Prior to the advent of Donald Trump, I spent my entire adult life as a loyalist to the Republican Party. The reason, pure and simple, was Dwight David Eisenhower, whom I regarded, along with FDR, as one of the two greatest presidents of the 20th century. This presidential greatness, combined with Ike’s outstanding leadership as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe qualified him, in my view, as the greatest American of the 20th century.
There were six Presidential achievements of Eisenhower that were truly landmark: 1) Ending the Korean War in 1953; 2) Preventing the United States from entering into the French-Vietnamese conflict in 1954; 3) Enactment of the National interstate Highway System in 1956, which made possible the growth and flourishing of Suburban America; 4) Desegregation of Little Rock, Arkansas schools in 1957; 5) enactment of Civil Rights Act of 1957; and 6) his farewell speech warning of the emergence of a military-industrial complex.
Yet if you attend a Republican national convention or campaign rally in this era, you will hear virtually no mention of Lincoln or Eisenhower. Instead, you will listen to an endless series of delusionary encomiums to Donald Trump, the worst president in American history.
I have documented throughout my years at this column the truly inexecrable features of the nightmare of the Trump era. Among the most salient features are the Trump racism , his misogyny, , his Mussolini- style fascism , his attempted insurrectionist coup-d’état against the United States government on January 6, 2021 , his attempt to steal the election through “fake elector” schemes, his criminal mismanagement of the Coronavirus pandemic, and the $2 billion grift by Jared Kushner from the Saudi sovereign wealth fund.
The AP-NORC poll released this morning showed surging poll numbers for Joe Biden. This is a product of a brilliant Biden strategy where he has limited his attacks to Maga-movement Republicans, who embrace the anti-democracy, fascist, racist credo of Donald Trump.
The Biden strategy is working. The Democrats are positioned to capture sole control of the US Senate, and Democratic retention of control of the US House of Representatives is well within reach.
All this portends a very gloomy Republican future in New Jersey and nationwide. The Republican Party is no longer a political party in the traditional sense, but rather a cult whose omnipotent leader is Donald Trump. Due to his virtual dictatorial control of the GOP, they have nominated a large number of unwinnable candidates for this election cycle. And they can only win if King Donald is deposed. The only possibility of removing King Donald, the Lunatic Ruler would be a massive wipe-out defeat that also results in the disgrace of the Donald.
There is a possibility of that in 2022-2023.
If the Democrats win both houses and Trump is indicted on charges arising out of the Mar-A-Lago scandal, he will be too discredited to continue as Maga cult leader. And for those mainstream Republicans who are serious about winning future elections, the notion will sink in that the GOP has to be purged of all lingering legacies of Trumpism in order to be viable in future elections.
In New Jersey, these exigencies shake out as follows:
For the 2025 gubernatorial race, Jack Ciattarelli is too tainted by his 2021 flirtation with Trumpism and Maga. He had been a principled anti-Trumper before 2020, but he became a pathetic Maga acquiescent in order to win the 2021 GOP gubernatorial nomination. This is a bad legacy to have in order to lead the party into the post-Trump era.
Mike Testa has an even bigger handicap to bear. He had served as a county campaign manager for Trump in 2020. And although he is not personally a racist, he has utilized the race card when it suited his political interest. Finally, as a man who styles himself as a cultural warrior, he is the exact wrong medicine for a New Jersey seeking a time of healing after an era of Trump turmoil.
In Jon Bramnick, the NJGOP has a potential candidate right out of central casting for 2025. There is no Republican state official in the nation with a more courageous and principled opposition to the cult of Trump and Maga than Jon Bramnick.
Before the 2019 legislative elections, Bramnick, then the Assembly Republican leader, was threatened with defeat by Trumpist forces who vowed to run an independent ticket against him and his running mate in the 21st District, incumbent Assemblywoman Nancy Foster Munoz, unless they agreed to support the Trump reelection effort.
Bramnick absolutely refused to do so, because of aspects of Trumpism that run counter to his core principles. And he won.
Bramnick is a center-right Republican, very protective of small business and tough on crime. Yet while a strong leader for his caucus, Bramnick always maintained an excellent reputation for civility.
I received an interesting text last week from former Democratic Senator Ray Lesniak that captured the uniqueness of the Bramnick style. He had read a quote from Bramnick in Insider NJ, and the following was his reaction:
Good platform to run for Governor
“You can get along with people you disagree with. You can get along with the other side of the aisle. Actually, it is imperative for the future of this democracy that we stand together, and we work together,” Bramnick said. “I deeply believe our democracy is under attack from within.”
Jon Bramnick would provide for Republicans the ultimate effective response to the end of the era of Trump. As Lesniak noted above, he is a partisan with a very effective bipartisan style. That may play very well in the politics of 2025.
Alan J. Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as executive director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.