David Frum has an article in The Atlantic titled How to Save the Republican Party. His answer is to somehow rebuild the conservative message--dispense with the out-of-date parts. Build an attractive alternative that can reach out to under-represented people the way Trump did. One wonders if he might start by addressing the issue that a lot of young people feel that conservatives are kinda mean.
Maybe a new "compassionate conservatism" would be a way forward?
Over in The American Conservative, Rod Dreher writes Did Trump Kill Reaganism? He isn't 100% sure but thinks that while Trump is pretty much the anti-Reagan, it may be that Reaganism has died a natural death of old age rather than being murdered by Trump. Maybe.
Whether Trump killed the ideological core of the Republican party or it died of natural causes and Trump stepped in to fill the void, the facts on the ground are these:
Trump Is The Presumptuous* Nominee
- Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee. Princeton Election Consortium predicts that he is 99% likely to reach Cleveland with more than the required 1237 candidates. Even if Trump loses Indiana--the #NeverTrump firewall, the math (apparently) shows that he'll cross the threshold regardless. It looks likely he'll win Indiana.
- The GOP high command is resigned to Trump. They have no taste for a blood-letting contested convention. They don't like Ted Cruz. The #NeverTrump faction has essentially tried to beat something (Trump) with nothing (Cruz or Kasich) and it's a recipe for failure. They are falling in line behind Trump.
- Donald Trump--as a candidate--is an unprecedented perfect storm of bad qualifications. From not being actually conservative (and faking it worse than Romney) to having no governing experience, to having foreign policy advisers who might be in bed with Vladimir Putin, he lacks what could be called the basics in every dimension. Plus, while we've seen a committed segregationist in the form of George Wallace, Trump is a champion to the Alt-Right and wins evangelical voters. He's anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and his more radical ideas (the wall, a no-entry rule) garner 60% or higher among the GOP primary electorate across the board. In other words, if there was anything that could shake the GOP-voter's faith in him, it would have to be spectacular.
What Now?Just as Bernie Sanders voters hold out for a Die Hard Miracle (Hans Gruber: "You asked for miracles, Theo, I give you the F.B.I.") and dream of delegate counts without super-delegates, a portion of the #NeverTrump faction will claim it isn't over until it's over.
There are a few things movement conservatives will need to do in order to prepare for a Trump nomination. These are:
- Recognize that conservative icons aren't who you thought they were. There was a sense of camaraderie around the conservative messaging machine. Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Sean Hannity were all seen as being on the right side of the movement. They were seen as leaders with integrity. Now they're backing Trump, backing away, or backed Trump (Levin) early on when maybe something could have been done. Some of the loudest, most provocative voices (Ann Coulter) were tolerated in the party and now they've done what an outside observer could easily have predicted: voted their wallets.
- Recognize that you (most likely) didn't stand up when you should have. If you think the GOP congress has done nothing, wait until Hillary has a friendly Senate and . . . maybe . . . The House. See what she passes then. The Omnivore watched outlets like Hot Air (and during Noah Rothman's tenure) roll their eyes at the next GOP-Senate capitulation. On the Debt Ceiling. On Planned Parenthood. On Immigration. Where were consistent conservatives in defending the process and congress then? Where were the voices telling voters that without the presidency they were limited in what they could pass--and what they could stop? Neo-Neocon (a conservative blogger with less to lose than some of the big-boys) did it. Where was everyone else? Oh, right--being afraid of being RINO'd.
- Recognize that when it was clear--terribly, terribly clear--that Sarah Palin was a disaster, the conservative press still mostly backed her. I don't mean the partisan Republican press. I mean people who consider themselves strong ideological conservatives. Where was the unified rejection of her as presidential material? Or . . . did she have a personality shift between then and now (when no one thinks she is presidential material? What caused it?).
- Recognize that Fox News as a profit driven outlet was always a dangerous partner for conservatives. It was making money off the cause and was one of the most trusted voices--but it was a free-market enterprise. Fox News is not a person (even though it has pretty conservative people at the top). Fox News is a business--when conservatives lost sight of that, they failed to "defend themselves in the ring at all times." Fox News has sucker-punched them and now they don't have a working messaging system. The Fox Alternatives are all even further right and often conspiracy driven (or just bought off by Trump). When you call everything moderate Leftists, you limit your degrees of freedom to a critically low level.
- Go read John Hawkins Explaining Liberal Thinking In A Single Column. In it, Hawkins explains how liberals think. They oppose or support policies based on how those policies make them feel about themselves (like making America Great Again with a trade war?). They don't really care if policies work or not (like a giant wall?). All they really care about is getting more Liberals elected--not about the character of the candidates. That's why they'll support a racist like Robert Byrd (who vocally and forcefully rejected the Klan and got an A rating from the NAACP). They are hostile to successful people who don't happen to be celebrities (like a reality TV star vs. the big bankers?). Go read that and be honest with yourself if you would have accepted it as a truth when it was written. If so, what does it say to you now?
So, About That Party
The Omnivore has a theory that the #NeverTrump crowd ran into an invisible elephant in the room and never figured out how to navigate it. The problem breaks down like this:
- Trump is not just a bad candidate, he is a historically unqualified one--a dangerous one--and one that, whatever damage he does, will be done under the seal of the Republican Party. Therefore real, thoughtful conservatives not only can't vote for him--but must stop him from being elected in their name.
- If they were going to get out of the Republican party for being not-conservative the time was before Trump started dominating. As they didn't, even if unhappy with the eventuality, their names are on the ledger of the group that will give him a shot at the White House. He may have a very limited one--but by definition, in a two-person national race, he has a shot.
- As your name is on the RNC ledger and you've given it support over the years even as this problem grew, not-voting in the general isn't sufficient. You need to try to take strong affirmative action to stop him.
- It is now clear that Cruz and Kasich can't do it. What do you do?
- Launching a 3rd Party is fine--but it likely will not happen. If it doesn't? What then.
The answer is: "Vote for Hillary Clinton."
The Omnivore understands how that sounds--but if you're about to make the case that Trump would be better than Hillary you're still part of the problem (and Hillary could well be a disaster--but she would not be a murder weapon with the GOP's fingerprints on her).
That's the final part of the equation most #NeverTrump hasn't been able to get to. That's why they're only half in.
The fact of the matter is that the GOP has either been transformed--or more-likely shown to be--something that its most ideological members had felt certain it was not. At this point, if you are an ideological, educated conservative who has not already separated from the party, Hillary Clinton may be your only moral voting choice in November.
Yes: It's that bad.
* Yes, The Omnivore knows. This is what happens when you name yourself the presumptive nominee.