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RUBEN NAVARRETTE JR.: Fueled by envy, Trump unleashes friendly fire on fellow Republicans

Brace yourself, America. Former President Donald Trump is bringing crazy back. As if we were running low. We’re not.

Like a downsized worker who can’t accept being laid off, the former president wants to reapply for his old job.

Last week, Trump did what everyone expected him to do when he announced a third bid for the presidency. And, almost immediately, much of his own party recoiled in terror.

Before the announcement, a group of CNN reporters interviewed a couple dozen Republicans in both the Senate and House and found that “very few were eager to embrace a 2024 run (by Trump) — instead pointing to their hope that another candidate will emerge or that the field will be big enough so voters can choose someone else who could appeal to middle-of-the-road voters.”

The concerns about Trump were what you would expect from sober and reasonable people who approach politics thoughtfully — which is why it was so shocking to hear them coming from Republicans! The lawmakers said that another White House bid by Trump could damage the GOP by bringing division and drama.

He also brings his own supply of chaos. The fact that Trump had so much control over picking which Republicans would run for Senate ultimately allowed Democrats to retain control of the chamber.

Given that the midterm elections brought heartbreaking losses in the governor’s race in Arizona and the Senate races in Nevada and Pennsylvania, more Republicans are waking up to the realization that Trump is willing to destroy the GOP in order to lead it. He has only one cause he cares about: himself. ’Twas always thus.

But Republicans couldn’t see it in 2016, or in 2020, because they were too busy enjoying the spectacle of Trump attacking the liberal media, taunting Democrats and undermining left-wing special interests.

Well, guess what? Trump 3.0 promises to be a lot less fun for Republicans. That’s because these days the caustic bully reserves his most vicious blows for the group he feels most threatened by: fellow Republicans.

Maybe you’re thinking this isn’t news. After all, in 2016, Trump ridiculed Republican opponents. Remember “Low Energy Jeb” and “Little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted”? But his 2024 arsenal of insults is shaping up to be next-level. His jealousy is red hot, and it seems to be triggered by Republican governors — well, two in particular.

Just a few days before the midterm elections, Trump did himself a lot of harm with the GOP base by launching gratuitous attacks on the party’s new golden boy: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis. With his degrees from Yale and Harvard, military service, legislative experience in Congress and executive experience as governor, DeSantis is known in Republican corners of the Sunshine State as “The Résumé.” But in an election, he’s more of wrecking ball — as he showed by winning re-election and walloping his Democratic opponent, Charlie Crist, by 20 points.

Republicans are high on DeSantis, which puts the governor high on Trump’s hit list. And as we know by now, when Trump sets his sights on an opponent, the idea isn’t just to defeat but to demolish.

For a while, it looked as if DeSantis was trying to be like Trump. Well, Trump apparently didn’t see it that way. It’s obvious that what bugs him about DeSantis is that the GOP’s rising star is, from his vantage point, too self-righteous and too independent. He doesn’t take orders from Trump, which is unacceptable to the Tyrant of Mar-a-Lago.

Hence, Trump’s early nickname for one of his likely opponents for the 2024 GOP nomination: “Ron DeSanctimonious.” After the governor’s impressive victory, the New York Post declared him “DeFUTURE.” This gaslit Trump, who issued a statement dissing DeSantis as an “average REPUBLICAN Governor,” albeit one “with great Public Relations.”

But Trump had not yet begun to defame. In setting his sights on Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin, Trump managed to unleash his trademark racism, not against Mexicans but against a white male.

“Young Kin (now that’s an interesting take. Sounds Chinese, doesn’t it?) in Virginia couldn’t have won without me,” Trump wrote on Truth Social, the sketchy social media platform he helped launch.

That bizarre broadside shocked a lot of conservatives, some of whom accused the former president of engaging in gasp! racial demagoguery.

No. Say it isn’t so.

Ruben Navarrette’s email address is crimscribe@icloud.com. His podcast, “Ruben in the Center,” is available through every podcast app.

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