The Wall Street Journal’s James Taranto, who I generally admire, opined in a piece on Tuesday titled, “If Trump Loses, Can the GOP Survive?”; that a party whose top three candidates cannot support its nominee not only jeopardizes a GOP victory, but sets a precedent where the party’s very viability is in question. He challenges the formulation of “…a criterion that excuses prominent partisans from their usual duty of loyalty to the party.” To be fair, Taranto states quite clearly, “Our point here is not that Republican leaders’ failure to endorse Trump is some kind of moral travesty, but that it poses a long-term peril to the GOP.” Nevertheless, Taranto then veers from proscribing the actions of “prominent partisans” to minimizing the #NeverTrump movement as a series of insignificant pleas, such that ”…every Trump opponent will give you his own list [of Trump disqualifiers]” which “…ignore the question of how Mrs. Clinton compares.” In other words, because Clinton is so much worse we shouldn’t be having this debate.
He contends that the #NeverTrump crowd offers in its defense essentially only two lines of reasoning:
- A strawman argument – “If David Duke were the nominee, would Republicans be obliged to support him?”
- “Party loyalty is not all that important.”
Clever. The use of a strawman argument to thwart another strawman argument. A double negative might make a positive in math, but not in politics. Both points invoke a candidate no Republican will be voting for. Neither David Duke nor Hillary Clinton is running as a Republican. Besides, I’ve heard the David Duke argument before, and it pretty much came and went like a fart in the wind. I don’t buy the idea that it’s a substantive or sustained thesis that buoys the #NeverTrump movement. I do buy the idea, though, that every #NeverTrumper can generate a laundry list of reasons to not vote for Trump. That fact should at least raise a nagging question in the minds of staunch Trumpists and the GOP alike. Why?
Name a Republican candidate in recent memory – or even distant memory, for that matter – who generated such controversy within party ranks. That sort of ire has been largely saved for the opposition, which generally cultivates such derision with the ease of a baby soiling its diaper. And whereas every Republican can produce a laundry list of valid reasons to not vote for Hillary, #NeverTrumpers can likewise fashion a list of reasons to oppose Trump that fall along the very same lines. In fact, Taranto names some of them:
“…this or that ideological heterodoxy is unacceptable; his rhetoric is vulgar, cruel or irresponsible; he has no governmental experience; his business practices are dubious; his temperament is foul; people with ugly or extreme views support him.”
So the principal argument against #NeverTrumpers, mainly that Hillary is so much worse, turns out to be a bait-and-switch. We’ve all heard the ridiculous claim that Trump is actually the most conservative candidate, but that never really stands up to scrutiny because Trump himself tears that argument apart every other day. So Trumpists and the GOP are left with but one argument: “Hillary is so much worse. So, party loyalty!”
Taranto wonders what will happen to the GOP if Trump loses, but there should be no wonder. Loss will not doom the party nor will victory save it. Its future is not in jeopardy because of a vocal opposition, but because it has failed to live up to its own credo. Republicans have failed their constituents time and again by not acting like conservatives. And in the rarest bit if irony, in the end it is the party itself that is not only responsible for creating a candidate who flouts its very values but the opposition to him as well!
The challenge then for the GOP, if it wishes to survive as an entity, is to start acting like Republicans again. That is the only thing that can save it. If the party were to return to its Constitutional roots and begin vehemently opposing the liberal stranglehold on the country, as well as stridently advancing conservative causes (in other words, if it would again represent its constituency), then it would stand a better-than-even chance of surviving this maelstrom.
The seemingly logical counterargument from the GOP and Trumpists alike is that Hillary will doom the nation. “So, party loyalty!” What #NeverTrumpers realize, though, is that Trump only slows the descent. He cannot prevent the crash. And the Republican party which has failed to materialize as an oppositional force to Progressivism will wither on the Trumpian vine.
The question I am too often asked is, “So what is your plan?” In other words, now that we have you backed into a corner, what alternative to voting for Trump would you suggest that will defeat Hillary? What Trumpists fail to grasp is that the question is, in and of itself, a non sequitur, and that the answer was never Trump to begin with and so remains #NeverTrump.
Trump was bound to fail as a candidate. Taranto “…rejects the premise that Trump is certain to lose,” but barring an event which actually removes Clinton from the race, there can be no other outcome because Trump’s modus operandi from the beginning was to tear the GOP to pieces. That certainly suits the crowd that wishes to start from scratch, but it is useless for winning elections. The answer, in other words, was to never nominate Trump in the first place. Okay, too late. So now what?
The only thing that will force the Republicans to return to their senses is a voter base that demands Constitutional fealty. No, that won’t help win the election, but as I said the election was lost from the start. And as I’ve previously mentioned, Trump only delays the inevitable death of the GOP and the demise of America. And if the GOP won’t return to its senses then a large swath of former-Republicans will make camp elsewhere. The fight against liberalism will go on, but perhaps under a different banner. Trumpists and the GOP will blame us for the train wreck that is going to occur in November, as if the election depended on our every vote. So I should add that even if I and every other #NeverTrumper jumped on the Trump Train we still couldn’t prevent it from derailing. Trump has done an admirable job of likewise alienating women, Hispanics, millennials and blacks. Without them there is no election to win. And if that isn’t to your liking, I’m afraid you have no one to blame but yourself.
Image courtesy of Gage Skidmore.