Imagine, if you will, a gathering of one lady and 15 distinguished gentlemen. Nine of them had served as the governor of their state, most for multiple terms. Another five have served the nation in its highest legislative body, while one was a world-renowned neurosurgeon and the lady worked her up to CEO of a large hi-tech corporation.
Now, if you’ve ever watched the movie Caddyshack, imagine the character Al Czervik (Rodney Dangerfield’s character) – loud, bawdy, and obnoxious. Our version of Al, bullying his way into this genteel affair, was Donald Trump. Yet he emerged victorious, in part due to that brash personality but also thanks to a heaping helping of populist rhetoric that sounded so good 40 percent of the Republicans voted for him. (That’s assuming, of course, our side hasn’t been hoodwinked by a massive version of Operation Chaos – and given the number of people who switched their registration from Democrat to Republican or voted in open primaries, I wouldn’t put it past them.) I say “sounded good” because, by and large, his rhetoric had the depth of a cookie sheet.
One upshot of this in Maryland is that the state Republican Party was poised to exceed one million members for (I believe) the first time ever. (As of the end of March, the MDGOP had 997,211 voters, which was an increase of about 16,000 from February – so the trend may have put them over the top.) But that success will be short-lived with Trump, who has disgusted so many erstwhile Republicans that a decrease of 50,000 Maryland Republicans in the next couple months isn’t out of the question.
So now I am hearing the old complaint that not voting for Trump will be a vote for Hillary. No, for conservatives, not voting for Trump will be a repudiation of the direction the Republican Party has taken since Barack Obama took office, and arguably since Ronald Reagan left.
You see, if Congress had shown any stones whatsoever, rank-and-file Republicans would not have felt the need to shake things up by electing an outsider as President. Perhaps Ted Cruz would not have felt the need to run for President in the first place, and the Republican nomination may well be coming down to a contest between two or three of those governors, or perhaps another Senator or the CEO with business experience.
Instead we get Trump, who basically ignores one leg of the conservative stool by praising Planned Parenthood and giving short shrift to religious liberty. Limited government doesn’t seem to be his bag either, since he’s pledged to let Social Security and Medicare go without reforming them and pandered to Iowa farmers by promising to keep ethanol subsidies going. Where most GOP candidates run right in the primary and tack to the center for the general election, Trump is already in the middle so he will likely soften some of his more conservative positions as part of the flexibility in getting the deal done. It’s getting to the point where Trump and Clinton are not all that distinguishable from each other.
And about getting those deals done. Conservatives have wanted a border fence for more than a decade; in fact, the authorizing legislation was passed under President Bush. So why do I think that The Donald will get his fence once he promises to Democrats he will create a bigger, more beautiful door for it? Since he’s the de facto head of the Republican Party now, when is he going to negotiate with Congressional Republicans and work in a more conservative direction? Perhaps the twelfth of never? We will get the “touchback” amnesty, but then the Democrats will just say “forget the touchback part.”
Finally, to borrow a phrase from another movie, I find Donald Trump to be like a box of chocolates, because you never know which one you’ll get. He’s not exactly the poster child for consistency so a Trump administration would be a constant guessing game.
I suppose my advice to voters in those remaining primary states is to show up and vote your conscience if you’re not a Donald Trump supporter. Don’t change parties yet, and get out and vote for Ted Cruz, John Kasich, or anyone else but Trump. Keeping him under 50% of the overall national vote would be a good way to send a message that we’re not sold on Trump as the nominee.
You have to give Donald Trump credit for one thing: he was smart enough to run in a dysfunctional political year. In that case, he has been the perfect candidate – too bad voters like me were looking for order after the disarray of the last eight years. And I will say: had I written this last night, the word “campaign” would not have been in the title. But the Grand Old Party may want to prepare for some stormy days ahead.