Special Bulletin. After the Fat Lady Sang: What Now For Responsible Republicans?

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.Pic Donald Trump as Fat Lady PIC

The media reports that a number of Republican leaders (if that term has not become a hopeless oxymoron) are in the process of “coming around” to recognize the reality of a Trump nomination, and accommodating themselves to it in the name of unity. Others, notably including Speaker Paul Ryan, have withheld their support, but signaled that they too may eventually capitulate. (“I’m just not ready to do that at this point,” Ryan told CNN, adding that he hopes to be able to do so in the future.) Still others, whom we would term “Responsible Republicans” insist that #NeverTrump meant what it said: never.  We should emphasize that the Responsible Republicans comprise a group far broader than RINOs. Indeed, it includes many voices from the relatively far right, who have little use for RINOs. They insist, on the basis of considerable evidence, that whatever Trump is, he is no conservative.

We stand very firmly among the Responsible Republicans. As we observed in a Special Bulletin on March 2, “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.” Nothing in the intervening weeks has changed our mind. Unity behind such a candidate is quite frankly something that neither the party nor the country can afford.

We disagree with Trump on many issues, including his preposterous wall, the mass rounding up and deportation of illegal immigrants, banning Muslims, embarking on trade wars, threatening NATO allies, and cozying up to Vladimir Putin. But our most fundamental objections to him are on grounds of character and temperament, and these are matters that cannot be “fixed” by teams of professional advisers coaching him on how to act “presidential.” In short, to borrow another popular cliche, this is a pig that cannot be improved by lipstick.

What then are Responsible Republicans to do? First, obviously, is to not vote for Trump or give him any kind of support. As David Brooks recently observed:

[Republican leaders] seem blithely unaware that this is a Joe McCarthy moment. People will be judged by where they stood at this time. Those who walked with Trump will be tainted forever after for the degradation of standards and the general election slaughter.

Beyond refusing to walk with Trump, what more? The easiest course is simply to “stay home” or to concentrate one’s efforts to salvage the candidates lower on the ballot. But is that enough? We think not. The most attractive possibility, which we have previously suggested, is to support an independent candidate. The benefits of such support were concisely summarized by Sam Stein in The Huffington Post:

A traditional conservative on the ballot who could peel a few points away from Trump would virtually assure Hillary Clinton of victory — giving business-minded conservatives who prefer Clinton a way to support her without having to support her directly. As importantly, a third-party conservative candidate could potentially draw in Republican voters disaffected by having Trump on top of the ticket, thereby giving a much-needed boost to down-ballot candidates.

Moreover, one can at least fantasize that the right candidate running as an independent could be strong enough to throw the election into the House of Representatives and then emerge as president. The odds against that would probably be no worse than the 5,000-1 offered on Leicester, now the newly crowned champion of the Premier League in England.

There are myriad obstacles that would face an independent candidacy, but the most basic and most difficult is the problem of the missing elephant in the room: of the various individuals whose names have been bruited about, none have shown the slightest interest in that assignment. For example, one of our favorites would be Robert Gates, whose name has been suggested by Jennifer Rubin in The Washington Post. Gates, however, quickly dismissed the idea, “That’s the silliest thing I’ve ever heard. Not a chance.”  The fact is that we would probably support any center-right candidate who had the courage, stamina and instinct for self-sacrifice to step forward. But we do not expect such a candidate to emerge.

Absent an independent candidate, the remaining alternative is to vote for, and otherwise support, Hillary Clinton. A few Republicans have said publicly that is what they plan to do and, if there is no independent candidate, we will join them. As we have said before, Clinton is a candidate of many flaws and vulnerabilities whom, in normal times, we would relish opposing. But 2016 is not a normal year and for all her failings, personal and political, we judge that Clinton is within the mainstream of American political tradition. Hence, we are anticipating the necessity of becoming a “Republican for Hillary” some time in the coming months. In the meantime, should Clinton be dramatically overtaken by scandal, concerning her emails or otherwise, we shall, of course, reassess.

We understand that many, perhaps most, Republicans, including some RINOs, will disagree with our conclusion, and we respect their views, To us, however, the choice seems clear: #NeverTrump means never Trump.

24 thoughts on “Special Bulletin. After the Fat Lady Sang: What Now For Responsible Republicans?

    • Good Morning Roger,
      I enjoyed ,very much, your thoughtful and reasoned comments.
      I am sure you are very much aware of the skullduggery,chicanery,fabrications and general disabusement by our founding fathers during the campaigns and elections of our past.
      In spite of all the machinations, reason and cooperation, and finally, a nation was born.
      It may well be too much to expect anything else from the current crop.
      I recall a scene from, Guess Who’s’ Coming To Dinner.”
      Tracey as faced with a personal situation that challenged his liberalism.
      Barry Fitzgerald, the Cardinal, said to Spencer Tracey, the editor of the liberal SF newspaper,
      “It’s’ tough when your principals jump up and smack you in your face.”
      Our leaders of today need not worry about being challenged by the Cardinal,…most are with out principals.
      We have survived many unworthy politicians prior to this contest. And, we will get through this mess.

      • Thanks Bob. Glad you enjoyed my riff. Loved that movie. The love-struck inter-racial couple, the Moms okay with it, the Dads very troubled until they search their souls, the happy dinner party at the end. If only our country could come together like that, imagine how much greater it could be. Identity politics, corruption, cat-calling, a dyfunctional nation in which everyone is misjudged and the news media are only too happy to report on the dysfunction, to peddle trash. True, Bob, scurrilous political campaigns have always been part of the national story. Yet one longs for a day when we all pull together as “One Nation.” Probly not in our lifetimes. But maybe — no, imperatively — for future generations of Americans. -A Troubled Citizen

  • Thanks Bob. Problem is the “majority”, i.e. the plurality of registered Republicans that voted in the primaries (caucuses, more like church bake sales, don’t count), were hopelessly confused by a motley crew of candidates, and the guy with the loudest voice, albeit incoherent or snarling, won. Question is do we think this man would be a good president. An overwhelming majority of the American people (don’t know about the “green moutain boys”) don’t think so, and that’s why he will never become prez. But that doesn’t mean he should be allowed to drag down the whole Party with him. Wish him a decent burial and rebuild a renamed “Democratic-Republican Party” (like the one that propelled Thomas Jefferson into the presidency) that most intelligent people will admire and respect. A Party incapable of ever again falling prey to a demagogue and circus clown who thinks he can get the Hispanic vote by wearing a sobrero, the women’s vote by bragging about the size of his jack, and the poor people’s vote by bragging he is a billionaire. The game IS over and Trump’s a big loud-mouthed loser. The American people, including the millions of general election voters of every class and persuasion, who reluctantly x in the box for Clinton are the winners. We don’t always get what we want.

  • Thanks Bob, I’m going to get a “Never Means Never” Tee as soon as possible. Maybe with a sombrero, inscribed “I love Mexicans” and signed, “Donald Trump-dee-dump.”

  • Doug, as usual, your suggestions are 100% correrct. Never means Never……and it should be used on the newest tee shirt to be worn by millions of Americans interested in “saving” our Country…bkb

  • As a voter who has always leaned towards the progressive side of our political continuum, I long for the days when independent, moderate voters had a real choice between parties. Those days seem long gone, as recent Republican leadership has submitted to the will of an increasingly right-wing zealot base, allowing congressional stalemate and failure, leading to the emergence of a creature, to some a “savior”, like Trump. I applaud RINO’S desire to see a truly functional Republican Party rebuilt, and that Trump’s defeat is essential in this endeavor.

  • Here comes the day of reckoning for all the pols in the legislative and
    executive branches. Finally the voters are going to smote and punish this bums in a meaningful way. I don’t like our choices for president. I think Hillary is a crook, a self promoting pol grabbing for dough and her self image of a great historical woman. She ain’t a Thatcher, Sandra Day O’Conner or Justice Ginsberg in my opinion. As for The Donald nothing ned be said.
    But if we shake up the others maybe this country can regain its balance now instead of taking anymore of this farce. I have faith in the electorate. ,

    • Did you mean to say “shake down the country”? That’s what a prez Trump would do. I agree there are many “bums” in Congress, so let’s vote for better reps, not the man so filled with hate and wacky views. Let’s rebuild a progressive Republican Party.

  • The primary voters have shucked the pseudo Intillectual nabobs
    of elitism and expressed their clear distrust of the incumbent politicos and self serving media pundits.
    Hurray for the cowboys, green mountain boys, rednecks,unsophisticated, and fed up ordinary American citizens..
    Don’t recall the author. Nor sure of the accuracy, but,
    “We are fed up and won’t take it anymore.”
    May God continue to Bless America, Land of the free and the unintiminated. It all started with “We the People and that is right and good.
    B

    • Psuedo intellectual nabobs of elitism? Sounds like a speech Spiro Agnew once gave. Don’t know how the “green mountain boys” feel about Trump as president.
      Probly stay home.

      • What ever has happened to the ” Will of the majority with respect for the minority?”
        The primaries are just about over. The colluding brothers Ted and John were ignored.
        Mr Romney’s pearls were actually costume jewelery
        Mr. Failed vp candidate Ryan, has been exposed as a fence sitter.
        And, Trump most likely will gather more primary votes than any Republican candidate in history.
        Trump, in my unimportant opinion is far from an ideal candidate. He was not my choice but he has won…ballgame over,league series won. Its’ time for the World Series to begin.
        Bob

  • Dear Doug….powerful blog….beautifully written….masterful….!!! How can anyone even think of Trump as our President? Thanks for your courage, intelligence,and love of this nation!! Love to you and yours….God bless…Tom

  • Thanks for this excellent post, Doug.
    Trump would indeed be a didastous president, wrecking our country and its place in the world. Most intelligent Republicans will either stay home or vote for Hillary Clinton. Paul Ryan has taken the high road by withholding support for Trump and, as pointed out in today’s NY Times (“A Reminder of the Stakes for the G.O.P.”), giving the green light to members of his caucus to do the same. The worst scenario for the Republican Party would be if Trump were elected president. Better to support Hillary and rebuild the Party so it has a future. The head of the RNC should hang down his head in shame for telling staffers to pack their bags unless they support Trump. Surely, he will be replaced before the next election cycle.

  • To quote another (often reviled) Clinton: “I feel your pain.” You are to be commended for your staunch opposition to Trump. This is not a good time for America. The nation deserves responsible, and preferably respectable, choices. I wish we had them. While would prefer someone other than Hillary, never, ever Trump.

  • By leaning toward Hilary, it might add some fuel and support to dowse the “Big Bern” on the far far left. He is scary in every way and the naive masses do not appear to investigate his proposals. For the millions who have planned, studied, worked, and lived responsibly, his goal of re-distribution is a knife in the back.
    Much more could be said, but this writer will cease…

  • Well said, Doug. I thought Ross Douthat’s recent description of Trump made the case (against Trump, not necessarily pro-Hillary) perfectly, referring to him as “a proto-fascist grotesque with zero political experience and poor impulse control.” You make the case even better, and have taken it to its only responsible conclusion.

  • I continue to fantasize that Clinton will get indicted, and Biden will have to step into the breech. While Biden is a weak candidate on SOOOO many fronts, he looks stellar compared to Hillary or Donald. I continue to hope.

    • That would be sweet. Joe, however, has put in his time and wisely chosen to enjoy retirement with his wife Jill and their family. There isn’t any White Knight in sight.

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