OPINION: Muslim bans, election lies, and mass deportations - welcome to Trump 2024

Former President Donald Trump on stage during a rally at The Ted Hendricks Stadium at Henry Milander Park on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, in Hialeah, Florida. (Alon Skuy/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

Credit: TNS

Former President Donald Trump on stage during a rally at The Ted Hendricks Stadium at Henry Milander Park on Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, in Hialeah, Florida. (Alon Skuy/Getty Images/TNS)

There’s a sense in talking to some Republicans in Georgia that they’re treating the idea of having Donald Trump at the top of the ticket in 2024 like waiting out a hurricane. If they do it right, they’ll still be standing once the storm passes and Trump will be long gone.

For more Republicans than you’d think, waiting out the storm means never, ever talking about Trump. “I’m in Trump Anonymous,” a Republican told me this week.

But high-profile Republicans don’t have the luxury of silence. Some are completely on board with the former president and pushing for a Part 2. But for others, the favored posture is committing to vote for “the Republican nominee,” in 2024 even if it’s Trump. Gov. Brian Kemp is in that camp, as is the Republican National Committee, which asked every presidential candidate this year to promise to support “the nominee” in a loyalty pledge, even if it’s someone else. Not surprisingly, Trump refused.

Former Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a vocal never-Trumper, said this week that promising to vote for any nominee chosen is as good as overthrowing the government yourself, since Trump is the one dominating the race. “That’s insane. That’s nuts,’ he told our Politically Georgia podcast this week. “There’s only one thing on the ballot in 2024. Do you support democracy or authoritarianism?”

If you haven’t checked in on Trump lately, beyond reading about his many court appearances, it’s worth taking a look to see what supporting “the Republican nominee” means next year if Trump continues his romp over the rest of the field.

Take this week in Florida. While his top five challengers were dutifully appearing on the RNC debate stage in Miami, Trump threw his own campaign rally at the exact same time 10 miles up the road in Hialeah.

While the GOP debate had the same old rules and time limits and an audience of well-connected donors, Trump was lighting up a stadium full of rowdy, mostly Hispanic voters wearing MAGA hats chanting, “We want Trump!” and, “USA!”

“I think there’s a debate tonight. Nobody’s talking about it,” he laughed. “It’s 61% for your favorite president, me, and 7% for Bird Brain.” That’s former South Carolina Gov, Nikki Haley, if you haven’t heard that one yet. He also mocked Ron “DeSanctimonius” for getting fewer votes than he did in Florida and the other Republicans for being willing to debate at all.

“Do you think we did the right thing by not participating?” he asked the cheering crowd. People behind him, wearing t-shirts with his Fulton County mugshot emblazoned on them, whooped and cheered, “Yes!”

Beyond Trump’s peculiar brand of pizazz that he regaled the crowd with, he also laid out his “Day One” policy agenda for when he gets back to the Oval Office. This, specifically, is what the people supporting “the eventual Republican nominee” are signing up for.

For starters, he’ll be putting President Joe Biden on trial. “Now that he indicted me, we’re allowed to look at him,” Trump said.

Also, “On Day One, I will renew the Trump travel ban from terror-plagued countries,” he said, referring to his controversial 2017 policy of refusing entry to the United States for all citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.

He also promised to use Day One for “the largest deportation operation in American history.” Because of lax security on the Southern border, he said, the United States “has become the dumping ground of the world,” alleging that other countries are sending droves of mentally ill people to live here.

“Anybody ever heard of Hannibal Lecter?” he asked. “He was a nice fellow, but that’s what is coming into our country right now.”

Another Day One plan: Ending federal funding for any school that teaches Critical Race Theory and sending “not one penny to any school that has a vaccine mandate or a mask mandate.” That nearly every school in America requires the measles vaccine did not seem to dawn on him.

Along with those Day One plans, Trump returned over and over to his false claims that the 2020 elections were “rigged and stolen” from him, including in Georgia. Democrats rigged it once, he said, but he won’t let them do it again. And, by the way, he’s only being prosecuted in four courts around the country because “they” want to keep Trump supporters from voting in 2024.

“They want to silence me because they know I will never silence you,” he said to the roar of the crowd.

Speaking of elections, Trump also promised to move to one-day, paper-ballot voting and eliminate all electronic and absentee voting, especially mail-in ballots. “Anybody who wants mail-in is corrupt, including Republicans,” he said. Put Georgia leaders in that pile, since they have widely encouraged their supporters not to wait to vote on Election Day.

That wasn’t all he had to say about the GOP, which he generally trashed. “It’s time for the Republican establishment to stop pushing weak and ineffective RINOS who nobody wants and nobody’s going to vote for,” he said of the other presidential candidates.

Trump’s disgust for his fellow Republicans is not surprising, but it is notable since it includes so many promising to support “the Republican nominee.”

With just two months to go until the Iowa caucuses, it’s hard to see what would prevent Trump from being that nominee, outside of incapacitation or incarceration. And with the latest AJC poll showing Trump in a dead heat with Biden in Georgia, there are even chances that the “Republican nominee” everyone is endorsing could also be the next president of the United States.

So before they assume they just need to ride out the storm, anti-Trump Republicans should consider that the GOP attacks, personal insults, deportations, Muslim bans, and claims of rigged elections they’re endorsing in the “nominee” may not blow over any time soon. With the help of their silence and shoulder shrugs, Trump could be here to stay.