But the jockeying for the post-Trump future of the Republican Party has started. In essence, the question is whether the Republicans will continue speeding at 95 mph down Crazy Street or if they will take a detour onto Sanity Lane. The wide range of possibilities is represented by two potential presidential candidates: Larry Hogan and Tucker Carlson.
Hogan is the anti-Trump. The governor of Maryland supports action to address global warming and gun control. He endorses Roe v. Wade. He is a fiscal conservative. He backed the impeachment inquiry into Trump and blasted the process as “a sham and a joke” because House Republicans were not allowed to call witnesses and Senate Republicans refused to do so.
In no small part because of these deviations from Trumpist orthodoxy, Hogan has an approval rating almost twice as high as Trump’s — and that’s in a blue state. Hogan flirted with a primary challenge to Trump last year, and now, with a new book coming out, he is said to be positioning himself for a presidential run.
As a lifelong Republican until the day after the last presidential election, I am thoroughly disenchanted with the current state of the GOP. As far as I am concerned, all of Trump’s enablers need to be defeated — and that includes the entire Republican caucus in the House and Senate save for Sen. Mitt Romney (Utah). Hogan is one of the few potential candidates who could convince me to cast a ballot for a Republican again, because he is one of the few elected Republicans who has been untainted by Trump’s corruption, racism and incompetence. But his very sanity, centrism and sobriety are likely to count against him among the party’s base, which savors with lip-smacking glee a steady diet of populist lunacy from the Oval Office.
If Republicans like having a racist TV star in office, they can nominate Carlson to carry on Trump’s legacy. The second-least-surprising news story of the past week — after Trump’s get-out-of-jail-free card for his crony Roger Stone — is that Carlson’s former head writer, Blake Neff, has a long history of making “horrendous and deeply offensive racist, sexist and homophobic comments” (to quote Fox News management). Neff has now resigned for doing online what Carlson has been rewarded with riches and ratings for doing on the air. Truly there is no justice in America.
Carlson’s show has become the top-rated program on Fox News — and in all of cable news — not because of his sycophancy toward Trump; it is physically impossible to surpass Sean Hannity in that regard. Carlson’s ratings success is directly attributable to his willingness to be even more offensive than his colleagues — and on Fox News, that’s really saying something.
Last week was typical. Carlson attacked Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) as a “coward,” “fraud,” “moron” and a “deeply silly and unimpressive person” who “actually hate[s] America.” Duckworth is a career Army officer who lost both her legs when her helicopter was shot down in Iraq. The most courageous thing that Carlson has ever done was to wear a bow tie on the air. Yet a TV host who has never served in uniform does not hesitate to calumniate a wounded war hero — and his audience applauds his cruelty and shamelessness. Shades of Trump’s attack on John McCain for having been captured in North Vietnam!
Likewise, Carlson’s audience seems to thrill to his transgressive racism: He has said that white supremacy is a hoax; warned viewers that “this moment we’re living through … is definitely not about Black lives, and remember that when they come for you”; argued that immigrants make our “country poor and dirtier and more divided”; described former president Barack Obama as “America’s chief racial arsonist”; championed the “plight” of white South African farmers; and called Iraqis “semiliterate primitive monkeys.”
Little wonder that former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke suggested last week that Trump dump Vice President Pence and replace him with Carlson. (White supremacists have a long history of hailing — make that “heiling” — Carlson.)
That’s unlikely to happen, but already there is buzz in Republican circles about Carlson running in 2024. No one in 2012 foresaw that Trump would become the Republican nominee in 2016. So, too, no one today knows who will be the standard-bearer in 2024. But it tells you a lot about the debased state of the GOP that a Hogan victory in the Republican primaries would be a lot more surprising than a Carlson victory.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly inferred that David Duke had characterized Vice President Pence as a "Zio NeoCon warmonger." According to Newsweek, Duke was instead referring to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, whom Duke said should be replaced at the State Department.