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OPINION | BRADLEY GITZ: Strange bedfellows

by Bradley Gitz | May 29, 2023 at 3:59 a.m.

In 1917, as the Great War was reaching its bloody climax, the German High Command put Vladimir Lenin on a sealed train and shipped him from Switzerland into Russia.

The move served the interests of both parties, however contrary their ideological orientations -- Lenin got to go home and carry out his revolution, the Germans got a separate peace on the Eastern Front (the Brest-Litovsk Treaty) that allowed them to shift their army to the west for a final drive on Paris (which, thankfully, failed).

That example of strange bedfellows united by common interests came to mind when considering CNN's town hall with Donald Trump, otherwise known in such circles as "the greatest threat to our democracy."

Those condemning CNN from the left apparently didn't get the memo and would probably be less unhappy if they thought about it in terms of the 2024 presidential outcome -- anything that helps Trump helps Joe Biden and Democrats, and CNN clearly set out to do precisely that, first by giving him the otherwise inexplicable town hall and then setting it up in such a fashion that he would have raucous audience support for everything he said, no matter how false and/or patently ridiculous.

CNN got a ratings bump at a much-needed time, but more importantly gave the only Republican the doddering Biden has a chance of beating an even bigger one, helping him expand his poll lead and thereby further convey an impression of distressing inevitability.

The idea that Trump has been playing some kind of 3D chess has always been absurd, but the fact that he isn't disciplined enough to finish even a game of checkers hasn't mattered when he's been assisted and nurtured by the left at every juncture.

The Democrats and Democrat media would have had to invent Trump if he didn't exist, and they continue to bolster him because they know it is the best way to win elections and then use the political power thereby acquired to continue a radical left transformation of the country ("elections have consequences," in Barack Obama's words).

Those who doubt that Trump has been the left's best friend, and that the left recognizes this and is intent on keeping it that way, need only answer a simple question: Eight years after Trump descended that golden staircase to announce his candidacy, is the country more or less left-leaning in terms of policies and political culture? To honestly answer that is also to answer the question of whether Trump has served the agenda of the right or the left.

The more Trump is in the news, for whatever reasons, even those that would decisively end the political careers of others, the more likely he is to both win the GOP nomination next summer and then lose the general election in November.

If Trump were to become the Republican nominee, Biden would hide out in his basement again (this time, tellingly, the White House basement), make as few public appearances as possible, let Trump do all the talking in debates, and thus again allow him to destroy himself in the eyes of voters in the Phoenix, Atlanta, and Milwaukee suburbs.

The 2024 campaign wouldn't be about inflation, the border, or crime, but re-litigating 2020, what happened on Jan. 6, 2021, Trump's accumulating legal battles, etc. It will be all about him and in such circumstances, an inverse relationship can be detected in which Trump's support goes up among his die-hard fans and goes down by greater measure with everyone else.

Like other rapprochements (think Nixon's "opening to China" here), that between Democrat media and Trump is also directed against a common foe -- Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.

Democrats have ordered up a stream of media hit pieces on DeSantis because he is obviously the foe they fear most. He is also just as obviously the Republican rival Trump most fears, with his MAGA Inc. super-PAC already having spent more money (over $15 million) on attack ads against the Florida governor than it spent supporting Republican candidates in last year's midterms.

Within this context, Trump is, in typically mercenary fashion, willing to make amends with "the enemies of the people" and even attack DeSantis from the left on abortion, pandemic responses, entitlement reform and whatever else to almost certain media applause.

Although it all appears to be working smoothly thus far (again, because the most dimwitted of Republicans, i.e., die-hard Trump supporters, keep taking the bait), there remains something inherently tricky in a strategy designed to build up an alleged enemy of democracy in order to then beat him in a democratic election.

As Gerard Baker reminds us in The Wall Street Journal, Democrats cheered on a supposedly has-been cowboy Republican in 1980 because they thought he would be the easiest opponent for their weak incumbent to beat. Ronald Reagan ended up trouncing Jimmy Carter that year, and Democrats didn't so much as sniff the White House for the next 12 years.

Come to think of it, there were probably also lots of German soldiers being mauled on the Eastern Front in World War II who at that point regretted the German role in helping to create something called the Red Army.

Freelance columnist Bradley R. Gitz, who lives and teaches in Batesville, received his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Illinois.

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