One of the more interesting pieces of 2015 came from former Reagan economic adviser Bruce Bartlett, who declared that he was rooting for Donald Trump to win the 2016 Republican presidential nomination because a Trump landslide loss in the general election would compel the GOP to finally deradicalize, lest the party lose a fourth consecutive presidential election in 2020. (Of course, the counterargument is that a Trump loss might cause the GOP to lurch even further to the right…)
It’s quite possible that a Trump general-election loss would simply prompt the GOP to try “compassionate conservatism 2.0” in 2020. The interests and ideologues that have pushed the GOP to the far right over the past four decades aren’t going to simply relinquish control of the GOP in the aftermath of a third consecutive presidential loss: rather, they will simply focus on finding a 2020 candidate who will know how to sound like a non-reactionary, while holding on to the same old reactionary positions.
This was my great fear about Ohio Governor John Kasich–a man who is just as loony as the rest of the 2016 GOP gang, but who speaks and carries himself like a non-wingnut. If Trump is trounced in the 2016 general election, I wouldn’t be surprised if the party’s malevolent moneymen rally behind Kasich as the man who can defeat either President Hillary Clinton or President Bernie Sanders on November 3, 2020.
The right lives and dies on narratives. If the Democratic presidential candidate wins on November 8, we will hear four years of conservative chatter about how the president is just as “weak” and “soft” as President Carter allegedly was four decades prior, and how America needs a “real leader” with Kasich’s alleged qualities. (Forget about someone like Senator Marco Rubio being positioned this way in 2020: the Florida flake always comes across as a teenager about to have a nervous breakdown, and thus cannot be cast in this role. It’s also impossible to see the “malefactors of great wealth” getting behind Jeb! again.)
You’ve got to think that the “GOP-is-doomed-this-year-if-Trump-is-nominated” crowd is already making plans for the 2020 election if their worst nightmares come true on November 8…and because of his ability to sound normal while advocating abnormal policies, you’ve got to think Kasich will be the plutocrats’ preferred politician four years from now.