HAINES: Trump jumps the shark

The character of Arthur “The Fonz” Fonzarelli “jumps the shark” the infamous scene from the TV show Happy Days. File

The entertainment industry colorfully describes the moment when an unbelievable plot point is used to save a show’s declining popularity as “jumping the shark” from Happy Days or “nuking the fridge” from Indiana Jones. 

Former President Donald Trump has been jumping the political shark multiple times recently in unsuccessful attempts to reverse his deflating political popularity. 

When Trump shark-jumping is combined with clear electoral evidence that Trump is well past his political sell-by date — serial political loser in 2020 (national), 2021 (Georgia), 2022 (midterms), and, now, last Tuesday’s 2022 Georgia Senate runoff — the combination spells the end of any viable Trump candidacy within the Republican Party. 

The Trump shark-jump started with Trump persisting as king of the election deniers and refusing responsibility for January 6, which resulted in Trump’s own VP and many other party leaders throwing Trump under the bus and deflating his own popularity. 

In the last few weeks, the shark-jump gathered speed quickly. There’s Trump meeting with white supremacists and anti-Semites, and his tone-deaf 2024 announcement on the heels of midterm defeats for Trump marquee-endorsed candidates. 

Now, the ultimate Trump shark-jump: Trump has gone from defending the Constitution — part of the presidential oath — to urging suspending the Constitution as remedy for his 2020 stolen election purported grievances. 

No US mainstream political party would allow as standard-bearer a candidate that outright urges defacing the Constitution.  Republican leaders already were signaling vigorously that they will not permit Trump to become its 2024 presidential candidate, and that’s gathered force since Trump’s Constitution fantasy. 

What’s next?  

For Republican Party leaders, rescuing the party’s brand is top priority. So they redouble efforts to forcibly expel the Trump foreign body while keeping on side as many Trump supporters as possible. Republican leaders view this as necessary to keep its statehouse/legislature advantages and immediately improve its national prospects at the national level in both Congress and the White House. 

Plus, there’s a lot of evidence that a 2024 presidential candidate pushing President Trump-like policies without Trump baggage/drama and Trump erratic focus will have a very good shot against incumbent Biden fronting for progressives unpopular outside the ‘blue coasts.’

We’re in very early days on the 2024 contest.  But what’s known today: Trump has jumped the shark politically and won’t again be the Republican presidential nominee. 

Terry Haines is founder of Washington-based Pangaea Policy, a lifelong UNC basketball fan, and a former senior congressional aide, presidential appointee, and law firm partner.  This is adapted from a Pangaea note to financial markets.