I was hoping to write less about Trump in 2023. This is why I failed

(Charlie Neibergall/AP)

I was hoping to write less about Trump in 2023. This is why I failed

Doyle McManus

Dec. 31, 2023

My New Year’s resolution twelve months ago was to write fewer columns about Donald Trump. That well-intentioned goal had the same purpose as most good intentions; I quickly fell off the wagon and wrote more columns about Trump in 2023 than the year before.

Like it or not, the former president is the dominant political figure of our time.

He has reshaped the Republican Party in his image and will almost certainly win his presidential nomination even if he is convicted in one of the four criminal charges he is fighting.

He has an equal chance of a second term in the White House, a victory that will allow him to leave his mark on the US government until 2029.

And he promises big things. He says if elected, he will prosecute his opponents (I say go down and sue them), and send the National Guard into crime-ridden cities

search for if

Chicago (worse than Afghanistan), and blocking entry into the US for people who don’t like our religion.

During his first term, Trump pounded but failed to destroy the guardrails of our political system. If he wins a second term, he will likely be more effective, free from limiting influences in his own


cabinet and surrounded by true believers who long to translate his promises into law.

This end-of-year column is my annual exercise in humility, a record of what I did wrong this year and what I did right.

That’s why it starts with a confession: I was wrong to think that Trump and other Republicans’ legal troubles would hinder his march to the Republican nomination.

I was wrong when I talked about the Florida governor’s prospects. Ron DeSantis, whom I have described as Trump’s most potent challenger and the rising star in the conservative firmament.

Too many GOP donors and voters, huh [looks] as a potential merger candidate militant enough to appeal to Trump fans but conventional enough for Republicans tired of the former president’s chaotic style, I wrote. As Republican pollster Whit Ayres said


He’s Trump without the craziness.

But once voters saw DeSantis, he turned out to be simply a less charismatic version of Trump.

Still, I persisted in the desperate hope that the Republican race could turn into a free fight for all.

“This race may be more open than it seems,” I ventured in April.

Wrong again!

Readers often wonder if reporters are biased. We do this in at least one respect: in election years we aim for drama, not orderly coronations.

I also stumbled when writing about President Biden.

In July, I wrote that Biden was betting that the economy would pick up quickly and that voters would give him the credit. The president and I were both premature about the recovery of the economy and have been wrong about the voters so far.

I did do a few things right. In May, I predicted that a Biden-Trump rematch would be largely about which candidate you hate most, and that the state of the economy would likely determine the outcome. It didn’t take a genius to figure that out.

The journalism lesson here is an old one:


unreliable is often unreliable, especially in primary campaigns.

The great thing about primaries is how unpredictable they can be. Well-funded favorites often crumble as soon as the campaign begins. Just ask former GOP hopeful Phil Gramm (1996),

Rudolph W. Rudy

Giuliani (2008) and Jeb Bush (2016).

There is also a more important lesson that we must carry into 2024.

As Jay Rosen, a journalism scholar at New York University, has said, the most important question in this campaign is not the odds, but the stakes, not who has what chances to win, but the consequences for American democracy.

That doesn’t mean you ignore it

horse r

ace; Readers still want to know who


and why. It means that we put the substantive questions first: what would these candidates do in the White House?

A contest between Biden and Trump is not a conventional race between a liberal Democrat and a conservative Republican. It’s a choice between one


year-old institutional and a

77 years old

Norm-breaker who says he would like to suspend the constitution and rule as an autocrat.

To drive home the stakes, we must take Trump’s chilling promises seriously. It also requires pressing Biden on what he would do in a second term, a question he has largely dodged, content to simply act as the anti-Trump.

So there’s my New Year’s resolution for 2024:


o ensure that every reader has as clear a picture as possible of the choice, in this case not only the odds, but also the stakes.

And yes, that means reading more Trump stories written by me, even more than in 2023.


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