Juan Williams: Trump's GOP descends into farce

Here are the early gambling odds for 2024 politics.

Right now, the smart money in Las Vegas says either President BidenJoe BidenFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries FDA aims to give full approval to Pfizer vaccine by Labor Day: report Overnight Defense: Police officer killed in violence outside Pentagon | Biden officials back repeal of Iraq War authorization | NSC pushed to oversee 'Havana Syndrome' response MORE or Vice President Harris have a better chance to win the 2024 presidential election than former President TrumpDonald TrumpFive takeaways from the Ohio special primaries Missouri Rep. Billy Long enters Senate GOP primary Trump-backed Mike Carey wins GOP primary in Ohio special election MORE.

But oddsmakers give Trump, who will be 78 by the time of the next election, a good shot at becoming the Republican nominee.

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Trump’s 41 percent favorable rating in the RealClearPolitics (RCP) average of polls — a poor rating for a former president — hides the fact that two-thirds of Republicans recently told Quinnipiac University polling that they want to see Trump run for the nomination in 2024.

Why wouldn’t Trump run, with that kind of hold on the party?

The problem for Trump is that while his candidacy is the tallest tree in the GOP jungle, it has shallow roots in the soft, shifting soil of a cult of personality.

At his maximum political power, Trump is a towering idol for a fickle crowd that agrees on only one thing — hating Democrats.

Trump had no strong political agenda to attract support when he ran in 2020.

He still has no agenda.

He makes headlines by demonizing Democrats as “socialists” and shouting his latest grievance with liberal “cancel culture” into microphones. He also attacks Republicans who don’t bow to him.

The same lowball strategy is now true for Trump’s imitators among Republicans on Capitol Hill.

Last week, Sen. John BarrassoJohn Anthony BarrassoSunday shows preview: Delta concerns prompt CDC mask update; bipartisan infrastructure bill to face challenges in Senate Tracy Stone-Manning's confirmation treatment was simply unacceptable — and it must stop Former Wyoming Sen. Mike Enzi dies after bicycle accident MORE (R-Wyo.), the third-ranking Republican in Senate leadership, said his agenda is to make Biden a “one-half-term president.”

That myopic political agenda fits with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellOvernight Health Care: Florida becomes epicenter of COVID-19 surge | NYC to require vaccination for indoor activities | Biden rebukes GOP governors for barring mask mandates McConnell warns Schumer cutting off debate quickly could stall infrastructure deal Top House Democrat says party would lose elections if they were held today: report MORE’s (R-Ky.) pledge a month ago that “100 percent of my focus is on stopping” the Biden administration.

The best that can be said of the Barrasso-McConnell strategy is that it is all they have to get out their base for the midterm elections.

The worst to be said about that plan of attack comes from former Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanTo cut poverty and solve the labor shortage, enhance the Earned Income Tax Credit Wisconsin GOP quietly prepares Ron Johnson backup plans RealClearPolitics reporter says Freedom Caucus shows how much GOP changed under Trump MORE (R-Wis.). Trump’s GOP is defined by “the latest grievance” and “resentments instead of by ideals,” Ryan said recently.

What happened to legitimate GOP criticism of Biden’s policies?

It turns out Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief plan, approved with only Democratic votes in Congress, remains incredibly popular in polls.

Biden’s infrastructure bill is also popular. And Biden’s approval rating is 53 percent, according to the RCP average.

Let’s continue:

What happened to Republicans joining the debate over ideas for dealing with police abuse?

Oh, right — Republicans in Congress fear upsetting their older, white voting base by holding police responsible for racially disproportionate shootings of Black citizens and using deadly holds of the kind that led to the murder of George Floyd.

In fact, the grievance of the moment among the Trump base is outrage at schools teaching about America’s long history of slavery, rigid racial segregation and the civil rights struggle.

What happened to the debate over the stunning number of billionaires and big corporations that pay little to no taxes?

It turns out Republicans are more concerned with how some tax records became public than with rising income inequality and billionaires evading taxes.

What about Republican input on urgently needed immigration reform to deal with the more than 10 million people in the country without proper documents?

Well, Republicans prefer to take selfies at the border than offer any ideas for passing immigration reform to solve a major national problem.

What happened to the longstanding conservative fight for fiscal discipline?

That went away with Trump blowing up the national debt with his tax cuts.

What happened to right-wing passion for the rule of law?

Oh, right — they don’t want to talk about Trump using the Justice Department to try to undo a lawful election.

So instead, Republican talking heads and elected officials are focused on how the Hasbro toy company represents the gender of a plastic toy, Mr. Potato Head.

And then there is the right-wing talk shows’ fevered fascination with whether transgender children are allowed to compete on girls’ school teams.

Before the fury over Mr. Potato Head, the right-wing echo chamber was in a rage over the decision by Dr. Seuss’ estate to stop selling books that featured racial caricatures of Asians and other minorities.

A cynic could ask if this is a joke and laugh it off as culture wars folly.

But Trump and his loyalists, in politics and the media, continue to raise money and attract a crowd with this approach. For example, recent attacks on Anthony FauciAnthony FauciPaul knocks YouTube for removing video he posted, points users to competitor Average daily COVID-19 infections topped last summer's peak, CDC says Ron Johnson praises conservative author bashed by Fauci MORE, the nation’s top virus doctor, are baseless — but they get attention in the right’s echo chamber for undercutting a man vilified by Trump.

There is no ignoring the market for populist grievance among people who feel dizzy at the rapid changes in the nation — from the shift away from blue-collar jobs to rising racial diversity and acceptance of a range of sexual identities.

It was 29 years ago that right-wing firebrand Pat Buchanan gave his famous “culture war” speech at the Republican convention. He lashed out against “the raw sewage of pornography that so terribly pollutes our popular culture."

Sad to say, but Buchanan now looks like an intellectual giant among Republicans compared to the current toxic silliness about Mr. Potato Head that consumes the Trump Party in 2021 — and potentially 2024.

Juan Williams is an author, and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.