Is Donald Trump the Best Republican Candidate in 2024?

Is Donald Trump the Best Republican Candidate in 2024?

This question is both important and difficult. Important because the answer could affect the fate of the country. Difficult because Trump has been simultaneously outstanding and terrible. Outstanding in his numerous and singular accomplishments as president, which were all the more significant because they were achieved despite the vilest assaults in presidential history. Terrible in his ungentlemanly and often shameful treatment of others.

Those who support Trump are impressed by his achievements, but they disagree about his treatment of others. Some see it as acceptable because it shows (in their view) strength and manliness. Others see it as at best juvenile and at worst rude, crude, and divisive.

Those who oppose Trump believe his treatment of others was so offensive and such an impediment to social harmony that it negates his achievements. This is clearly an overreaction, but it is nevertheless understandable, as these examples of Trump’s characterizations make clear.

Crooked Hillary Clinton, Lyin’ Ted Cruz, Little Marco Rubio, Low energy Jeb Bush, Goofy Elizabeth Warren, Crazy Bernie Sanders, Mini Mike Bloomberg, Moonbeam Jerry Brown, Coco Chow Elaine Chao, Broken Old Crow Mitch McConnell, Low IQ Maxine Waters, Sleepy Eyes Chuck Todd, Jeff Bozo (Bezos).

More offensive than these slurs are Trump’s alleged questioning of John McCain’s heroism, “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured,” and his attack on Carly Fiorina’s appearance, “Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?

Some might argue that most of those ill-treatments of others took place years ago and would have no effect on a Trump second term. I would disagree. First, people’s names define them as individuals. Moreover, mocking a person’s name goes far beyond offending the person–it also insults his or her relatives and ancestors. This is never a small matter, nor does it pass quickly from their memories.

Secondly, Trump’s penchant for such insults did not end when his term as president ended. It is in fact still present. Less than a year ago, out of the blue, he publicly mocked Ron DeSantis by calling him DeSanctimonious. The only explanation for this insult was DeSantis’ outstanding achievements as governor and the widely held view that he would make a good president. In other words, Trump’s motive appeared to be simply (and ignobly) to weaken a possible future opponent. That would explain why in recent months the Trump campaign has run a series of commercials attacking (in my view, unfairly) DeSantis’ voting record as a congressman, and why Trump publicly suggested that DeSantis owed his election as Florida’s governor to . . . you guessed it . . . Donald J. Trump.

With these facts noted, we can address the question “Is Donald Trump the Best Republican Candidate in 2024?” Because much could happen to change my view between now and the primaries, my answer will be tentative. Also, given that Trump’s performance has been both “outstanding” and “terrible,” the answer will be in two parts.

From the perspective of proven achievement, it is clear Trump stands alone. (After all, he alone among potential candidates has an actual record to consider.) From the perspective of treatment of other people, however, I believe almost any other candidate is likely to be superior to Trump.

These conflicting assessments appear to make it impossible to decide whether Trump is the best candidate. Nevertheless, we can decide which of the two factors–achievement or treatment of others–is more important. In ordinary circumstances, we would say performance is more important because it profoundly affects not just a group of individuals but all citizens. But in this case, we need to consider whether Trump’s treatment of others has alienated so many voters that, even if he defeats his primary opponents, he will almost certainly lose the election. The more likely that scenario, the more difficult it is to regard Trump as the “best” candidate.

So far, this essay has identified the complexities of the issue, but two crucial questions remain lurking beneath the surface: Will selecting someone other than Trump as the Republican candidate deny the country the kind of leadership Trump delivered during his presidency? And could a different candidate than Trump bring any benefits that were lacking during the Trump administration?”

I recently heard another presidential candidate, Larry Elder, discuss both matters on Steve Hilton’s television show, The Next Revolution. When asked what he says to people who wonder why he is running against Donald Trump, Elder gave this response: “Have you lost any friends because of your support for Donald  Trump? Do you tip-toe around coworkers because of your support for Donald Trump? Do you no longer have relationships with your relatives because of your support for Donald Trump? If that is the case for many of us, then we have a problem. So if you like Trump policies, then you need a messenger for whom people in the middle, the so-called swing voters, can vote.”  

Elder’s point is well taken. Trump’s policies were brilliant and highly effective. However, like all expressions of truth and wisdom, they emanate from God rather than humans. Humans are simply the messengers of that truth and wisdom. Donald Trump was inspired to carry them out and he deserves our unending thanks and appreciation for acting on that inspiration. But we are not, on that account, obligated to vote for him in 2024. Nor should we assume that he alone can restore America to its prior greatness. Others may be able to do as well, or better, especially if they approach that task with humility, kindness, and the commitment to promote harmony in the nation. I believe Ron DeSantis, Larry Elder, and Vivek Ramaswamy are such individuals. Perhaps there are others as well.

Before we decide who is the best candidate, we should therefore give all candidates fair, impartial consideration. In addition being the right thing to do, this will encourage a renewal of meaningful conversation with our relatives and friends.

Copyright © 2023 by Vincent Ryan Ruggiero. All rights reserved.

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Vincent Ryan Ruggiero