There are few things more marvelously entertaining than watching a Party implode. And this year we might just get a twofer! The Democrats aside, Trump is unprecedented, so I frankly don’t blame members of the Establishment for losing their collective mind. I do suspect, though, they are already coming to terms with their grief and anger and ready to accept the inevitable.
That said, some of the Party faithful are clinging on to their pre-Trump Party for dear life hoping for some convention shenanigans. It’s as if they’re howling at an oncoming freight train: “STOP TRUMP AND MAKE AMERICAN GREAT…uhhh, no wait, uhhh, and make America, no damn it! I mean make, no “make”, arggg! UHHHH, BUILD A NEW AMERICAN CENTURY! There we go!” He’s wormed his way into the Party and its psyche. But this is all Establishment talk and maneuvers and that’s exactly what Trump is channeling: anti-establishment sentiment. And the Establishment knows better. Sure, they could technically pull off a brokered convention but they’d be toast. It would be the supreme act of the Establishment thwarting a very grumpy (and apparently large) section of the American electorate that the Establishment needs to win in November. Plus if you pull a fast one with Trump in control of a clear and growing plurality, there is no reason he won’t go third party (you really think he gives two hoots about the GOP?) and then the GOP has no chance as the Teflon Don runs off with millions of votes.
Simply put, it’s Trump or bust.
The base may want a kamikaze attack (better to lose without Trump than win with Trump) but they need to admit that they are willing to lose intentionally . Frankly, though, I don’t know how much good it would do anyway. Anti-establishment sentiment could only grow. Then again, we want to remember that Trump is not the end of the Republican Party. He draws a good deal of support from ex-liberal, blue collar workers. The base is still intact however frustrated with the Establishment.
Oddly enough (in a very odd election) Mitt Romney decided to come out of loser retirement to give his two cents. It was a pointless and pathetic gesture since his opinion is worth just that: two cents (they tinkle very loudly into Rubio’s coffers: see endorsement). While the move underscores lingering denial in the Party, I’m not sure if one can argue that Romney represents the Establishment these days.
Anyway, he had some odd things to say, but I want to highlight just two of them.
First: “I know that some people want the race to be over. They look at history and say a trend like Mr. Trump’s isn’t going to be stopped. Perhaps. But the rules of political history have pretty much all been shredded during this campaign.”
Yeah, and Trump has been the shredder. He’s in the driver seat of an unprecedented (although maybe presidential bound) wrecking machine and pretending like a new twist will unseat him, shred him, and bring forth a winnable candidate is wishful thinking.
Second: “His domestic policies would lead to recession,” Romney concluded, summing up his case. “His foreign policies would make America and the world less safe. He has neither the temperament nor the judgment to be president. And his personal qualities would mean that America would cease to be a shining city on a hill.”
This is boilerplate flailing at the inexplicable. It is a trotting out of tired and utterly irrelevant tropes. Everyone knows what Trump is because he wears it on his sleeve. Romney points out that Trump is a boor as if that hasn’t been staring people in the face from the start. He argues that Trump’s policies would hurt the country, but they’ve been saying that for a long time, and people don’t seem to give a damn. Rich, New England aristocrats and Establishment dignitaries have gotten kungfued and look incredibly silly. As Trump would say, “It’s sad, very sad.”
This “shining city on a hill” business, though, is the most annoying element of the address. It’s a hearkening back to Reagan, who secularized the Puritan’s metaphor, who in turn politicized Jesus’ gospel. Give to Caesar what is Caesars, and leave to God what is God’s. Further, Romney has the classic “conservative” pretension of declaring that America is the “indispensable nation.” Implicitly this means “bomb them, bomb them, bomb them.” Rejecting the Founders, the Republicans go “in search of monsters to destroy.” Either way, if the current President hasn’t eroded our standing in the world (odd that after eight years of Obama Romney still thinks we’re the shining city), I can’t imagine Trump doing too much worse (unlike the rest of the Republican field, at least Trump has a chance of not getting us into another boneheaded war). Of course this leaves unanswered why we should expend our blood and treasure for the good of the world in the first place.
Parting thought: if I’m the Establishment, I’m looking for a way to work some good advisers into a hypothetical Trump cabinet. That will prove difficult as any respectable fellow will shy away from attaching his horse to the Trump wagon. But it’ll be necessary. Even the best of Presidents need a team. Unfortunately, Trump has made his campaign such a circus and policy wonks rightly distrust the theatrics of the ring master.