This past week, I committed the unpardonable sin in conservative ranks. I posted that while I am grateful for all that Donald Trump accomplished, it is time for Republicans to move on. I went further to suggest that the GOP has many proven leaders on our political bench, Gov. Ron DeSantis foremost among them, who have a better chance of being elected in 2024 than Mr. Trump.
“Treason,” shouted many on social media. “How dare you? Donald Trump will destroy Ron DeSantis. We must rally around our president. He is our only hope.”
Is this true? Will former President Donald Trump beat all challengers in his third quest for the presidency? Is doubling down on the Trump brand our only viable option? Is it a foregone conclusion that the former president will trounce Mr. DeSantis in an open and robust primary?
The simple answer as it stands now is no. In fact, it could be argued that Mr. Trump is currently unelectable and that the recent midterms and several subsequent polls prove it. Consider the following:
Last week’s survey of likely Republican voters conducted by the Club for Growth (an organization that advised Mr. Trump when he was in the White House) indicates that in a two-way race between Mr. Trump and Florida’s governor, Mr. DeSantis leads Mr. Trump in some crucial primary states. More specifically, Mr. DeSantis outperforms Mr. Trump by 11 percentage points in Iowa, 15 points in New Hampshire, 20 points in Georgia and 26 points in Florida.
Another survey reported by Elisha Krauss, formerly with the Daily Wire, indicates that if the Republican primary were held today, Mr. DeSantis would beat Mr. Trump 43% to 32%.
Finally, last week’s exit polls showed that Mr. Trump is viewed as less favorable nationwide than even President Biden at 33% to 36%, respectively.
And here’s another one. Of all potential 2024 Republican challengers for the White House, the only one with higher favorability than Mr. Biden is — you guessed it — Florida’s governor, Ron DeSantis.
“But the polls mean nothing,” you shout. “You’ve been played. Quoting all these biased sources does not look good on you. You’re a traitor. Time to cancel you from our social media.”
Well, if that is your reaction, I want to remind you that it was Mr. Trump who, just a week before the midterms, touted his favorable polls as his pretext for being the perfunctory Republican nominee for 2024. So, I have to ask the obvious question: If the polls are good when they make you look good, shouldn’t they be considered bad when they make you look bad? If the answer is no, you have to admit that, at the very least, there’s a bit of inconsistency in your analysis, or at worst, you just might be cherry-picking your data and lying with numbers. Or, as the old saying goes, you can’t have your cake and eat it too.
I have never been a “Never Trumper.” I voted for him twice. I was honored to be part of a small group of Catholics and evangelicals invited to meet with him in 2016 to share our concerns about the erosion of our First Amendment rights under President Barack Obama’s Orwellian rule. I was even invited to speak at the inaugural ceremony of the Trump administration’s creation of a new division for religious freedom in the Office of Civil Rights.
I am very grateful for all this. I thank Mr. Trump for empowering people under his charge to protect me, my church, and the millions of decent heartland Christians from the woke mob who call hardworking, blue-collar folks from the fly-over states “deplorable.” I thank God Donald Trump stood in the way of the likes of Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in their hellbent march to force all Americans to bow to their rule. But all that said, I and all like-minded constitutionalists must remember that we are a people of principles, not personalities. Conservatives do not fall in line to coronate a king. Conservatives, above all else, defend our seminal precepts and the self-evident truths therein.
I can be very grateful to Mr. Trump for his service from 2016 to 2020 but yet, at the same time, admit that if we nominate him for 2024, we are handing the Democrats precisely what they want. They are praying we are foolish enough to do so. It is time for us to stop defending a person and start honoring our principles. If we don’t, our Constitution will be ignored, and our freedoms will be lost for decades to come.
Bring on the primary. We need all comers at the table. Let the best man or woman win. Then, and only then, should we rally around our chosen nominee. Canceling, shaming and shunning those within our own ranks who say otherwise is what Democrats do, not Republicans. Conservatives debate messages; we don’t shoot messengers.
• Everett Piper (dreverettpiper.com, @dreverettpiper), a columnist for The Washington Times, is a former university president and radio host.