This was excerpted from the August 26 edition of CNN’s Meanwhile in America, the daily email about US politics for global readers. Click here to read past editions and subscribe.
(CNN)Forget 2020; let’s talk 2024.
US President Donald Trump is fighting for his political life, but win or lose in November, his political heirs are stirring. Whenever it comes, the post-Trump period will be a battle for the soul of the GOP, between “America First” and a possible revival of more traditional ideological conservatism and Atlanticism.Logic might suggest that potential Republican candidates would snub a President who is 9 points down in the polls, and who is viewed as an agent of chaos by more than half the country. But former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley and Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas all rushed to audition for Republican primary voters at this week’s convention. They are following in the footsteps of one of their party’s shrewdest political tacticians: Richard Nixon.In 1964, Nixon was in the political wilderness after losing the presidency to John F. Kennedy four years prior. But unlike other party grandees, he embraced the party’s radical nominee, Barry Goldwater, who even then looked destined for a devastating defeat. Read MoreIn a convention speech later seen as the launchpad for his own 1968 campaign, Nixon urged party unity. He understood that the delegates who lifted Goldwater would decide the following nomination — which he would win on the way to the White House.The same is true today. Jokes about third or fourth terms aside, Trump will not be on the ballot in 2024. But his supporters aren’t going anywhere. Knowing that the Republican nominee will need them, Pompeo makes clear that he is one of Trump’s most trusted lieutenants. Cotton, a veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan, is now serving in Trump’s culture war and lashes elites — despite having attended Harvard himself. Haley has been especially skillful in building her profile and foreign policy credentials alongside Trump, and she escaped the administration with her reputation enhanced — her rare Oval Office farewell from the President will make a great campaign ad. It’s a balancing act for these Republican rising stars. Trump will rage at any sign he’s on his way out and hates sharing the limelight. But even he can’t deny the inexorable march of the US presidential election calendar.In a video statement to the RNC from Jerusalem on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo praised Trump’s foreign policy initiatives — even describing the President’s fruitless courting of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un as a victory.Postcard from the Big EasyAs the educators, politicians and parents debate over reopening schools around the world, Meanwhile producer Shelby Rose has forged ahead to grad school in New Orleans. We asked her what the famously hellish first year of law school is like in the age of Covid-19. She writes: “Utilitarian” is not a word typically associated with the ivory tower, but these days, even academia must acknowledge the coronavirus pandemic. At Tulane Law School, one of few prominent US universities offering in-person classes, students like myself might try to stay high-minded — but every movement here is dictated by practical rules and guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease Control.On the balmy New Orleans campus, Tulane students walk single file on separated paths, sit one or two seats apart, and shout answers to professors behind the nearly soundproof plexiglass shields. And that’s just in school. Outside, face masks in Tulane’s green and gold are the new obligatory fashion item. Fraternity parties have been replaced with sitting six feet apart.Though many of us have traveled hundreds of miles to be here, law students have been restricted to interactions on social media and messaging portals. Instead of briefing cases together in the library or exchanging outlines, we talk online for solidarity and assistance. But discussion of torts and contracts has quickly become a medium to vent as the election draws close and the coronavirus continues to spread. Unable to build personal relationships during this unprecedented year, we’re not just living the life of the mind, we’re confined to it — and the stress is showing. ‘Chuan Jianguo’Which presidential candidate would Beijing prefer? Though US intelligence says China ‘prefers’ that Trump lose the November vote, the US President has a revealing nickname on Chinese social media: “Chuan Jianguo,” or “Build up the Country Trump” — a joke that his chaotic ways are bolstering China’s standing. As CNN’s Selina Wang reports, the Chinese Communist Party sees risks and benefits in each man. While Trump has weakened US alliances, clearing a path for China on the world stage, he’s a volatile X-factor in their plans. On the other hand, the more traditional candidate, Biden, could build stronger global and regional coalitions to counter China’s influence.