Despite an onslaught of the great and the good telling us for a couple of years now that Donald Trump would not win the Republican nomination – these attempts becoming ever less connected to reality as time went by – it is now plain that he has won it. He will be the Republican nominee. The stream of establishment Republicans recently trying to sell us the snake oil that Nikki Haley had a hope in hell of winning was just laughable. New Hampshire, the second primary state after Iowa, has a primary in which independents can vote in the Republican race. If she can’t win there she can’t win any state in the U.S. And her own state of South Carolina, which comes third, has seen both its U.S. Senators endorse Trump. The current Governor of South Carolina has too. It’s plain for all to see. Nikki Haley is toast. (Side prediction: Haley is so out of sync with the Republican base on immigration, the border, transgender issues, foreign wars and more that I don’t believe Trump will pick her as his VP choice.)
Of course the establishment class has thrown everything it can at Trump, not excluding the kitchen sink. Indictments, lawfare, a risibly one-sided legacy media that even opted not to broadcast Trump’s acceptance speech after he won in Iowa. And this is not new. Remember back to the first Trump impeachment? It was over a phone call he made (leaked by a bureaucrat who would never have leaked against a Democrat President) to the Ukraine President about Hunter Biden. Turns out everything Trump asked about was true. The impeachment was part and parcel of the Russia collusion hoax and all the other efforts made by Democrats and the managerial class to undermine his Presidency. Heck, maybe worst of all was the four-dozen odd senior intelligence officers who, seemingly at the request of the Biden campaign, wrote the open letter just before the 2020 election stating that the Hunter Biden laptop had all the hallmarks of Russian disinformation. It was in fact Hunter’s laptop with all its incriminating material (as even the NY Times now concedes, over three years later). Polls afterwards indicated that had the laptop been publicised as probably real Trump would have won. And let’s be honest. These top intelligence people knew it was real when they wrote their letter giving cover to Team Biden. They surely knew as much as Miranda Devine and the NY Post. And she knew it was real and that it showed real corruption in the Biden family.
Now for many establishment conservatives and former conservative politicians in Australia, Canada, Britain and without doubt in the U.S., none of this matters. They simply dislike Trump too much – his boorishness, bluntness, scorn for the elites, plebeian eating tastes. They just don’t think he’s suited to be President. Of course, if you point to his actual record from 2016 to 2020 it is basically impossible for any remotely Right-of-centre (and indeed any independent) voter to deny that it’s the best record of this century. On the economy. On tax cuts. Appointing judges. He did more to secure the border than any Republican President (including Reagan). And to the extent he was undermined it was Republicans like John McCain casting the deciding vote to keep Obamacare and Paul Ryan as House Speaker not really funding the wall. (It’s a bit like looking at 13 years of British Tory rule and noticing that they have not delivered on any of the promises they’ve made to their core voters in all that time – for instance, they could stop the boats pronto, it would just take pulling out of the European Convention and repealing the Human Rights Act and maybe putting Tony Abbott in charge, but the Tory partyroom prefers being welcomed in elite society more than stopping the flood of boats, so will be punished by its party base in the election later this year.) Trump, of course, doesn’t care about being accepted in ‘polite society’ so he tries to do what he promised. And that’s another thing. Take a look at what Trump promised before 2016 and what he did – the man tried to deliver on every promise. To me it is bizarre that so many conservatives implicitly would prefer another term of Biden to a second term of Trump.
One factor might be the Ukraine war. Trump was the only President in aeons whose administration was not involved in any war during his whole term. He lambasted other NATO countries which refuse to spend on defence, wanting American money and soldiers to defend them. One hypothetical question is whether the Ukraine war would ever have started had Trump been in office. He says it wouldn’t have. I tend to agree. But now he says he’ll end this war and quickly. Nikki Haley is full on for keeping it going and punishing Russia. But surely there needs to be exit plan other than “we in the West, who can’t even manage to spend 2% of GDP (the U.S. excepted) on defence, are going to drive the Russkies back to their 1989 borders”. Call me sceptical. (And by the way, under Biden recruitment to the U.S. military has collapsed – he’s impregnated ‘diversity, equity and inclusion’ dogma into the military and the sort of people attracted to that career hate it. They’re just not joining.)
That leaves Trump’s handling of Covid. I’ll be frank. It stunk. He turned over too many decisions to puffed-up bureaucrats like Fauci. Ron DeSantis (with Kristi Noem of South Dakota) is the U.S gold standard on how to stand up for civil liberties, against lockdowns, for keeping schools open, etc. He should have made his whole campaign about lockdowns. He didn’t. Meanwhile on every non-pandemic policy count Trump was better, certainly better at bringing out the working class vote and at retail politicking. If you look at Biden vs Trump on lockdown policies Trump was miles better. He never mandated the vaccine. He never pushed school closures. Go down the list and though on some Trump was bad, Biden was worse on every one. (And yes, if that sounds as though I am still fuming mad about what our political class did to us for two and a half years, throwing darts at the dartboard to decide which businesses were ‘essential’ or what you could do outside, not paying a penny of costs themselves, spending more than in World War II per capita, transferring huge monies from the young to the old and from the poor to the rich via asset inflation and printing money, well I am fuming mad. I want some accountability, though it’s plain most people just want to move on.)
Anyway, my point is that we now know that Trump will be the Republican nominee in next year’s election. I think it’s 50-50 whether ‘Weekend at Bernie’s’ Biden can be propped up to run again but the fact is he’s probably the best shot the Dems have. And so I give this hostage to fortune and predict a second Trump term when he wins in November.
James Allan is the Garrick Professor of Law at Queensland University. This article first appeared in Spectator Australia.