GOP Candidate Donald Trump, Now What?
From Self-Promoter to American Statesman – a difficult transition.
“No man can well doubt the propriety of placing a president of the United States under the most solemn obligations to preserve, protect, and defend the constitution.” —Justice Joseph Story (1833)
I have written that I will vote for Donald Trump without hesitation – over the horrors of a Hillary Clinton presidency. Trump is more complex than his braggadocios facade. And his appeal runs much deeper. That being said, I have a sense that many genuine conservatives are, like me, A-B-C voters: Anyone But Clinton. However, allow me to give you some context for the A-B-C rationale.
Jimmy Carter’s first two years as president coincided with my last two years as a college student. It was a difficult decade for our nation, culminating with stagflation — high unemployment combined with high interest rates, indicative of simultaneous decline of GDP and rise of inflation.
On top of his domestic policy failures, Carter fumbled the ball on numerous national security and foreign policy fronts. The most notable of those failures was, of course, in the Middle East, where Iranian Islamists, in Carter’s third year in office, brazenly seized our embassy in Tehran and took 52 American diplomats and citizens hostage. By extension, they took the rest of Carter’s presidency hostage.
In 1980, rising tensions in the region inspired me and other young Patriots to volunteer for military service. However, the Iranian hostage crisis de-escalated immediately after Carter’s successor completed his oath of office on January 20, 1981, and all the hostages were released. Iran, wisely, did not want to test the resolve of Ronald Reagan.
No individual, other than my father, has influenced my life more than President Reagan. Despite all the rancorous attacks on Reagan from Leftist quarters, he was elected and re-elected with landslide majorities. Indeed, he met the “gold standard” of what we should seek in a president, as originally established by George Washington.
If I had to identify one Reagan quote that most characterized his spirit and tenure as president, it would be this summary remark at the 1992 Republican Convention: “America’s best days are yet to come. Our proudest moments are yet to be. Our most glorious achievements are just ahead.”
A few months after that convention, George H.W. Bush squandered his 90% post-Gulf War favorability rating and lost his re-election bid to an unknown young charismatic candidate, Bill Clinton. Bush assumed incorrectly, as did Mitt Romney in 2012, that he had it won.
It was Clinton’s 1996 re-election campaign against the feckless Senator Bob Dole that inspired us to launch The Patriot Post. We did so with the mission of providing grassroots Patriots an unbridled message of Liberty using an untested information medium called the World Wide Web. We were able then, as we are now, to flank our leftist opponents and execute an end run around the mainstream media and its stranglehold on public opinion.
We did not, however, launch The Patriot Post out of despair. Instead, we launched it out of our strong belief that “America’s best days are [always] yet to come,” and our strong desire to sustain that vision. Our nation’s Founders understood, as do we, that Tyranny is transient, but Liberty is eternal.
Our writers and staff are all students of history, policy and politics, steeped in our Founders’ advocacy for the unalienable Rights of Man as “Endowed by their Creator.” We are informed by the history of political debates and debacles, from Federalists versus anti-Federalists and the spirited arguments between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams, to the corrupt Centennial Election of 1876, and so forth.
I mention this bit of personal history, and that of your Patriot staff, by way of providing some insight into our Liberty-focused lens on current events.
In that light, let me declare that I have never witnessed, or even read about, a quadrennial election cycle as surreal as the 2016 campaign. It is a contest without precedent, and it is perilous for our Republic and the future of Liberty.
Most of our presidential elections in the last century were contests between the better of two candidates: Roosevelt v Parker, Coolidge v Davis, Eisenhower v Stevenson, Nixon v Humphrey, and Reagan v Carter. More recently, elections have been decided on who was the slickest and most deceptive of two candidates: Clinton v Bush and Dole, and Obama v McCain and Romney.
But, arguably, the 2016 election will be decided on who is the worst of two candidates — Clinton or Trump, who both appeal to the worst in us as people, unlike Reagan, who appealed to the best in us. In the upcoming election, it’s all a game of negatives, and who has the least of them.
We are approaching the 2016 Republican National Convention on July 18 and a presidential election on November 8. On Election Day, in the only presidential poll that matters, the presumed GOP nominee Donald Trump will face Hillary Clinton – if she hasn’t been indicted.
The outcome of the November election will not only determine our president for the next four years, but also the composition of the Supreme Court for the next quarter-century.
To that end, I have written six in-depth profiles on Donald Trump in the past year.
In July of 2015, I published, “The Trump Card — Ace of Anger Affirmation.” I highlighted how “establishment Republicans,” particularly former House Speaker John Boehner, had ignored the historic conservative grassroots victories of the 2010 and 2014 midterms, opting instead to maintain the status quo. They rightfully earned the scorn of conservatives nationwide, and Trump was tapping into that anger with a lot of populist rhetoric.
In January, I wrote about “Trump’s New York Values,” clearly distinguishing between his values and those of grassroots conservatives.
Subsequently, I have written four additional profiles. “If Trump is the Answer” analyzed a very convoluted question of his populist appeal. Next was “The Trump Freight Train,” highlighting the four things propelling Trump’s support: the “Obama Effect,” the “Fratricidal Field of Contenders,” Trump’s “Media Propulsion,” and the fact that Clinton is a very weak and vulnerable candidate. In “Trump’s Most Taxing Questions,” I challenged his thin façade. And finally, in “The Math That Matters Most,” I questioned whether Trump could defeat Clinton.
In addition, I’ve sternly criticized Trump’s crass play of the “9/11 Card” and the “Veterans Card,” especially since it seems that these plays occur when he’s short of other rhetoric. As the head of a military family, I remain deeply concerned with Trump’s assertion about illegal military orders: “They won’t refuse. They’re not going to refuse me. Believe me. … If I say, ‘Do it,’ they’re going to do it. That’s what leadership is all about. … When I say they’ll do as I tell them, they’ll do as I tell them. And that’s very — it’s very simple. It’s very simple.”
All of my Trump analysis has been framed in pursuit of the character required for the office of president of the United States. And, I might add, these Trump profiles were written by the author of “Time for a Second Tea Party,” which I wrote almost 10 years before the 2010 Tea Party movement.
Consequently, like many other genuine Patriots who have advanced the constitutional constructionist banner for years, I have had my own character maligned by some Trump devotees. While I understand the broad Trump appeal, the objection of some of his, shall we say, “enthusiasts” reflects a cultish desperation, as if I were insulting their savior. And anyone who questions Trump has been immediately mislabeled “GOP establishment.”
Typically these responses follow a pattern: “I agree with The Patriot Post on almost every issue, but I am withdrawing support and unsubscribing because you dared criticize Trump. The people have voted.”
Actually, fewer than five percent of eligible voters have supported Trump, and that should concern, first and foremost, his most devoted supporters. And though his plurality of votes has made him the presumptive nominee, a landslide majority of Republican primary voters cast ballots against Trump in primaries. Put another way, perhaps a bit of humility is in order — something totally alien to Trump and some of his most vociferous followers.
Now, for the record, I don’t lose any sleep as a result of character assassination by a few of Trump’s adherents, but I do have some heartburn over the implications such blind devotion will have on our country and the future of Liberty.
Historically, I’m aware of a few other instances where a charismatic populist with a statist/nationalist agenda attracted such followings. In each of those cases, their “leader” turned his iconic appeal into an assault on Liberty.
So, Trump, what now?
In several of the aforementioned profiles, I’ve declared that, against Hillary Clinton, I would vote for Trump. I am no more in the “never Trump” camp than I am in the “only Trump” camp. I believe we should now put ALL our energy behind defeating Clinton — one doesn’t have to be “for Trump” in order to seek every vote we can muster “against Clinton.”
Again, it comes down to a vote between who has the least negatives. That being said, it would certainly be easier to support Trump if he selects a genuine conservative as his VP candidate. It would also be easier if he could evolve from the the endless narcissistic self-aggrandizement, the blustering blather and petulant insults, into someone who remotely resembles at least a shadow of presidential character. But can a consummate self-promoter, who believes half his net worth is the value of the name “Trump.” transform into a genuine conservative statesman?
Perhaps someone will put parental controls on Trump’s social media accounts and convince him to try thinking before speaking.
Can we be done with his asinine personal and policy claims, whether about Ted Cruz’s father dining with Lee Harvey Oswald, or retiring $19 trillion in debt in eight years?
What about all the major flip-flops in his pillar campaign positions just 48 hours after he became the presumptive nominee, including tax increases and his mantra, “I am funding my own campaign”?
On whether he’ll reduce taxes, Trump asserted as only Trump can: “No, no, in my plan, they’re going down, but by the time it’s negotiated, they’ll go up. When I’m negotiating with the Democrats, I’m putting in a plan. It’s going to be negotiated. It’s not going to stay there. It’ll be a negotiation.” Perhaps Trump has forgotten that, at least right now, Republicans control both the House and Senate. Why will he be negotiating tax increases with Democrats?
Is Trump prepared to take a large chunk of Republican majorities in the House and Senate down the drain with him? There is tragic irony in the fact that while today’s House Republicans have their largest majority since 1928, and a majority of them are genuine conservatives, they are nonetheless saddled with the prospects of Trump as president.
What about the GOP unity that the greatest of the great promised? Trump now says, “I don’t want everybody. I don’t even want certain people that were extraordinarily nasty. Let them go their own way. Let them wait eight years or let them wait 16 years or whatever.” Does he mean “eight years or 16 years” for another Republican shot at the White House?
What about the fact that Trump just announced his finance chairman will be Steven Mnuchin, a longtime Clinton donor and George Soros crony? Of course, Trump has given far more financial support to Democrats than Republicans, but should this be a concern?
What concerns me most about this flood of reversals in just his first week as the presumptive GOP nominee is that he may also “negotiate” his commitment to nominate conservatives for the Supreme Court.
However, none of these observations should be construed to suggest that Trump can’t beat Clinton. Don’t underestimate Trump’s support. Fact is, I think Trump can defeat Clinton on her weakness as a candidate, but if she is indicted, the most likely alternative ticket would be the rise of Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren at the Demo convention – and that will pose much more formidable opposition.
As I observed weeks ago, “Reports on Trump’s imminent demise may be greatly exaggerated! Few Republicans or Democrats took Donald Trump’s presidential run seriously a year ago. Every seasoned political analyst has underestimated Trump’s appeal. The combination of a broad spectrum grassroots anger across party lines, exhaustion after two terms of the Obama regime and disdain for ineffectual establishment GOP ‘leadership’ has created a perfect market for Trump’s rhetorical sound-bite campaign.”
I note that this week, Trump is polling about even with Clinton in the big swing states, and Gallup pollsters concluded, “Trump is no more dividing the Republican Party than Clinton is dividing the Democratic Party… We need to be somewhat cautious in assuming that Republicans across the nation are riven by a devastating rift because of divided emotions about Trump.”
Again, all about a contest of negatives…
Of course, the fact is that the majority of voters in every presidential election since 1960 have been women, and to suggest Trump has a “problem” with women is understated.
The best news for Donald Trump’s presidential prospects is that Barack Obama eschewed them, lecturing the White House press corps, “I just want to emphasize the degree to which we are in serious times and this is a really serious job. This is not entertainment. This is not a reality show.”
Obama has been wrong about everything. Well, okay, he did pick North Carolina to win the NCAA basketball championship back in 2009, a few weeks after he took office. But he’s been wrong about everything ever since.
Again, this quadrennial election cycle is surreal, and in the six months between now and election day it will likely become more so. It’s truly a curious season in America. As Thomas Jefferson observed, “Man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the spot of every wind. With such persons, gullibility takes the helm from the hand of reason and the mind becomes a wreck.”
That notwithstanding, do I still believe “America’s best days are yet to come”?
I do. And those days may well be characterized by Trump’s “Make America Great Again” campaign slogan.
That being said, I also know that thelast time Republicans won a resounding majority of the popular vote in a presidential election was in 1988, when George H.W. Bush defeated Michael Dukakis by eight points, in large part due to his VP position on the ticket of the enormously popular Ronald Reagan, who won 49 states in his 1984 reelection bid. Of course “moderate Republican” Bush(41) lost to the younger more dynamic Bill Clinton. George W. Bush lost the popular vote to Al Gore in 2000, and narrowly won the popular vote against John Kerry in 2004 by two percent. The GOP has got to embrace a formula that goes beyond the electoral college and captures a majority of American votes.
Pro Deo et Constitutione — Libertas aut Mors
Semper Vigilans Fortis Paratus et Fidelis
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