TR wanted to be president again. He thought Taft was doing a mediocre job. And he argued (with a certain logic) that he’d never really had the two terms to which an American president was traditionally entitled because he’d only been elected president once—his first term, remember, had merely been the completion of McKinley’s.
But the Republican Party hated TR even more by 1912, even if the voters adored him. So they renominated Taft against the popular consensus. In response, TR founded a third party, the infamous “Bull Moose” party. This split the Republican vote, though in the process, TR got more votes than Taft, the only time in history that one of the two main parties finished in third place. This handed the presidency to Woodrow Wilson, one of the most destructive men of the 20th century (and the first academic to be elected president). Wilson never would have stood a chance had the Republican nomination gone to TR—he was elected with a mere 41 percent of the vote, an historic low.
But from the Republican perspective, it was better to lose the presidential race and have a Democrat in power with whom they could work—one who could play the game and be part of the machine—than it was to have someone who couldn’t be controlled. They never again made the mistake of nominating a man who wasn’t under their thumb. At least, not until 2016.
So remember: The GOP isn’t really our party. It never was. That is the central truth that the Trump phenomenon has exposed—or exposed anew. It’s a political machine, just like the Democratic Party, and it wants to run itself, not be run by “ordinary” people like you and me. Trump’s nomination the first time around, from the GOP’s perspective, was a huge mistake, just as TR’s had been. And they have no intention of repeating that kind of mistake.
The GOP and the Democrats and the media are all agreed on one, central point: Trump cannot become president again. All these power groups’ motivations are different, but their interests are aligned, and the stakes are practically existential.
Keep the story of the 1900 Republican Convention in mind, too, when you think of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis: He’s a huge success in Florida, and is the only governor standing up to the federal government in any meaningful way. What could be better than to seduce him away from that role with the promise of the presidency? Kill two birds with one stone, and kill America, too, while you’re at it.
Trump was a huge mistake: He was the biggest mistake machine politicians had made in over a century. The success of Trump’s presidency dealt establishment politicians a heavy blow. A second Trump term might kill them, and they know it.