Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Trump and the Republican Nightmare

In the fallout from Trump's presumptive nomination, establishment Republicans are trying to work out where they stand. Prior to Cruz and Kasich dropping out, Washington Post columnist George Will called for Trump to be stopped at a contested convention, earning this response from Drew Magary (very NSFW language):

I wish this democracy didn’t have so much DEMOCRACY in it, you know? Once in a while, it’s important to disregard the will of the voters and leave the selection process to people who know BEST.

Magary is not wrong on the facts. Donald Trump got a large plurality of votes in the primaries. By the time it's all done, he may well have a majority of both votes and pledged delegates.

So what?

As of now, Trump has received some 10.6 million votes in the primaries. That's very impressive, but it's less than 5% of the US electorate of 226 million. Some Trump voters are misguided and badly informed; others are racist or just plain stupid. The exact proportions need not concern us here. The important thing is, they have chosen to cast their votes for a would-be strongman who cares nothing for reason or the rule of law.

If Trump was the duly elected President of the United States, then yes: His opponents would have to acknowledge his constitutional authority, and his mandate from a national election. Thankfully, he is not there yet. All he has done is motivate the most angry, desperate and irrational one-twentieth of the US electorate to go out and vote for him.

Trump's following does not make him respectable, it makes him dangerous. The only responsible course is to oppose him by all lawful means.

Don't get me wrong. George Will and his ilk are pompous twerps. They fight Trump with the same ineptitude they bring to all tasks, which explains how they and their party got into this sorry state. There is a bit of schadenfreude in seeing them panic as the vulgar mob takes over. Let's all have a good chuckle and move on, because this is serious.

The decision of certain Republicans to denounce Trump is absolutely the right one. For the others, what more could it possibly take? How much worse does the primary winner have to be? Does Trump have to actually commit murder on a crowded street, instead of just boasting about how he could?

Many elected officials are trying to have it both ways. Senators mutter "I support the nominee" without so much as saying his name. As Josh Marshall points out, it is hard to imagine how they can sustain this fence-sitting for the next six months.

Of course, denouncing Trump may damage the institutional integrity of the Republican Party. That's too bad. It's largely broken already. Some things are more important than party unity, and this is a time when individuals must decide where they stand.

The options for Republicans opposing Trump are not enviable. They include the following:
  • Manipulate the convention rules to deny Trump the nomination
  • Call for a Republican to run as an independent
  • Endorse a minor-party candidate such as Gary Johnson, Libertarian and former Republican Governor of New Mexico
  • Advocate a write-in vote for Mitt Romney, Dick Cheney, or Mickey Mouse
  • Give their grudging support to Hillary Clinton
  • Hide under the bed and cry

The first course would probably backfire at this point; it would allow Trump to pose as a martyr and increase his popularity. All of the others, even the last one, have more honour and dignity than any kind of support for Trump.

Exactly what Republicans do is their own choice, but they can't weasel their way out of this one. To borrow a phrase from George W Bush, you are either with Trump or against him.

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