US President Donald Trump is fighting for his political life, but win or lose in November his political heirs are restless. Whenever this happens, the post-Trump era will be a battle for the soul of the GOP, between “America first” and a possible revival of more traditional ideological conservatism and Atlanticism.
Logic might suggest that potential Republican candidates would snub a president who is 9 points lower in the polls and who is seen as an agent of chaos by more than half the country.
But former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas all rushed to audition for Republican primary voters in the this week’s congress. They are following in the footsteps of one of their party’s most astute political tacticians: Richard Nixon.
In 1964, Nixon was in the political wilderness after losing the presidency to John F. Kennedy four years earlier. But unlike other party greats, he embraced radical party candidate Barry Goldwater, who even then looked destined for devastating defeat.
Knowing that the Republican candidate will need him, Pompeo makes it clear that he is one of Trump’s most trusted lieutenants. Cotton, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, now serves in Trump’s Culture War and hits the elites – despite having attended Harvard himself. Haley has been particularly adept in building her profile and foreign policy credentials alongside Trump, and she has eluded the administration with her reputation bolstered – her rare farewell to the President’s Oval Office will make great publicity the country.
It’s a balancing act for these Republican rising stars. Trump will be furious at any sign that he is about to come out and hates sharing the star. But even he cannot deny the inexorable progress of the US presidential election calendar.
Big Easy Postcard
As educators, politicians and parents debate reopening schools across the world, producer Shelby Rose has moved forward at New Orleans Graduate School. We asked him what the famous hellish first year in law looked like at the age of Covid-19. She writes:
“Utility” is not a word typically associated with the ivory tower, but these days even academics have to acknowledge the coronavirus pandemic. At Tulane Law School, one of the few top US universities offering in-person classes, students like myself might try to stay clear-headed – but every move here is dictated by practical rules and guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control.
On the balmy New Orleans campus, Tulane students walk in single file on separate paths, sit in one or two separate seats, and shout responses to professors behind nearly soundproof plexiglass shields. And it’s just at school. On the outside, Tulane’s green and gold face masks are the must-have new fashion item. Feasts of fellowship have been replaced by sessions six feet apart.
Although many of us have traveled hundreds of miles to be here, law students have been limited to interactions on social media and messaging portals. Instead of briefing cases together in the library or exchanging plans, we talk online about solidarity and support. But the discussion of torts and contracts has quickly become a ditch as the elections draw closer and the coronavirus continues to spread.
Unable to build personal relationships during this unprecedented year, we don’t just live the spirit life, we are confined to it – and stress manifests itself.
Which presidential candidate would prefer Beijing? Although U.S. intelligence agencies say China “prefers” Trump to lose the November vote, the U.S. president has a telling nickname on Chinese social media: “Chuan Jianguo” or “Build Trump Country” – a joke that its chaotic ways strengthen China’s position. As CNN’s Selina Wang reports, the Chinese Communist Party sees the risks and benefits in every man. While Trump has weakened U.S. alliances, paving the way for China on the world stage, he is a volatile X factor in their plans. On the other hand, the more traditional candidate, Biden, could build stronger global and regional coalitions to counter Chinese influence.