If you ever read a column that opens with the phrase, “one reason I pay very close attention to the Israeli-Palestinian arena is that a lot of trends get perfected there first and then go global,” you know it’s going to be an adventure.
On Tuesday, New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman — famous for, as Vice once put it, his “vacuous prose” and prognostications gone horribly wrong — published a new think piece titled, “Biden-Cheney 2024?” in which he argues that President Joe Biden should replace Vice President Kamala Harris with Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney or another anti-Trump Republican.
“Before you leap into the comments section, hear me out,” he writes.
We heard him out. We wish we hadn’t.
The entire basis for Friedman’s belief that such a “national unit ticket” could work is because of the purported success of a coalition in Israel where conservative Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and center-left Alternate Prime Minister Yair Lapid “came together for a four-year national unity government.” We at SFGATE will not pretend to be experts on the inter-workings and nuances of Israeli politics (which hardly seems like a utopia where conditions are improving), but Friedman was nice enough to make the argument that Israel is a poor analogy for us.
“America does not have the flexibility of a parliamentary, proportional-representation system, like Israel’s,” Friedman concedes.
What Friedman is embarrassingly blind to is the fact that there’s little evidence his primary goal — “creating a broad national unity vehicle that enables more Republicans to leave the Trump cult” — is possible with a figure like Liz Cheney.
Aside from the fact that there are many reasons Democratic voters would have major issues with Cheney, poll after poll has shown that Trump remains highly popular among Republican voters. While there are polls that show that there’s a significant proportion of Republicans who do not want Trump for president again 2024, Friedman mistakes a desire to move on from Trump the person for a desire to move from “Trumpism” the ideology as loosely defined.
When pollsters have queried hypothetical 2024 Republican presidential primary contests, the candidate not named Trump who garners the most support is Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a combative culture warrior who is perceived by Republican voters as someone who can actually follow through on promises to implement protectionist immigration policies, more restrictive voting laws and measures targeting large tech companies.
GOP voters seem to have little appetite to return to Cheney’s establishmentarian brand of conservatism that emphasizes foreign policy interventionism and laissez faire economics. Candidates who fit that mold hardly register in 2024 GOP primary polls.
“Never-Trump” Republican establishment types have always been over-represented in the elite media circles Friedman runs in, which makes his analysis somewhat unsurprising, albeit no less terrible.