The results of the Super Tuesday balloting may not have been all that surprising, but on the Republican side they were grimly depressing. The nightmare of Donald Trump continues to unfold as a major portion of the Republican base remains in a Trump-induced stupor, unreachable by fact or logic. The New York Times is no friend of the Republican Party, but in its Wednesday editorial we think they had it about right: “The Republicans seem to be reeling, unable or unwilling to comprehend that a shady, bombastic liar is hardening the image of their party as a symbol of intolerance and division.”
If Trump emerges as the Republican nominee, as now seems likely, the consequences are hard to imagine, but among them may well be the end of the Republican Party. When we founded RINOcracy.com three years ago, our motto was “RINOs, let us unite and put our hides on the line to save our party from itself!” At the time, we looked at saving the Republican Party as a daunting task to which we could make only a minor contribution at best. But it is now questionable whether saving the party remains a rational objective or whether it now belongs in a form of political hospice.
The reason for starting the blog sprang from the several heresies (principally, but not entirely, on social issues) that separated us from the orthodoxies of the Republican establishment. Our hope was not that the party would be converted to our views but that voicing them would at least prove that they had a place within the “Big Tent” that the party claimed to be. Ironically, the disagreements we had with the establishment remain today but seem diminished in importance. Despite our differences, we are far more sympathetic to the establishment—beleaguered, embattled and increasingly impotent as it is—than Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.
If Donald Trump is the nominee, we expect–and certainly hope–that he will suffer a resounding defeat at the hands of Hillary Clinton. We pause here to emphasize that we are not closet fans of Secretary Clinton and in a “normal” year we would work enthusiastically for her defeat. But this is not a normal year by any means. If Trump should be elected, the results for the country and the Republican Party promise to be be devastating. Trump’s plans are so fragmentary it is impossible to say which, if any, would actually come to fruition. We are, for example, extremely doubtful that the Trump Wall would ever be built or that 12 million illegal aliens would ever be deported. But the attempt to do such things would be wrenching and the failure to achieve them would leave his supporters feeling angrier and more betrayed than ever. But the scariest part of a Trump presidency may lie in things that he has not proposed or even thought of. (As Donald Rumsfeld once put it: “We also know there are known unknowns; that is to say we know there are some things we do not know. But there are also unknown unknowns—the ones we don’t know we don’t know.”) The essential danger is simply that of putting the country in the hands of a leader whose signal characteristics are ignorance, vulgarity, bigotry and mendacity.
One of the more alarming prospects of a Trump presidency is the likely impact on foreign policy. As a Washington Post editorial summarized it:
The Trump foreign policy, at least as he’s described it in various outbursts on the campaign trail, is that the United States’ long-standing relationships and alliances are stacked against it, and that they must be downgraded, renegotiated or abandoned in favor of closer ties with, well, almost no one, except possibly Russian strongman Vladimir Putin. Quite apart from the ugly moral implications, the sudden, sullen U.S. retreat Mr. Trump advocates would be deeply destabilizing for an already unstable world.
So far as the Republican Party is concerned, a Trump election would leave it the Republican Party in name only. Following Trump’s fumbled responses concerning David Duke and the KKK, Speaker Paul Ryan found it necessary to condemn such equivocation with a reminder that the Republican Party is the party of Lincoln. Whatever the Trumplican Party might be, it is unlikely to be a party that Abraham Lincoln could recognize or accept.
If Trump lost to Clinton, the country would be spared, but the Republican Party will still have suffered a serious and perhaps fatal blow. Republicans would lose the Senate and possibly even the House and the way forward, or whether there is one, would be unclear. Trump and his supporters would blame the establishment for not having supported him adequately and would blame other Republicans, RINOs in the forefront, for staying at home or going to the polls to vote against him. The Tea Party, evangelicals, and like-minded conservatives would belatedly discover that Trump is not a “true conservative” and also blame the defeat on his defects of character and personality that they had overlooked.
Political analyst Larry Sabato does not think that the divide within the Republican Party will lead to its demise, but he acknowledges that there is a precedent for such a development:
One of the nation’s great early parties, the Whigs, dissolved in discord in the early 1850s, leading to the formation of the Republican Party and its first presidential nominee, John C. Frémont, in 1856. (Trivia question: Who tried but failed to become Frémont’s vice presidential running mate? Answer: An obscure former congressman named Abraham Lincoln, who succeeded Frémont as the GOP nominee in 1860 and, we are told, did rather well.)
If the party should die and be replaced by another, perhaps that would not be a bad thing altogether. A thoughtful conservative, Jennifer Rubin, writing in The Washington Post outlined the “benefits of a Republican Party breakup” and concluded:
Whatever follows the GOP would also mark a change in tone and temperament. Restraint, tolerance and a preference for gradual innovation over radical revolution — the original hallmarks of modern conservatism — should predominate. In other words, everything that Trump is not.
In the meantime, what of the remaining challengers to Trump and the prospects that Trump could be denied the nomination? The consensus among observers appeared to be that, by winning in Texas, Oklahoma and Alaska, Cruz had positioned himself as the candidate best positioned to stop Trump. Indeed, several voices on the right are calling for Rubio to withdraw or for a Cruz-Rubio ticket. With r without Rubio on the ticket, however, we would not join a Cruz bandwagon even if one should appear. While Cruz is less flamboyantly objectionable than Trump, we believe that his temperament and radical notions of conservatism make him equally unacceptable. If his candidacy advances, we will elaborate further, but for now we will simply observe that the only merit that we can see in a Cruz nomination is that his defeat might put to rest the shibboleth that the way for Republicans to win elections is to nominate extreme conservatives.
Senator Rubio won only in Minnesota but did well enough in other states to remain in the race at least until the Florida primary. As we have said, we consider Rubio far more attractive than Trump or Cruz, but have serious reservations about his candidacy. Those reservations were heightened rather than assuaged by Rubio’s rather crude attacks on Trump in the days just before Super Tuesday. We don’t question that Trump had them coming, or that it may have felt liberating to deliver the insults, but they were hardly presidential in tone or substance.
Governor Kasich won no contests on Tuesday, but came close in Vermont and tied with Rubio for second in Massachusetts. On the other hand, he did poorly in the southern states, even trailing the hapless Ben Carson in several. On the whole, the evening was not devastating but hardly encouraging. Kasich insists that he will await the outcome of the primaries in Michigan and Ohio, and so shall we. As Kasich mentions from time to time, but no one else seems to notice, it is a fact that in head to head polling with Clinton, Kasich does better than any of the other Republican candidates. That ought to carry some weight with primary voters, but whether it will or not in this peculiar year remains to be seen.
Finally, it was reported that a new PAC has been formed to oppose Trump. As reported by Maggie Haberman in The New York Times:
A “super PAC” that was formed with a major donation from a member of the Ricketts family is boosting its staff and planning a full-fledged campaign against Donald J. Trump — and his surrogates — in an effort to thwart his rise, including hiring the former communications director to Jeb Bush and creating an opposition research wing.
Our guess is that it may be too little, too late, but we welcome the development anyway. We also note that the Ricketts family are the owners of the Chicago Cubs. If the family could stop Donald Trump and get the Cubs into the World Series in the same year, that would be really quite something.