The Elephant in the Room

Supporters of Donald Trump attend a rally at the Fort Dodge Senior High School on November 18, 2023, in Fort Dodge, Iowa. (Photo by Jim Vondruska/Getty Images)

It’s never good when you get a text from your editor in the middle of the night. Typically it means you’re being reprimanded for something. Possibly fired.

The one I got last night was worse than that.

“Because I will forget in the morning,” he wrote, “tomorrow’s newsletter could be expanding on the idea you touched on today, how this primary has been almost entirely devoid of policy. But it’s also been devoid of direct attacks on Trump’s fitness. So what has it been about?”

What has it been about?

He meant the question earnestly, but it sounded like a riddle—something a hermit would spend 10 years in a cave meditating on. There’s no “answer” in the conventional sense; it’s either a diabolical puzzle contrived to drive someone mad or a koan to lead them to a higher state of consciousness.

I couldn’t sleep afterward. Despite following the campaign daily for more than a year, trying to find meaning in it felt like entering a hall of mirrors. What has the Republican primary campaign been about?

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