Trump’s voters don’t like him in spite of his bullying, they like him because of it.
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Last Monday night, after a disastrously poor showing in Iowa — he got 191 total votes — former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) announced he was dropping out of the 2024 presidential race.
“My message of being a principled Republican with experience and telling the truth about the current front-runner did not sell in Iowa” said Hutchinson. “I stand by the campaign I ran.”
Enter the Democratic National Committee, which thought it made sense to dunk on Hutchinson in this moment.
“This news comes as a shock to those of us who could have sworn he had already dropped out,” said a DNC spokeswoman.
This is dumb and bad on a number of levels. Mostly because Hutchinson ran a creditable campaign centered around the idea that Donald Trump — because of his prior conduct and his future promises — is fundamentally unfit to be the nominee of the Republican Party.
Hutchinson, who has had a long and distinguished career in public service, almost certainly knew he had NO chance of winning — or even coming close. And that by sounding the alarm on Trump, he was opening himself up to all sorts of attacks from the MAGA crowd that dominates the current Republican Party.
(Sidebar: My friend Jonathan V. Last did a brilliant takedown of the DNC here.)
You might think that would be the end of the story. But then something, well, nice happened.
Jeff Zients, the chief of staff at the White House, personally reached out to Hutchinson Wednesday morning to apologize for the DNC statement.
And then, from the briefing room podium, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said this:
President Biden has deep respect for Gov. Hutchinson and admires the race that he ran. The president knows him to be a man of principle who cares about our country and has a strong record of public service.
Hutchinson, late Wednesday, thanked the White House for their outreach. “The call from the White House was not necessary but still appreciated,” he said. “We can disagree without demonizing. The bipartisan pushback will hopefully lead to more focus on issues that are important to Americans.”
Yes! To all of that!
Now, ask yourself this: Can you imagine — under similar or ANY circumstances — Donald Trump reacting how Joe Biden’s White House did?
OF COURSE NOT.
If the shoe were on the other foot, Trump would almost certainly have sent his own message mocking Hutchinson on Truth Social.
And it would read something like this: “No good Ada Hutchinson’s vicious ANTI TRUMP campaign has failed. He never even got to 1%. Sad! NO ONE liked him. He will never be MAGA!!!”
And every single Republican in the party would either a) laugh along with Trump or b) stay silent. Not one would say anything to defend Hutchinson.
That says something fundamental about where the two parties stand at the moment.
The Democratic Party — as represented by Joe Biden — still believes in some sense of political decorum. That it’s bad form to kick a guy in the nuts when he is already laying on the ground. To celebrate someone else’s misfortune. To get down in the gutter.
(Sidebar: I’m not dumb. I understand there was some political motivation here too. Biden needs voters who backed Hutchinson to at least consider voting for him in the fall. So playing nice with Hutchinson isn’t entirely altruistic on the White House’s part.)
The Republican Party — led by Donald Trump — delights in all of that. He LOVES to mock people who aren’t as strong or as popular as he is. He revels in the failures of his opponents. Bullying is built in to his appeal.
In short: For the Republican Party of Donald Trump, the cruelty is the point. His voters don’t like Trump in spite of his bullying, they like him because of it.
To me, the worst (saddest) part of the entire Trump movement is not Trump himself. We have had leaders before motivated by and captive to their worst instincts. It’s that his behavior is rewarded.
When Trump mocks someone at a campaign rally, his supporters laugh. When he calls people names or lies about them, his backers rush to defend him.
That says something about us — who we have become as a society. And what it says is nothing good.
Reprinted, with permission, from Chris Cillizza’s So What.
Cillizza is a political commentator, who worked for CNN from 2017 to 2022; wrote for The Fix, the daily political blog of The Washington Post; and has been a regular contributor to the Post on political issues, a frequent panelist on Meet the Press, and an MSNBC political analyst.