Clin­ton’s bad, Trump’s worse

A long-time Repub­li­can says the na­tion would re­cover from the dam­age Clin­ton would do but that Trump’s au­thor­i­tar­ian im­pulses pose a real dan­ger

Baltimore Sun - - NATION & WORLD - Jack Wick­ham, Glen Arm

Last week’s ex­po­sure of Don­ald Trump’s ex­alt­ing his own lust­ful­ness — and his de­mean­ing of women — was not ex­actly new news, but it fi­nally (and be­lat­edly) elicited the out­rage of many of the Repub­li­can Party stal­warts. You would think that be­fore now they hadn’t no­ticed that in Mr. Trump’s world women are sim­ply ob­jects that ex­ist only for the pur­pose of glo­ri­fy­ing his ego. Of course he ac­cords vot­ers ex­actly the same es­teem.

Mr. Trump’s low re­gard for vot­ers is cap­sulized in his sig­na­ture cam­paign is­sue: build­ing a wall along the south­ern bor­der and get­ting Mex­ico to pay for it. This propo­si­tion was cyn­i­cally ad­vanced by the can­di­date with the full knowl­edge that the wall would never have a snow­ball’s chance of be­ing built no mat­ter who would be­come pres­i­dent. The Mex­i­cans would, of course, never con­trib­ute a peso, nor would Congress ever fund a dol­lar for it. But then it was never sup­posed to be se­ri­ous pol­icy. Its only pur­pose was to ex­cite cred­u­lous vot­ers into start­ing a move­ment that would be re­in­forced later by less cred­u­lous (and pos­si­bly even in­cred­u­lous) vot­ers, build­ing fi­nally into some­thing that would re­sult in the ul­ti­mate glo­ri­fi­ca­tion of Don­ald Trump.

That worked well enough to win Mr. Trump the Repub­li­can nom­i­na­tion, but only be­cause Repub­li­can Party lead­ers shot them­selves in both feet. The founders of our repub­lic could have told them how to avoid this in­dig­nity. They an­tic­i­pated that there would be in­stances where ex­citable vot­ers might be stam­peded by dem­a­gogues and the re­sult could be the elec­tion of a despot. It is for this rea­son that the Elec­toral Col­lege ex­ists — to al­low more knowl­edge­able del­e­gates to be em­pow­ered so that they can tem­per their con­stituents’ de­sires with their own judg­ment.

The GOP is set up the same way. The vot­ers don’t select the nom­i­nee, the con­ven­tion del­e­gates do. Un­for­tu­nately, most of the July con­ven­tion del­e­gates didn’t grasp that this was how the sys­tem worked and so they didn’t do their duty. Af­ter that, most of the party es­tab­lish­ment caved also. It was a de­grad­ing spec­ta­cle.

The gen­eral elec­torate is about to do for the Repub­li­can Party what it wouldn’t do for it­self: de­con­tam­i­nate it. Mr. Trump de­serves to lose in Novem­ber and with any luck, he will lose by a large mar­gin. Hil­lary Clin­ton, if and when elected, may do plenty of dam­age as pres­i­dent but the coun­try can even­tu­ally re­cover from it. A Trump vic­tory, by con­trast, would be an epic na­tional dis­as­ter. Ev­ery pres­i­dent we have had un­til now, com­pe­tent or in­com­pe­tent, when the chips were down could be con­sid­ered will­ing of putting the na­tion’s in­ter­est be­fore his own. Not so with Mr. Trump. He will want to make moves to­ward au­thor­i­tar­ian rule with his pri­mary ob­jec­tive be­ing the grat­i­fi­ca­tion of his own ego. That’s what makes him so dan­ger­ous.

Months ago, when it be­came clear that the Repub­li­can Party had lost its way, my wife and I, Repub­li­cans of long stand­ing, stopped sup­port­ing it. Yet we be­lieve that the party will even­tu­ally find its way back. We are strongly at­tracted to the phi­los­o­phy of lim­ited gov­ern­ment and free mar­kets, lightly reg­u­lated. We look for­ward to the day when the Trump night­mare is be­hind us and the GOP re­turns to its his­toric prin­ci­ples.

KAL/THE ECON­O­MIST

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