And so it begins…
The great unwinding of the Party of Lincoln is formally gavelled into session Monday, July 18, 2016.
Yes, I realize technically Monday begins the GOP nominating convention, but the delegates have come not to nominate but to bury the Republican Party. On Thursday, the GOP Rules committee voted down an amendment to the convention rules that would allow delegates to vote their conscience. Donald Trump and his allies see this as a victory. Why they would see making people vote against their conscience as a good thing is beyond me. This is the party mind you that jumps up and down about how it is not right that doctors and pharmacists must act against their conscience.
So, having adopted Politburo-style rules for its convention, the Rules Committee went to bed and woke up Friday morning to an NBC/Marist Poll showing Trump losing to Clinton in the battleground states of CO, VA, NC and Florida. Prior to that poll, Real Clear Politics’ Electoral map had Clinton leading Trump 209 to 164. When you add in these new polls, it is Clinton 266, Trump 164. Trump is 10 points behind where Romney was at this point in the 2012 election cycle. It seems pretty clear a large amount of the country is Never Trump. And I doubt we’re about to see ‘Pence-mentum’ as a result of Trump’s VP selection.
(By the way, what exactly did Chris “Shinebox” Christie get out of all of this? He torched Marco Rubio like a heretic at the stake, carried Trump’s sandwiches and luggage, and at the end of it all, he got nothing but the scorn of a vast majority of the party and the citizens of New Jersey.).
Stop and think about the implications: Hillary “Jail Is for Little People” Clinton has been shown to be incapable of being entrusted with a Secret Santa list never mind National Security information. Hillary is untrustworthy. France has suffered another terrorist attack by Islamic Terrorists. Clinton insists Islam has nothing to do with the attack. Hillary is Delusional. A sitting Justice of the Supreme Court has violated all norms and conventions of decorum and verbally attacked a political candidate. The Courts are out to get Donald Trump. And Trump is still losing. Badly.
Trump supporters, who earlier this week were trumpeting a national poll showing their candidate tied with Clinton, are now claiming the polls are wrong. Trump is winning! Look at how wrong the primary polls were.
If that is true, then the GOP is in big trouble down ballot. The NBC poll shows in three of the battleground states polled, the Republican Senatorial candidate leading. If the polls are wrong about Trump than they must be wrong about the Senate races and those 3 states are swinging democratic, imperiling the Republicans’ chances of holding the Senate.
(And to reiterate something I have mentioned in the past: National Polling is useless in determining the winner of the Presidency. The United States does not have a national election. The 50 states and the District of Columbia hold simultaneous elections. It doesn’t matter who is winning the country, but who is winning the states).
The party is screwed because its nominee and his supporters are ignoring reality.
I have no doubt come election night, Trump supporters will be channeling their inner Karl Roves and refusing to believe the results as they roll in. When the platform committee is reduced to arguing over whether or not chocolate covered Oreos are junk food, it’s time to just go home. And speaking of the platform, it’s no worse than any other platform in modern political history. Still it would have been nice if the platform had just been the US Constitution.
The GOP is not going to leave Cleveland one big happy family. It’s hard to do that when so many of your elected officials are avoiding the Convention like it was a Zika Virus Pit. The last two Republican Presidents (and the only Republican Presidents still living) aren’t coming to Cleveland, the Party’s 2008 & 2012 Standard Bearers won’t be there. Not only is Jeb Bush not attending, he is making noise about voting for Gary Johnson. Marco Rubio, Lindsey Graham and Scott Walker are not attending. Senators Mark Kirk, Kelly Ayotte, Ron Johnson, Roy Blunt, Jerry Moran and Lisa Murkowski, all up for reelection are all skipping. A majority of Utah’s Congressional delegation is skipping the party. Rising star, South Carolina governor Nikki Haley won’t attend. Former NFL Quarterback Tim Tebow was listed by the Trump Campaign as convention speaker. This was apparently news to Tebow who has no plans to attend. Nebraska Senator Ben Sasse has announced he has dumpster fire to watch and will not journey to the convention. I think Ben Sasse should attend with his children to watch the GOP Convention reenact the Cuyahoga River Fire of 1969.
John Kasich apparently will not attend the convention in Cleveland, Ohio. That’s correct: the Republican governor of Ohio is skipping the convention being held in the State of Ohio.
Here’s the thing: in the long run, it doesn’t matter the party is demanding its delegates vote against their conscience. There was no way Trump wasn’t going to get the nod. The #NeverTrumps within the party have had about 2 months to coalesce around someone, anyone and they didn’t. All of the suggested options: Cruz, Kasich, Paul Ryan, random military officers and Dallas Chief of Police David Brown were put forward as alternatives simply because they weren’t Trump. No argument was brought forth that “Candidate Alternative X” could bridge the gaps between the different factions of the party, binds the wounds of the primary season, etc. I think a ticket with Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina and Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky would have been capable of bridging many of the divides, fiscal, racial, conservative/libertarian, etc. But the GOP #NeverTrumps were always looking for the white knight. And those proposed were always predicated on “we need ‘X’ because he ain’t Trump”. David French is not Donald Trump. That’s not enough. That’s not how you save the party.
The Republican Party is in trouble because it is no longer a party. It isn’t even a party in the Wil Rogers sense. It is a coalition of social conservatives who believe in big government to end the scourge of pornography (never mind the fact there zero evidence to support their claims); neo-cons who have a whole list of countries they still want to invade, nativists who believe all of our ills can be solved by building a wall and stopping all foreign trade; populists who backed Trump instead of Sanders; and the trio of Rand Paul, Justin Amish and Thomas Massie who seem believe the US Constitution is not an a la Carte Menu.
The best case scenario for this convention would have been the delegates are allowed to vote their conscience and the vote is for Trump. It would have at least maintained the fiction that party was united around Trump and against Hillary. Trump’s victory in the Rules Committee makes it clear free will and conscience has no place in his Republican Party. Don’t think that won’t be used as an angle of attack come the fall.
The center cannot hold because there is no center. Yesterday, RCP’s Carl Canon noted in 2011, there was no front runner for the 2012 nomination. It was a wide open race.
In hindsight, the Gallup headline understated the extent of the Republicans’ problems. This was a political party that had traditionally given its nomination to the so-called next person in line. But only 13 percent considered Romney that guy? Rival Republicans such as Rick Santorum and Newt Gingrich (both of whom registered at 1 percent in the Gallup survey) looked at those results and thought, understandably, that there was nobody with a natural claim to the nomination….
In the fullness of time, both the pro-Romney and anti-Romney perceptions were borne out: He proved to be the strongest primary season candidate; he was also miscast as a limited-government conservative who could credibly explain the vast federal overreach of Barack Obama’s administration.
Five years later, the “Never Trump” crowd is confronting a similar dilemma. It’s one thing for a Republican to say why they don’t want Donald Trump at the top of the ticket — pick your reason. That’s not the hard part. The real question is: Who’s the better alternative?
When the Republicans lose in November, the party will rip itself to shreds as each faction tries to show why it has the only path to victory. For 8 years the party will have had no direction, no lodestar personality to shape the direction of the party and what it means to be a Republican, other than not being a Democrat. Without that, it cannot survive.
So the Republican delegates convene in Cleveland, compelled to vote not their conscience but simply for a man who has a unfavorability rating of 60% and is doing worse than Romney in 2012. The Republican Party has lashed itself to Trump like Ahad to Moby Dick. And the Great Orange Whale will drag the GOP down to a watery grave.
And perhaps that is for the best.