Should Democrats Support Trump in the Republican Primaries for Strategic Reasons?
by Elliot Benjamin, Ph.D., Ph.D. November, 2022
After writing my previous Integral World essay in which I concluded from my Democratic Progressive Integrative perspective that as bad as DeSantis is, Trump is worse , I had this unsettling thought that perhaps it made sense for Democrats to support Trump in the upcoming United States Republican primaries in order to increase the likelihood that Trump would be the Republican 2024 presidential candidate. The logic of this was based upon the results of the 2022 midterms in which hordes of Trump-backed Republican candidates lost their elections (Haque, 2022a, 2022b). As I described in my previous article , one Democratic Progressive political commentator conveyed the following rationale for Democrats supporting Trump in the Republican primaries:
“Although DeSantis may head the pack, any of the Trump alternatives would be worse for America than the return of Trump himself. All six alternatives. . . are younger, smarter, saner, more experienced, arguably mentally healthier than Trump. None of them have the baggage of a history of sexual harassment or buffoonery. That is why supporting Trump for the 2024 Republican nomination makes sense. He will be easier to beat because he would reunite the Democratic party and increase Democratic voter turnout. And even if his efforts to win the GOP nomination were to fail, he likely will smear all of his Republican opponents, weakening them in advance of the general election.” (Dean, 2022).
However, even though intellectually this argument made sense to me, as well as another political commentator’s reinforcing argument about the potential greater destructiveness of a Trumpian president as opposed to Trump himself (Greenblatt, 2022), the idea of supporting Trump in the Republican primaries was more than I could emotionally handle, as I made clear in my essay:
“Well Dean’s and Greenblatt’s arguments make sense to me but the thought of “President Trump” again, makes me feel sick. I wonder what meaning anything anymore would have if we followed Dean’s advice and purposely supported Trump as the Republican presidential nominee. . . . Rather, I think we need to just let things play out as they will and support the January 6th Commission investigation of Trump’s involvement in instigating the Capitol insurrection, as well as all the legal proceedings against Trump.” (Benjamin, 2022)
However, I also acknowledged in my essay the effectiveness of the Democrats making the controversial strategic decision to spend “’millions of dollars on Republican primaries across the country to boost far-right, Trump-endorsed candidates in swing states. And the controversial strategy appears to have paid off for the party as nominees they promoted lost their races to a Democrat last week.’ (Kuchar, 2022)” (Benjamin, 2022)
But as I have read and thought more about this assumption that having Trump as the 2024 Republican presidential candidate would be better for Democrats than having DeSantis or any other Trumpian candidate, I have come to the conclusion that this is not necessarily the case. It is very difficult to predict which way the winds will blow in this scenario, but here is an alternative argument from Lauren Elizabeth that it may very well be best for the Democrats if DeSantis were the 2024 Republican presidential candidate as opposed to Trump:
“What would happen to the Republican Party in particular if Ron DeSantis did manage to eek out a victory [in the Republican presidential primaries]. . . . Well, suffice it to say that Donald Trump would not go quietly, and that’s putting it about as mildly as we possibly can. I’m not sure anyone can genuinely imagine a scene where Trump is graciously conceding, or taking the stage to introduce DeSantis at the convention. There is absolutely no world where Trump would do that, and we all know it. Obviously, there isn’t even a guarantee he would concede at all. . . . Trump would burn the Republican Party to the ground before he allowed the monster he created to defeat him. If Ron DeSantis were to win the Republican nomination, there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that he would run 3rd party, and burying the GOP’s chances for the foreseeable future, which have been looking bleak to begin with. As much as the GOP leadership might despite Trump, they’re as aware of the fact that Trump has solid control of most of the base as we are. Of course they would do everything they can to stop him from a third party run, but I can’t imagine they would be successful.” (Elizabeth, 2022)
Now I certainly don’t know if Elizabeth is correct about Trump running on a 3rd party if DeSantis beat him out for the Republican nomination, but I am very confident that Elizabeth is correct when she says that “Trump would burn the Republican Party to the ground before he allowed the monster he created to defeat him.” In other words, I think it is very likely that Trump’s “mental disturbance” (Lee, 2019) would consume him completely and that his hatred and jealousy of DeSantis would be all he could think of — day and night. If this were to happen, I believe that the consequential detrimental effects on DeSantis and the Republican Party from the raged, hate-filled reactions of Trump’s base would tremendously elevate the chances of Biden or any other Democratic 2024 presidential nominee.
Thus the picture is a complicated one and I don’t think it is at all clear which would be the better scenario for Democrats to contend with: Republican presidential candidate Trump or DeSantis. If Trump becomes the candidate, which at this point I think is still the most likely event, given the multitude of Republican primary candidates who will likely enter the ring and split up their primary votes, similar to how Trump got the 2016 Republican nomination (Goldmacher, 2022), then the far-right Trump supporter base will be happy. But then it appears that the Independents, based upon the results of the 2022 midterm elections, would be more likely to shift their votes to the Democratic candidate, assuming that the Democratic candidate is moderate enough for them, or else not vote. This is the argument in favor of it “rationally” making sense for Democrats to support Trump for the Republican nomination.
But I am afraid that this gamble could backfire. The Republican controlled House is going to do all in their power to throw as much dirt on Biden and his family as they possibly can (Cabral, 2022), and Biden’s already very low job approval ratings may steadily decrease. If Biden seeks the 2024 presidential election then I would not place any bets on what could happen between now and then in terms of who is more “unpopular”: Biden or Trump. And if someone replaces Biden for the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination, who knows how the country would respond to this person: it could run the gamut from too progressive to too centrist to too “minority,” etc. And if DeSantis (or any other Republican who is painted as a relative “moderate” (Geraghty, 2022)) gets the nomination, then it is quite possible that many Independents would be persuaded to vote Republican as opposed to Democrat. But how much would this be counterbalanced by the tremendous anger and resentment from the far-right Trump supporter base, resulting in them refusing to vote for DeSantis or any other Republican who beat out their savior?
The main point is that it can go either way, and my integrative perspective is humble enough to admit that I don’t know the answer but that all perspectives should be entertained . However, I will also say that if push came to shove and I were forced into making a prediction, then once again I would focus on Trump’s apparent “mental disturbance” factor (Lee, 2019). Trump’s potential destructiveness to America and the world from his apparent mental disturbance is what led me to conclude that Trump is worse than DeSantis . And for similar reasons I would have to say that I think Trump’s potential destructiveness to the Republican Party if DeSantis. or any other Republican, gets the United States 2024 presidential nomination is the best possible outcome for the chance of a 2024 Democratic president. So there you have it — I maintain that Trump is worse than DeSantis in terms of destruction to America and the world, and in terms of the possibility of electing a 2024 Democratic president, I will say that I think it is better to have DeSantis as the Republican candidate than Trump.
1) See Elliot Benjamin (2022), Which is a Worse 2024 Possibility for America and the World: President Trump or President DeSantis? www.integralworld.net/benjamin141.html
Benjamin, E. (2022). Which is a Worse 2024 Possibility for America and the World: President Trump or President DeSantis? www.integralworld.net/benjamin141.html
Cabral, S. (2022). House Republicans Say “Top Priority” is to Probe Biden Family. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-63665351
Dean, J. (2022). Trump won’t be back in 2024: Great news, but the alternatives are worse. https://medium.com/deans-list/trump-wont-be-back-in-2024-8cb820e9739d
Elizabeth, L. (2022). If ron DeSantis Becomes the Republican Nominee. https://medium.com/@xlauren-mx/if-ron-desantis-becomes-the-republican-nominee-6f1a5d2c513e
Geraghty, J. (2022). Opinion: DeSantis would pave the way for a post-Trump GOP return to normal. https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/11/14/desantis-normal-republican/
Goldmacher, S. (2022). A crowd of possible Trump rivals renews G.O.P. fears of a divided field. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/11/20/us/politics/2024-republican-field.html
Greenblatt, J. (2022). It could happen here: Why America is tipping from hate to the unthinkable — and how we can stop it. Mariner Books.
Haque, U. (2022a). America’s coming back — but will the GOP wreck it? https://eand.co/americas-coming-back-but-will-the-gop-wreck-it-96ccf1e1f85d
Haque, U. (2022b). It look like Trump is done. So can anyone (really) replace him? Can Trumpism survive without Trump? https://eand.co/it-looks-like-trump-is-done-so-can-anyone-really-replace-him-246fdeec880d
Kuchar, S. (2022). Democrats spent millions boosting ultra right candidates in midters. The strategy worked. https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2022/11/15/democrats-boosted-trump-gop-primaries-helping-midterms/10670042002/
Lee, B. (Ed.). (2019). The dangerous case of Donald Trump: 37 psychiatrists and mental health experts assess a president. St. Martin’s Press.