Ride or die.
Support The Bulwark.
  Join Now
The Bulwark Presents
The Triad by JVL

Trump Is the One Who Wants to Burn It All Down

Maybe stop worrying about the Never Trumpers and start worrying about the guy actually blowing up the GOP?
August 1, 2020
Featured Image
(Hannah Yoest / Shutterstock / Photo by David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)

1. Incentives

In 1996, everyone knew Bob Dole was going to lose. You knew it. I knew it. The American people knew it.

But Dole fought the good fight. He campaigned hard. He did not sow chaos and destruction across the American political landscape.

Why not?

Because Bob Dole was a Republican who had an institutional interest—not merely a personal interest—in the health of the Republican party. Dole’s incentives were aligned with the party’s incentives, and so Dole ran an honorable campaign that gave down-ballot Republicans the ability to not only survive, but thrive.

The GOP held its majority in the House (they lost only three seats) and actually picked up two Senate seats in 1996, even as Clinton beat Dole by +9 points.

Here is a thing some people said in 2016 about Donald Trump:

This man, in addition to his general bad character and unfitness for office, has no interest in the Republican party as an institution and will burn it to the ground if he thinks it will profit him one iota. Ceding control of the party to a person whose incentives have previously, and may in the future, wildly diverge from the party’s incentives is an invitation to disaster.

So, about Trump’s delay-the-election tweet yesterday . . .

What is Donald Trump’s incentive structure right now? The hierarchy pretty obviously goes something like this:

(1) Win the election.
(2) Avoid blame for losing the election.
(3) Bind his voters more tightly to his own person.
(4) Establish a framework for his next venture.

You will note that “Protecting Congressional Republicans” is not on that list.