We must frankly face the fact that the front-runners in both political parties represent a new low, at a time of domestic polarization and unprecedented nuclear dangers internationally. This year’s general election will offer a choice between a thoroughly corrupt liar and an utterly irresponsible egomaniac.
The Republican establishment, whose serial betrayals of their supporters created the setting for a Donald Trump to arise, must now decide how best to deal with the apparent inevitability of his candidacy.
Choosing among various unpalatable options may require some tricky maneuvering on their part, but they have been used to tricky maneuvering before, which is how they find themselves in this predicament in the first place.
Despite my discomfort with yet another brickbat thrown at that nebulous whipping boy "the Republican establishment," there can be no question that Republican leaders have some soul-searching to do with regard to their failure to pursue their agenda as aggressively as hey might have. To his credit, however, Sowell doesn't let the voters off the hook either. Nobody put a gun to their heads and made them express their outrage by choosing (at least by a plurality) a psychologically immature, unstable,and obviously unelectable buffoon who is also a pathological liar probably more dishonest even than Hillary.
Sowell touches rather lightly on this point, but not the least of the reasons why Donald Trump is a worse threat to the conservative movement and to America than Hillary is (a point Sowell probably wouldn't concede) is that he has every racist, neo-Nazi and ultranationalist nut job in America shouting his praises, ready to proclaim him America's messiah. One does not attract such a fan club without reason, and one does not embrace somebody who does without the stain and the stench rubbing off. Already, as it stands, the brand "Republican" has been damaged, perhaps forever, by Trump's nomination. Should he remain leader of the party for four years, they may never wash or wear off.
A theoretical President Trump would not only and inevitably fail in such an epic fashion that it's doubtful that a Republican could occupy the White House for decades, but the party of Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan would from that point onward be perceived not only by the more paranoid and shrill members of the Democratic party but by reasonable and sensible people everywhere as the party of the Ku Klux Klan and Neo-Fascism and every kind of bigotry. The proverb about lying down with pigs applies here, and the longer one does so the stronger and more lasting both the stench becomes, and the harder it is to get clean again.
Like an accidental poisoning victim requiring a stomach pump, the Republican party at this point will probably have to endure the unpleasant experience of a defeat in an election it surely ought to have won simply to get the toxic sludge out of its system as fast as is feasible, simply in order to make the patient's survival possible.
But that defeat is inevitable. Despite the closeness of the polling numbers right now (Ben Shapiro ascribes this to the awkwardness of "a pair of egomaniacal serial liars struggling for the moral high ground") Lindsey Graham was right on the money when he observed months ago that "dishonest beats crazy." That's especially true when "crazy" is if anything the more dishonest of the two. Hillary may be an accomplished liar, but as a study the other day showed, Trump lies on average once every five minutes!
I expect Trump to be crushed this November even by a candidate as abrasive and unpopular as Hillary Clinton. I further expect the GOP to lose the Senate and possibly the House. However much blame the "Establishment" must bear, the politician's instinct to flatter and appease the voters should not be indulged in here. The people who will complain the loudest about the second President Clinton will be the very voters who chose to vent their anger by eliminating one by one perhaps the most impressive field of potential presidents either party has fielded in a generation, narrowing the race down to two of the only three of the candidates on the stage at that first debate (the other been the gentle, intelligent but inept Ben Carson) with no chance whatsoever of winning an election history and Democratic incompetence were trying to hand the Republican party gift-wrapped and tied in a bow, It was the rank-and-file's blind and unreasoning tantrum even more than the "Establishment" failures which have thrown an election she could not otherwise have won to Hillary Clinton, and there is no hope for the Republican future unless the rank-and-file owns its error.
Which it won't. The rank-and-file will blame the Never Trumpers for its own choosing of a candidate who could not have won even if every registered Republican in America voted for him. That fact, even more than the making of this blunder (and the parallel if partial embrace of Ted Cruz) at a moment when perhaps America's worst of many crises was a paralyzing polarization at the extremes and a refusal of everyone to compromise, makes me skeptical about the Republican party's prospects of recovering from the looming debacle. The Republican rank-and-file, like the Democratic rank-and-file, lives in a world of partisan delusion in which every inconvenient fact can be explained away by blaming the other guy.
Ironically, at least in some measure the anger of the Republican voters was at the Republican leadership's insistence on doing what the Democrats and they themselves refused to do: act like grownups at a moment when the bitterness of our divisions was as much the enemy of America and of each of our political parties as mistaken ideas and philosophies. When the history of this election is written decades from now, historians will observe that rank-and-file Republican voters were outraged by the willingness of their own leadership to at least try to do the very thing general election voters were outraged that politicians weren't doing: looking for common ground, and trying to work together.
The epitaph of the Republican party may well be written in the bizarre complaint raised over and over in the primary season now concluding by angry Republican voters that compromise, rather than being the lifeblood of the governance of a free people, is inherently somehow the enemy of principle.
So strongly does this point need to be underscored that I will say it again: while the Republican "Establishment" bears its share of responsibility for the present mess, the bulk of that responsibility rests with the people who voted for Donald Trump. and chose to express their anger not by taking thoughtful action but by throwing a self-destructive tantrums and nominating a candidate who is himself an emotional infant. Nothing is to be gained by patronizing or coddling them, as politicians and to a lesser extent journalists are compelled to do as a matter of self-interest.
That said, Sowell repeats the familiar nonsense about how a Clinton victory means that the chance this election affords to re-take the Supreme Court will evaporate. But that chance is already lost. Trump cannot be elected; all discussion of whether or not conservatives should support him for this or any other reason is finally beside the point. Besides, his nomination will almost certainly cost the GOP the Senate; even if by some miracle Trump won, not only is there is no reason to think that his appointments would be any better than HIllary's- everything he's said on the subject seems to indicate that they would not be- but there would be no chance of getting them confirmed if they were.
There is a scene in the movie "Gettysburg" in which Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, told that the position of his Twentieth Maine is so crucial that it cannot be abandoned under any circumstances and that he must "hold to the last," reverts to his civilian occupation as a professor of rhetoric and muses, "The last what? The last bullet? The last man? The last foot of ground?" The answer, of course, is "all of the above." All the ink that will be spilled between now and the Cleveland convention- and even thereafter- about the Great Republican Implosion of 2016 will in the last analysis be nothing but an exercise in rhetoric. Trump will lose. Hillary will win. Because precisely of the self-destructive method the Republican rank-and-file chose to express their anger at a leadership too willing to compromise, both the presidency and the Senate will be handed to the Democrats in a year in which they could not otherwise have won either, and the Left will run wild for four years, with all three branches of government firmly in their grasp.
One could wish that the third or so of the Republican electorate who voted for Donald Trump had taen anger managment training!
At this point, nothing can change that. The poison has been swallowed; whether the GOP faces the stomach pump of defeat in a brave, willing and principled fashion or unites behind the emotionally unstable totalitarian the rank-and-file has chosen out of a mistaken idea that there is a "worse" when the choices are Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump will not matter a bit.
The Republican leadership (to the extent that it wants to remain the Republican leadership) will accept its share of the responsibility for this dog's breakfast of an election year, do whatever penance is required, and move on. It's what politicians do. It's the only way they can survive. "The Establishment" will grovel to the rank and file. It will promise to do better. Perhaps it will keep its promise, become as childish and uncompromising as they are, and lose the next election the Cruz way rather than the Trump way.
But whether it keeps that promise or not, I cannot see the Republican rank-and-file, and most certainly the motley crew of authoritarians, racists, and hotheads who will have gotten Donald Trump nominated even recognizing and admitting their mistake. They will blame the Never Trump crowd for obeying our consciences, and ignore the numbers which will surely show that our violating those consciences and voting for Trump would not have changed the outcome. They will always find somebody else to blame. Always.
And when 2020 rolls around, what is left of the GOP will face another golden opportunity. Only during the Republican ascendancy during Reconstruction and during the Roosevelt-Truman era has either party won four consecutive presidential elections. Yet that is what Hillary would have to do in order to be re-elected. On the other hand, if Trump wins, and fails- as he inevitably would- his administration may well be followed by another sixteen or twenty years of Democrats in the White House.
But Hillary will not only have history working against her in 2020. She will be very, very old. She will also have failed to move America forward through the failed liberal policies of her party, and few voters would be willing to keep on making the same mistakes for more than twelve years.And besides all that, she's Hillary. If you think she's unpopular now, just wait until she's been president for four years!
Who knows? Maybe all is not lost on the Supreme Court front. Maybe enough retirements may still be ahead to at least minimize the damage (though we may never again have the opportunity to transform the Court and reverse the tide of bizarre and destructive rulings it has handed down that the Republican rank-and-file threw away by choosing the unelectable Donald Trump in a year the GOP could hardly otherwise have lost).
I have absolutely no doubt that the "Establishment," the politicians, the conservative movement, and maybe to some extent the media will all have learned from their mistakes, and will take care not to repeat them in 2020.
But here's the scary part: I see very little chance that the people who in the last analysis and for whatever reasons actually made that mistake- the Republican rank-and-file, and particularly that portion of it which voted for Trump, will even acknowledge their mistakes, much less learn from them. They will blame somebody else- the Never Trumpers, the Trilateral Commission, the Illuminati, the Mexicans, whoever.
They will blame their own mistake on anybody and everybody other than themselves. And that does not exactly fill me with confidence that they won't find a way to blow a second consecutive presidential election the Republicans surely should have won.