Occasionally we believe that a column or editorial in the media is so cogent and compelling that it deserves reprinting in full for the benefit of readers who may not have seen it. The column below by Robert Kagan from The Washington Post is such a writing.
Robert Kagan is a historian, author and foreign policy expert of broad experience who has served several administrations in varying capacities. Although Kagan is best known for neoconservative views of foreign policy, the column below does not deal with foreign policy. Rather it concerns the candidacy of Donald Trump and its implications for not only the Republican Party but the country. According to Wikipedia, Kagan was a Republican until this year and is now an Independent.
The meeting last week between Donald Trump and Paul Ryan was something of a milestone in Donald Trump’s march to the nomination and perhaps the White House. While the meeting did not yield an endorsement by the Speaker, it produced a widespread expectation that one would be forthcoming in due course. Despite the media attention the meeting drew, the indication of a detente between Trump and Ryan was a relatively minor development, disappointing but not surprising. There are, of course, abundant grounds on which Ryan could withhold his support from Trump. Apart from issues of character and temperament, Trump’s expressed positions are at odds with Ryan’s on a variety of issues—immigration, free trade, banning of Muslims, entitlement reform, to name a few. But while we would have applauded a Ryan rejection of Trump and his candidacy, any hope for Ryan’s doing so was unrealistic. Such an action would have seriously jeopardized Ryan’s own position as Speaker with little or no likelihood of its having a serious impact on the Trump bandwagon. Continue reading
History may record various casualties of the 2016 presidential campaign and, indeed, the very existence of the Republican Party may prove to be the most important. A lesser but still highly significant casualty may be our policy favoring free trade agreements in general and, specifically, approval of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership. Continue reading
With apologies for invoking that rather shopworn cliche, the fat lady sang this week and the curtain came down on the tragi-comic opera of the Republican presidential primaries. The fat lady’s aria was a sad one indeed. To Donald Trump it doubtless sounded triumphal, but to many of us it conveyed the mournful tones of a funeral dirge. The dirge reflected not merely the prospect of a Republican defeat in November, but the painful fact that such a loss, distasteful as it might be, would be preferable to a victory for Trump. If Trump suffers the devastating defeat in November that he deserves, the vital task of cleaning up and rebuilding the Republican Party can begin immediately. If he should somehow win, however, that task will be deferred indefinitely, perhaps forever. Continue reading
Is the contest for the Republican nomination over? Well, not quite, but it’s on a very thin edge. If the results of the New York primary were depressing, the results of this week’s primaries were devastating. Trump won every one of five states amassing a vote of more than fifty per cent in each. Senator Cruz was shut out, winning no delegates and finishing behind Governor Kasich in all but one. For his part, Kasich won a handful of delegates and had the distinction of finishing second in four states. Unfortunately, however, finishing second at this point is something like being given the Miss Congeniality title in a beauty pageant—it may provide a passing boost of morale but it gets you no closer to a tiara. The margin of Trump’s victories showed that, for reasons we still find baffling, his support within the Republican Party seems to be broader than many of us had assumed and hoped. Continue reading
We suspect that there are not a great many supporters of Donald Trump among readers of RINOcracy.com, but we all have friends, neighbors or relatives who may be. If you should engage them in the kind of quiet and civil conversation that RINOs favor, we thought it might be handy to have in your pocket a brief catalog of Trumpian statements that have convinced us that Donald is unfit for the presidency. As it happens, The Washington Post provided just such a catalog, and we reproduce it here in its entirety. Continue reading
Although the result of Republican primary in New York was unsurprising, that made it no less unpalatable. Donald Trump was widely predicted to do well and he did indeed. At last count he had captured at least 89 of New York’s 95 delegates. That does not guarantee that he will command a majority of delegates before the convention but that goal is certainly in sight. The Trump ego was sufficiently assuaged that in his Tuesday evening remarks he seemed determined to focus on attempting to “sound Presidential” and hence he passed up the ritual insulting of rivals that has been his regular practice. For our part, we were quite unmoved by the newly applied patina of civility. Continue reading
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned.
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
The Second Coming
W.B. Yeats (1919)
It may be overly dramatic to invoke Yeats in looking ahead to the Republican convention. Then again, perhaps not. Politicians have spoken, and pundits have written, in apocalyptic terms about the outcome of the proceedings in Cleveland. If Donald Trump is nominated, will it change the Republican party forever and for the worse: creating a party of nativism, protectionism, isolationism, closeted—or not so closeted—racism, and a political rhetoric sprinkled with vulgarities and misogynisms?
On the other hand, others ask what would happen if the convention should nominate someone other than the candidate with the most (or even the second-most) delegates based on the primaries. Jeff Greenfield, writing in Politico, put the question in terms of a contest between voters and delegates. And he questioned the theory that nominating someone lacking proven support from primary voters could save the Republican Party:
The greater likelihood is that it will blow the party up, triggering everything from brawls over rules and credentials, to post-convention efforts to launch a third party or write in campaign, to guerrilla wars at the state and local level, with primaries and party purges threatening anyone who embraced the “party will decide!” philosophy.
It is possible that Greenfield is right, although we think he conflates primary voters with all voters. Primary voters, he argues, will object to the loss of “democracy” provided by the primaries:
Now that ordinary Republican voters, like Democrats, have experienced decades of real democracy, what will their reaction be if it’s taken away from them? The polls tell us that Republican voters want no part of such a process. Even in Wisconsin, where GOP voters decisively rejected Trump, exit polls indicated that most Republicans want the nominee to be the one with the plurality of votes.
Yet those Wisconsin voters leaving the primary polls represented less than half the eligible voters. And in other states, where Trump has won, he has been carried to victory by a minority of voters in a minority party. That limited accomplishment hardly guarantees winning a general election. Finally, the form of democracy offered by primaries has always been indirect and limited since is is exercised through delegates generally empowered to exercise their own discretion after the first or second ballot.
In the end, Greenfield acknowledged the alternate view of the role of a convention advocated by the Wall Street Journal and others:
If the purpose is to deliberate, to resolve what voters have left unresolved, and to weigh as party members who would be the most effective advocate for the party as an institution, then the idea of bringing someone from off the bench seems a lot less heretical.
Just who might be “brought off the bench,” however, remains a difficult, even vexing, question. John Kasich is the most obvious choice and he would argue that, despite his distance from even a plurality, he is already off the bench. To be credible, however, that argument needs to be bolstered by a significantly improved performance by Kasich in the remaining primaries. Paul Ryan’s name had been mentioned with increasing frequency, but Ryan has now again made it explicitly clear that he would not accept that role. Other names have included Condi Rice, Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels and General James Mattis (See, The Daily Beast, “The Secret Movement to Draft General James Mattis for President.”)
Taking the broader vision of a convention’s responsibility, David Brooks proffered a characteristically more optimistic, but probably fanciful, approach. He urged the formation of a Lincoln Caucus at the convention. The Caucus would not be explicitly anti-Trump or anti-Cruz and indeed would consider requests for support from either. But Brooks’s clear implication was that the emphasis would be in supporting “some as yet unknown candidate” consistent with the mission of the Lincoln Caucus:
[To] remind the country that there still are Republicans who believe in prudent globalism, reform conservative ideas to lift up the working class. There are still Republicans who believe in certain standards of polite behavior in public and pragmatic compromise.
But again the question remains as to who that yet unknown candidate might be. While we are entirely sympathetic to Brooks’s aim, we find it difficult to imagine the convention nominating someone who has not previously been identified and indicated his or her availability. Unless and until that should happen we are again left with Yeats to wait and wonder:
What rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Cleveland to be born?
Ted Cruz’s decisive victory in Wisconsin is a key building block in the Trump Wall—the wall to prevent Donald Trump from becoming the Republican nominee. It must not, however, be taken as evidence that Cruz himself is someone around whom the party should now rally. That, we believe would be a disastrous mistake. Thus, while a good deal of ink has been spilled in assessing the #NeverTump movement, it is now past time for a #NeverCruz movement to rise and take hold. Continue reading
The terrorist attack in Brussels exposed the inadequacy of the Belgian security forces, the need for much better sharing of intelligence among European countries, and the unique challenges that confront cities with neighborhoods of densely concentrated Muslim populations. Sponsorship of yet another attack by ISIS also underscored the fact that its threat extends far outside the Middle East. Continue reading