead Bounce Ron Going YOLO?

ANKENY, IOWA - JULY 15: Republican presidential candidate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at U.S. Rep. Zach Nunn’s “Operation Top Nunn: Salute to Our Troops" fundraiser on July 15, 2023 in Ankeny, Iowa. Yest... ANKENY, IOWA - JULY 15: Republican presidential candidate Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at U.S. Rep. Zach Nunn’s “Operation Top Nunn: Salute to Our Troops" fundraiser on July 15, 2023 in Ankeny, Iowa. Yesterday DeSantis joined several other Republican presidential candidates at the Family Leadership Summit in nearby Des Moines. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images) MORE LESS
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There’s a big flutter in GOP primary election news today that Dead Bounce Ron (formerly known as Ron DeSantis) is edging his way up to denouncing the Big Lie. In Iowa today he declared that “all those theories that were put out did not prove to be true” and, even worse, that they were “unsubstantiated.” TPM Reader AB told me it could be a tipping point: “If the other candidates finally call Trump out as a loser, and he has to run on the lame ass claim he actually won within his own party, it could pierce his armor.” While noting that it could just be wishful thinking, he insisted that “once Trump gets branded a loser by members of his own party he could go down fast.”

As you’ll see from the first quote, DBR leveled the accusation in the passive voice, both substantively and grammatically. He didn’t even use the guy’s name! Indeed, as per usual, the purported swipes at Trump tell us not so much about any true slackening of Trump’s domination but rather the vast extent of it.

And yet, there is something here. What I told AB is that I actually agree with him. If Trump were branded a loser the collapse could come fast. If you don’t believe the Big Lie, the whole scaffolding of excuses and whataboutism about his failed coup attempt and the felony charges in response to it come crashing down. The coup is yet another thing Trump failed at. It’s another reminder of the spell he cast over the Republican Party, which mirrors his business career. Failure and losing are the biggest constants in Trump’s career. His super power is bamboozling his acolytes and fluffers into seeing it all as winning. But it’s highly, highly unlikely that any of that is going to happen. Certainly not during this election cycle. The Big Lie antibodies are simply too strong.

What some of his challengers are coming around to, though, is what’s been clear from the start. There’s zero way to challenge, let alone defeat, Trump if you’re committed from the start to never, never criticize his failures and to defend him on every instance of criminal conduct. Indeed, most are unwilling even to speak his name. Trump’s like a tetragrammaton of clown show malevolence. But DeSantis is now looking not only at almost certain defeat but a history-making level of campaign collapse. That sort of humiliation has a way of focusing the mind. As I noted, Mike Pence has clearly decided there’s no point doing anything but opposing the insurrection.

What I have my eyes out for is not Trump getting branded a loser in the GOP. To me that’s next to impossible in this cycle. Maybe for many years to come. But a fight over the Big Lie would be a big deal in itself, even one that’s eventually put down. Support for the Big Lie is overwhelming among Republican voters but also brittle. It’s the kind of Bullshit that survives only if it’s never questioned because the case for it is farcical. They know in their hearts what happened just like they know why all the kids were afraid to be around that one odd uncle. The Big Lie is the emperor’s new clothes and his old clothes. But authoritarian movements are built on men and women of weak character. So challenging the naked chief doesn’t come easily.

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