Badgering of Donald Trump last fall to sign a pledge in September to support the GOP nominee appears in retrospect a massive instance of projection. The seeming stalwarts carping about disloyalty in the wake of Trump’s initial refusal to promise to play the gracious loser now speak openly about voting for Hillary Clinton now that the billionaire looks like the inevitable winner.
Robert Kagan, co-founder of the Project for the New American Century, calls Hillary Clinton “the only choice” for himself. Former New Jersey Governor Christie Todd Whitman says she prefers the former secretary of state to one of her state’s biggest real-estate developers. Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker declares he won’t vote for Trump despite nearly half of his state’s Republican primary voters casting ballots for the Republican frontrunner. Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol seconded the idea floated on MSNBC that Republicans would benefit more from a Trump defeat than a victory in the general election.
Four more years of judicial appointees loyal to ideology over the Constitution, of a president acting as a scofflaw to immigration statutes he dislikes, and of peopling a bureaucracy eager to usurp the legislative function seem good reasons to vote Republican — no matter how flawed the party’s standard bearer — rather than Hillary. And one surmises from a track record spanning Whitewater through Emailgate that a second Clinton presidency might prove even more damaging than the last seven years. At least one needn’t conduct an inventory of the silverware after the Obamas depart from a state dinner.
Last night at the Republican debate in Florida, interlocutor Hugh Hewitt broached the idea of Trump’s supporters “sabotaging the fall election” should their man fall short at the convention and Ted Cruz painted support of his rival as ensuring a Clinton presidency: “If we nominate Donald Trump, Hillary wins.” These, particular the latter scenario, remain possibilities. So does the stated goal of party big-wigs to vote Democrat should the wrong Republican win in Cleveland this summer.
“This party is going to support the nominee,” GOP chairman Reince Priebus assured to the audience at the University of Miami, “whoever that is — 100 per cent.” Clearly, some famous party members will do no such thing.
The people issuing the most full-throated complaints about Donald Trump created him.
Barack Obama ramming the health-care law through Congress via dubious means and ignoring his sworn Constitutional duty to faithfully execute the laws fostered a frustrated, alienated, angry voting bloc. Robert Kagan cites such developments as the GOP’s “wild obstructionism” and “Obama hatred” as producing the Trump groundswell, obtusely overlooking his own role in advocating budget-busting adventurism abroad that turned so many against the party and toward the likes of outside-the-box alternatives such as the reality-TV star who would be president. Republican officeholders in Washington constituting majorities in both houses of Congress passively watching government spending and debt grow cultivated a party base further dissatisfied with its representatives.
How much does the base hate the establishment?
Ted Cruz, who just received his first endorsement from a Senate colleague, now stands as the alternative to Trump. In other words, old-guard Republicans looking for a vehicle to cut off Trump see a guy more hostile to them than the Donald as the only viable alternative. Even Marco Rubio made a reputation as a Tea Party darling five years ago upon his ascension to the Senate. The more party brahmins endorse Florida’s junior senator, the fewer votes he receives.
Whether Trump becomes a toxic candidate for Republicans down ballot come the fall remains for events to prove or disprove. Right now, clearly, support by party elders works as a kiss of death for candidates.
Reasons surely exist for gratitude that the Australian ballot gave us a curtain to keep our ballot secret this November. Strangely, the Trump critics — the National Review symposium standing as a rare exception — rarely point to any of these points of caution. Trump’s attempts to use eminent domain for private gain, description of himself in the late ’90s as “pro-choice in every respect,” and more recent call for the government to “take care of everybody” through universal health care all should alarm any conservative.
Strangely, Trump’s Old Right positions on trade, immigration, and foreign intervention most frequently serve to explain the fissure. The Art of the Deal-author talks not about free trade but about obtaining the best deal possible at the negotiating table. His foreign policy views sound as a rejection as much of George W. Bush as Barack Obama. On immigration, he provides a loud voice to the not-so-silent majority objecting to the startling transformation of the United States in a generation or two through de facto open borders. Conservatives may disagree on any of his stances here. But whether right or wrong on these issues, Trump wins on them.
Certainly his crude manners (contagious, as the recent debate over the size of his hands suggests) — in tweeting out Lindsey Graham’s phone number, observations about Carly Fiorina’s face, comments on Ben Carson’s religion, etc. — fit the Oval Office only in a Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho way. He comes across as presidential only in a nation weaned on reality television (though he looked more reserved and respectful last night).
But Trump speaks plain English. The rest of the field speaks Politician, a scripted, nails-on-the-chalkboard language slightly less popular than Arabic in the Republican Party right now.
Trump surely emits a certain stench that might compel reasonable conservatives to hold their nose in the voting booth. (When since Reagan has this not been the case?) But pinching nostrils too tightly risks a light-headedness that results in dizzying thoughts of Hillary Clinton as a better alternative to make America great again.