Michael Leppert: Campaign toward ‘listless vessels’ makes it hard to win


By Michael Leppert

Guest columnist

It was one of countless interviews given by a gaggle of presidential candidates that could have gone largely unnoticed.

How does describing a specific sect of GOP voters as “listless vessels” compare to one of the greatest hits of the 2016 campaign, “a basket of deplorables?”

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, speaking to the Florida Standard last week, specifically said this: “If all we are is listless vessels that’s just supposed to follow, you know, whatever happens to come down the pike on Truth Social every morning, that’s not going to be a durable movement.”

Now, I’m no fan of his politics, but in that moment, he was absolutely correct. The Trump campaign and others have jumped on the comment as synonymous with Hillary Clinton’s 2016 insult. The faux outrage about the term, once again, conveniently overshadows the important part: Cults of personality don’t make for successful governing philosophies.

There were two polls released last week that back up the sad truth of the controversial comment, though data rarely moves any listless vessel.

First, AP/NORC released a poll that showed many things, but none more important than one particularly hard truth. Fifty-three percent of Americans are saying they “definitely won’t” vote for Donald Trump next year, and another 11% say they “probably won’t” vote for him.

Uh, that’s 64% of Americans who aren’t listless. They aren’t aimlessly floating along waiting for the next absurdity. Their vessel has docked. They have disembarked and have moved on. It’s that other 36% that almost all of the GOP is courting with their campaigns.

Second, in a CBS/YouGov poll, disturbing data showed how listless the bulk of that deep minority has become.

Among Trump voters, the question was asked who is it that you “feel what they tell you is true?” The answers here are stunning.

Seventy-one percent said Trump. OK, it would make sense that a voter trusts the man they support for president, even though no human in the history of humanity has been documented lying more than him.

But only 63% answered “family and friends.” Huh? These people trust Trump more than Mom?

Trump’s support is dangerous because it’s blind. It is like his supporters’ refusal to accept the mountainous evidence of his documented criminality. It’s not just that they don’t believe he did anything wrong. It’s that they don’t believe he is capable of ever doing anything wrong. If he’s the one doing it, that must make it right.

So far in 2023, and almost certainly throughout 2024, this is the GOP campaign we will see. It has long since trickled down and metastasized in Indiana, too.

The two leading candidates for governor, Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and U.S. Sen. Mike Braun, are duking it out for the MAGA vote. Both issued statements of outrage about the indictment of the former president in Georgia. Really? Is that their governing plan for Indiana? A good word to describe it: Listless. They don’t plan to stand up for us. Not like Georgia has.

The Indiana Republican Party has already endorsed Rep. Jim Banks for the open U.S. Senate seat for which he is running. Arguably, there is no greater unconditional sycophant to Trump than Banks. That has become his entire platform.

All three of these Hoosier candidates were once admirable public servants. They thought for themselves, and their platforms were, to varying degree, based on conservative principles. Their campaigns once could have led the electorate to know what it would be getting from them if they rose to office.

If any of these three win next year, what will Indiana actually get?

Nationally, the GOP is going to get creamed next year for many reasons, but none more prominent than the bitter truth that 64% of Americans are planning to vote against Trump. Indiana Republicans are mimicking that listlessness in unrelenting style.

Democrats, don’t interrupt them.

Michael Leppert is an author, educator and communication consultant in Indianapolis. He writes about government, politics and culture at MichaelLeppert.com. This commentary was previously published at indianacapitalchronicle.com. Send comments to [email protected].

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