So the Rand Paul, Republican caucus was held Saturday, and the Commonwealth of Kentucky didn’t miss another opportunity to put its political lunacy on national display. At least this time we have company, as most other state Republicans thus far have gone for Donald Trump.
Here is the thing, though: The most common reason I hear people are supporting Trump is that he says things that others won’t. Others think those thoughts, he just says them. He will not kowtow to political correctness. Well in that spirit, here is my non-politically correct response: Voting for Donald Trump is absolutely insane. If you genuinely want him to be the next president, you are seriously delusional.
OK, now that that’s off my chest, I will concede that I do understand one rationale for nominating him: a protest vote of the Republican Party, because a Trump nomination may be the only way to force a hard reset of the party.
(Well, there may be two rationales, because if I were forced to choose between Trump and Ted Cruz, I wouldn’t hesitate. Cruz might be the only person who could get me to vote for George W. Bush if those were my choices. And if Bush dropped Cheney as his vice president, there’s no question I’d vote for Bush over Cruz.)
From my perspective as a liberal, progressive Democrat, the biggest problem with elected Republicans is that they are incapable of functioning in a non-political manner. With very few exceptions (i.e. Ron Paul, Rand’s true-believer, libertarian father), elected Republicans only know how to react to issues through a political lens. The most recent, telling example was the rush to politicize the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.
Now I know what Republicans are thinking: Why am I reading this column? (Just kidding.) Republicans are thinking: Democrats do that too. Sure, some do. But Democrats have demonstrated the ability to put politics aside, and sometimes when it doesn’t serve their longterm interests. For example, the moment the Democrats took the House back in 2006, Speaker Pelosi said there would be no Bush impeachment hearings or investigation into misleading the public into the Iraq war.
On the contrary, Scalia dies, Mitch McConnell trips over his slippers running to the phone to proclaim he will not allow a confirmation vote on any Obama nominee; or the afternoon after the shooting in San Bernardino, when Republicans called for a ban on all new Syrian refugees; or the Republican call to defund Planned Parenthood after videos surfaced giving the misimpression of illegal activity (videos that subsequently led to the video producers being indicted on felony charges, while Planned Parenthood was cleared of any wrongdoing.)
And if we can take a step back and remember the first election of Barack Obama in 2008, I think we will remember that a major part of his appeal was his calm, measured response to crisis. Obama’s first inclination was not to politicize the San Bernardino shooting by calling it “radical Islamic jihad,” and invading another country, but rather to respond appropriately with as much information as could possibly be gathered.
So in the context of this year’s Republican nomination cluster-mess, the “establishment protest” I’m hearing so much about is basically a cry for elected Republicans and pundits to stop being so political, and stand for something.
Here’s a test, rather, a challenge to Republicans (especially those on TV) who don’t want to lose their party to Trump: Every time you criticize Trump, do it without mentioning Hillary Clinton. I have seen only a few brave, true conservatives come out and say, unequivocally, that they will not support Trump, regardless if that’s against Hillary. Too often it is, “We deserve better options than Trump and Clinton.” That is the same hyper-political response that has led to the dysfunction in Washington, D.C. and the dysfunction within the Republican Party. That is the same political blindness that, for six or seven years, has prevented Republicans from discovering any alternative to Obamacare. If they were serious about repeal and replace, they would have come up with an alternative. If they were serious about immigration reform, with control of the House and Senate, come up with an immigration bill.
All that said, Trump is a perfect protest-vote opportunity for Republicans who truly want to hit the reset button on their party. I get that. But if you really think that Trump is the best candidate to be our next president, or even a good option, challenge yourself to try to explain why without mentioning the name “Hillary Clinton.”