You have to admit, it would be a near-perfect way for Republicans to continue Trumpism after Trump.
The closeness of Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity with the bigoted billionaire, as recently documented in a New York Magazine profile by Olivia Nuzzi, is not a surprise. From a certain perspective, neither is Nuzzi’s suggestion that Hannity may aspire for elected office himself one day:
Privately, Hannity has expressed openness to a different kind of retirement, far removed from a dog farm: running for office, something he hadn’t considered in the past. [Hannity’s friend John] Gomez, whose own unsuccessful congressional race Hannity advised on, said he thought the only way he’d do it is if he didn’t think there was anybody else for the job — something, incidentally, Trump used to say before the beginning of his political career. [Hannity’s executive producer Lynda] McLaughlin burst out laughing when I asked about Hannity 2024; she doesn’t believe he has any interest. But on the show, the two of them joke often, lately, about how Hannity might as well run, since he’s “being vetted more than Obama.”
“The job itself creates such intense isolation that you’d go crazy if you didn’t have … people do go crazy. They all go crazy,” said the person who knows both Trump and Hannity.
“You have two choices: You can either go insane, or you can create your own separate world. And that’s what he’s done. He hired his brother-in-law as his producer. And people look on at that and they’re like, ‘Oh, that’s nepotism.’ No, that’s his effort to build a world that he’s safe in, because it’s so crazy that you have to do that.” The only thing you could compare it to, this person said, would be the presidency.
Like Trump, Hannity has the ego, wingnut ideology and media savvy to immediately become a top contender for the Republican Presidential nomination in six years, were he to pursue that goal. There’s no reason to think he won’t.
Think about it: once Trump’s off the stage, who else does the Republican Party have? Who’s their farm team? Tom Cotton? Joni Ernst? Rick Scott? All low-energy, to quote the current President. The GOP is not going to go back to a standard-issue, George W. Bush-style Republican. Trump has permanently altered the party; from here on out, the party’s presidential nominees will have to have the right combination of hyper-bigotry and celebrity cachet in order to be competitive in a general election.
Hannity perfectly fits that bill; it can be argued that he’s more Trump than Trump. As a cable-TV staple for nearly a quarter-century, he already has tremendous name recognition. He will certainly not hesitate to indulge in the worst racial, religious, gender and sexuality stereotyping; Nuzzi notes that in 1989, “Hannity was hired as a shock jock on a college-radio station, KCSB, in Santa Barbara, hosting a show called ‘The Pursuit of Happiness.’ Listeners protested when Hannity, on-air, said gays were ‘disgusting people’ who were ‘brainwashing’ the public.” In addition, he’s presumably skilled enough to bluster his way through debates more effectively than Trump.
Make no mistake: “Never Trump” conservatives would embrace Hannity without a second’s delay. Hannity is one of them, not an outsider to the conservative crusade. Hannity will be less likely to deviate from the right-wing script, even rhetorically, than Trump. His fidelity to Big Oil and Big War will be rock-solid. Whatever right-wingers did not get during the Trump years, Hannity will not hesitate to provide.
I don’t know if the Democratic Party is inclined to open up an opposition research file anytime soon. However, I’ll say this: if there was even a hint that, say, Rachel Maddow or Chris Hayes would try to use their media cachet to launch a presidential bid in the near future, Republicans would dig through any trash can and any online archive they could find to dig up “disqualifying” dirt. (Remember the attempt to smear Oprah Winfrey as a bigot against whites when the “Oprah 2020” chatter started up earlier this year?) Let’s hope Democrats aren’t blithely assuming Hannity won’t run and/or can’t win. Lots of Democrats blithely assumed Trump would fail miserably in 2016, and look what happened. Wouldn’t it make sense to keep tabs on Hannity, and maintain a record of his extremism—a record that would demonstrate to non-wingnuts that Hannity is not, to use one of his catchphrases, a great American?