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“The Johnson-Weld Ticket”: An Opportunity For #NeverTrump Republicans To Save Face

Let’s face it: the #NeverTrump movement is an admission of embarrassment on the part of veteran Republicans, an acknowledgment that the Southern Strategy was suicidal, a concession that as a result of fifty years of playing to ignorant fears, the GOP base is largely comprised of people who think the term “animal husbandry” refers to bestiality. You can’t blame these veteran Republicans for wanting to wash their hands of their creation–and you can’t blame them for seeking alternate political routes:

For some Massachusetts Republicans, the return of Bill Weld — the law-and-order Yankee who charmed his way into two terms as governor of a liberal state — is nothing short of face-saving.

Finally, they have a reason to show up on Election Day.

“I think for a lot of Republicans, especially in a state like Massachusetts, it gives us an option,” said Virginia Buckingham, a Republican who once worked as Weld’s chief of staff, and will vote for him this fall. “We were kind of in a difficult position facing voting for Donald Trump.”

Weld’s reemergence as a vice presidential candidate on the Libertarian ticket with former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson has been viewed largely as another curiosity in a crazy election cycle in which, it seems, anything might happen…

Although the #NeverTrump movement isn’t beating down their door, Johnson and Weld are reaching for voters disenchanted with Trump and presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton. In a Web ad launched last week, Johnson and Weld presented themselves as a “credible alternative to ClinTrump.”

I have previously suggested that it is not beyond possibility for the Johnson-Weld ticket to perform strongly enough in national polls to warrant inclusion in the presidential debates. If so, the symbolism will be powerful. Think about it:  Clinton, Johnson and Trump–a Democrat demonized for decades by the demagogues who dote on the Donald, an ex-Republican who was regarded as a RINO by the same twits who think Trump is terrific, and the Orange Goblin himself, the single most unqualified individual to ever secure a major American party’s nomination, the single most irrational figure in modern politics, a hero to haters, a Jesus to jerks.

I give Johnson credit for defying both Republican and Libertarian taboos in his July 1 appearance on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher (relevant segment runs from 3:02-5:15):

Other than former Cato Institute fellow Jerry Taylor, I have never heard anyone associated with libertarianism acknowledge that human-caused climate change is real. That’s progress. If Clinton and Johnson appear on the debate stage next to Trump and affirm that mainstream climate science is legitimate, and Trump reiterates his belief that climate change is a hoax invented by the Chinese government, climate hawks will be able to declare a moral victory, because the optics will not work in Trump’s favor.

The Johnson-Weld ticket is an option, and an opportunity, for veteran Republicans to save face. It will be interesting to see how many Republicans avail themselves of this option and this opportunity. Having said that, I hope Republicans who support this ticket at least have the decency to admit that men like Johnson and Weld were effectively forced out of the GOP because they were not blind ideologues, because they understood that some issues are not left or right, because they recognized that we’re all Americans first…because they were too nice, too civil, too human for the Trumpublican Party.

Clinton will be able to hold her own in a three-way debate with Johnson and Trump. She will also not hesitate to remind viewers that if the GOP had not gone grotesque, a man like Johnson–flawed but not foul, mistaken but not malicious, incorrect but not insane–would be the Republican nominee, and not a deacon of derangement like the Donald.

 

By: D. R. Tucker, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, July 10, 2016

July 11, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Johnson-Weld Ticket, Never Trump Movement | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Will Trump Go Away If He Loses?”: You Cannot Keep The Baby Without The Bathwater

A very interesting argument has broken out over an unusual political question: If Donald Trump loses in November, can he be pushed aside while Republicans find ways to appeal to his core supporters?

Party gadfly David Frum seems to assume Trump will go away quietly:

[O]nce safely excluded from the presidency, Donald Trump will no longer matter. His voters, however, will. There is no conservative future without them.

Frum, to his credit, was warning Republicans for years that the GOP’s indifference to the actual views of its actual voters on the economy and immigration would eventually become a critical problem. He was right. So he has some credibility in seeking to craft a policy agenda and message that scratches the itch Trump scratched with so much excessive force.

But that doesn’t mean Trump won’t have anything to say about it.

Jeet Heer isn’t a Republican but makes a good point in responding to Frum that you cannot keep the baby without the bathwater when it comes to Trump’s fans:

[W]ill Trump really cease to matter in November? After all, no human being loves the spotlight more, and he’s chased after media attention since he was a young man. Being the nominee of a major party is a dream job for him, because it means people will hang on his every word. Even if he loses badly in November, Trump will likely cling to his status as the strangest “party elder” ever—and convert it into new, attention-grabbing and lucrative projects.

Fortunately for Republicans, the old tradition of referring to the immediate past presidential nominee as the “titular head” of the party has fallen into disuse. But presidential nominees rarely just go away. Perhaps the most self-atomizing recent major-party nominee was Democrat Michael Dukakis. But his demise after 1988 was not strictly attributable to his loss of what most Democrats considered a winnable general-election race against George H.W. Bush; his last two years as governor of Massachusetts also made a terrible mockery of his claims of an economic and fiscal “miracle.” And, besides, nobody thought of Dukakis as ideologically distinctive or as leading any sort of political “movement.”

The bottom line is that the same media tactics that improbably made Trump a viable presidential candidate in the first place will help him stay relevant even after a general-election loss, unless (a) it is of catastrophic dimensions and (b) cannot be blamed on tepid party Establishment support for the nominee.

If Trump loses so badly that he does indeed become irrelevant, then people like Frum will have another problem: competing with those who want to dismiss the whole Trump phenomenon as a freak event with no real implications for the Republican future. And yes, such people will be thick on the ground, attributing the loss to Trump’s abandonment of strict conservative orthodoxy on the very issues Frum thinks were responsible for the GOP alienation of its white working-class base from the get-go. There will be show trials and witch hunts aimed not just at Donald Trump and his most conspicuous supporters and enablers, but also at people like Frum — and more broadly, the Reformicon tribe of which he is often regarded as a key member — who think Trump was revealing important shortcomings of the orthodoxy many others will be trying to restore.

So, ironically, and even tragically, #NeverTrumper David Frum may discover that Trump will not only still be around, but could wind up on his side of the intra-party barricades.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, July 6, 2016

July 7, 2016 Posted by | Conservatives, Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“NeverTrump’s White Knight Refuses The Call”: This Movement Has Suffered Its Last Gasp

Last week Bill Kristol tweeted that he had found a candidate to rescue the Republican establishment from Donald Trump. After a childish Twitter feud between Kristol and Trump, reports surfaced that Kristol’s knight in shining armor was none other than high-powered and well-connected but relatively unknown GOP lawyer David French.

After a some widespread and quiet derision, Mr. French has decided not to run after all–but before launching several jabs at Donald Trump:

Donald Trump also lies habitually (sometimes minute by minute), and changes position based on his moods. In one breath he claims to support working men and women, and then with the next breath he threatens to destroy our economy through trade wars or by playing games with the full faith and credit of the United States. He believes an American judge — a man born in Indiana who spent months hiding from drug cartels after they’d put a “hit” on him – can’t rule on a case involving Trump University because the judge’s parents emigrated from Mexico. His supporters believe it demonstrates “strength” when he mocks the disabled and bullies women. He has attracted an online racist following that viciously attacks his opponents and their families — including my wife and youngest daughter.

Given this reality, it would be tempting to say that when it comes to confronting this national moment, “somebody” stepping up is better than nobody. But somebody is not always better than nobody.

French and Kristol want to leave the door open for yet another independent candidate to run, but it’s difficult to see who would step up to heed the call at this date. Trump is consolidating GOP establishment support, and any independent conservative candidate would lose badly–only further demonstrating to the corporate Romney-Kristol-Rubio wing of the party how few loyal voters they actually have. Meanwhile, Trump’s rabid following would blame such a candidate for his general election defeat, putting themselves and their families in danger of their personal safety. I just don’t see it happening.

Try as it might to survive and stay relevant, it appears the Never Trump movement has suffered its last gasp.

 

By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, June 5, 2016

June 7, 2016 Posted by | Bill Kristol, Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Are You Kidding Me?”: No, It’s Not Just A Nightmare; Trump Officially Clinches Nomination!

You can take the “presumptive” nominee tag off Donald Trump and substitute “putative.” According to the most widely accepted scorekeeper, the Associated Press, the mogul has quietly passed the much-discussed threshold of 1,237 delegate commitments needed to win a majority in Cleveland.

The New York businessman sealed the majority by claiming a small number of the party’s unbound delegates who told the AP they would support him at the national convention in July. Among them was Oklahoma GOP chairwoman Pam Pollard.

“I think he has touched a part of our electorate that doesn’t like where our country is,” Pollard said. “I have no problem supporting Mr. Trump.”

It takes 1,237 delegates to win the Republican nomination. Trump has reached 1,239 and will easily pad his total in primary elections on June 7.

While the Republican National Committee has bent the knee to Trump from practically the moment Ted Cruz and John Kasich gave up their challenges to him, there may be other Republicans who have held out as long as there was a theoretical possibility that the Donald could finally figure out something to say or do that was so heinous his nomination would become impossible.

So this could hasten the pace of accommodation to Trump among Republican elites. A bigger question is whether Trump himself will realize the time to attack Republican office holders has passed, or if he just cannot help himself. If he somehow fears voters will forget he’s a “different kind of Republican,” he can probably take care of that once and for all with the type of cheesy reality-TV-style convention he seems inclined to hold anyway.

Outside the fever swamps of political obsessives, there are probably some Americans who have ignored the nominating process and may soon wake up and say: Donald Trump is the Republican candidate for president? Are you kidding me?  

Now we must officially say: It’s no joke at all.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Daily Intelligencer, New York Magazine, May 26, 2016

May 28, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, Republican National Convention | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Do You Endorse Him Or Not?”: Memo To Republicans; If You Endorse Trump, You’re Destroying Your Career

This is not a fun time to be a Republican politician. Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive nominee of the party, you have a choice to make: Do you endorse him or not? The answer should be pretty clear: You don’t.

But before I explain why, let’s first look at the three big reasons you might feel compelled to.

1. He’s the party’s nominee, and that’s what you do. Well, sure. But that’s not a universal rule. And shouldn’t you want to be known as a politician who puts principle over party?

2. The fear of a “stabbed in the back” narrative. If you’re an establishment Republican, you probably believe that Trump is doomed, but that if you turn on him, Trump supporters will blame you for stabbing him in the back. Maybe you fear the rank-and-file will take their revenge or even just stay home in future elections. But this is nonsense. If Trump loses, his insane hardcore supporters are certain to blame anybody but Trump, and especially that amorphous beast known as “the establishment.” Meanwhile, if you want Trump voters to vote Republican, maybe a good idea is, instead of tricking them, propose policies and ideas that support their interests? Crazy, I know.

3. Trump himself. Maybe you’re afraid he’ll call you names and try to get back at you in some way. I get why that’s tough. But you have to look at the other side of the ledger.

Endorsing Trump means having to defend every ridiculous thing that comes out of his mouth. Including ordering the military to commit war crimes. Including maybe nuking people just because he feels like it. Including playing footsie with the KKK. Including defaulting on the U.S. debt. All day, every day.

Maybe you think you can finesse it, by saying something like “I endorse him, but I don’t support everything he says.” Come on. Nobody will buy that. An endorsement is an endorsement. Everybody understands that not every Republican who endorsed Mitt Romney agreed with him about every issue (I certainly didn’t). The reason they didn’t ask those questions is because there were no issues where he deviated from the Republican norm too much, or indeed from the bounds of civilized discourse. As the proudly #NeverTrump Republican strategist Rick Wilson put it, when you endorse Trump, “you permanently inherit Trump’s problems without his invulnerability to them.”

Here’s the thing. Donald Trump will humiliate you. He can’t help it. He did it to Chris Christie. He did it to Ben Carson. (Remember that time Ben Carson defended Trump’s comparing him to a child molester?) He does it to his wives!

And here’s another aspect: You get absolutely nothing out of it. Donald Trump doesn’t need you; he has the nomination. And even if he did, it’s not like Mr. Art of the Deal ever respected a deal in his entire life. If he thinks he’ll need you, he might promise you a lot of things, but there’s no guarantee he’ll keep his end of the bargain. What’s the point of being appointed secretary of everything if you work for an insane maniac and will probably get booted out or will resign in disgrace and/or frustration after three months? But before we even get there, what’s the point of endorsing him in exchange of the secretary of everything position, when you know he promised that job to three other people before breakfast?

Meanwhile, you all but guarantee that whatever election you’re in next after Trump, every ad against you, in both the primary and the general, will feature Trump’s most outrageous statements next to your name and face. His liberal statements for the primary, and his xenophobic, pro-KKK comments for the general. Oh boy, doesn’t that sound great?

After Trump, the political winds he unleashed will not abate, but his personality and brand will remain toxic to everyone except 15 to 20 percent of the country. People who are too closely associated with that brand will suffer the consequences. And meanwhile those who did oppose Trump, and who represent the majority of the party, are putting names into a black book.

In other words, endorsing Trump is a proposition where you have nothing to win and everything to lose. And, hey, I’m not saying you should go full #NeverTrump if your district voted heavily for Trump. Just lay low for a while. Say that you can’t personally support either major party nominee and you’re not telling anybody what to do.

 

By: Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry, The Week, May 17, 2016

May 22, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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