In case of Trump nom­i­na­tion, break glass

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Ge­orge Will

— Don­ald Trump’s dam­age to the Repub­li­can Party, al­though al­ready ex­ten­sive, has barely be­gun. Repub­li­can quis­lings will mul­ti­ply, slink­ing into sup­port of the most anti-con­ser­va­tive pres­i­den­tial as­pi­rant in their party’s his­tory. These col­lab­o­ra­tionists will ren­der them­selves in­el­i­gi­ble to par­tic­i­pate in the party’s re­con­struc­tion.

Ted Cruz’s an­nounce­ment of his pre­ferred run­ning mate has en­hanced the nom­i­na­tion process by giv­ing vot­ers per­ti­nent in­for­ma­tion. They al­ready know the only im­por­tant thing about Trump’s choice: His run­ning mate will be un­qual­i­fied for high of­fice be­cause he or she will think Trump is qual­i­fied.

Hil­lary Clin­ton’s op­ti­mal run­ning mate might be Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio, a pro-la­bor pop­ulist whose se­lec­tion would be balm for the bruised feel­ings of Bernie San­ders’ le­gions. Run­ning mates rarely mat­ter as elec­toral fac­tors: In 2000, Al Gore got 43.2 per­cent of the North Carolina vote. In 2004, John Kerry, try­ing to im­prove upon Gore’s to­tal there, ran with North Carolina Sen. John Ed­wards but re­ceived 43.6 per­cent. If, how­ever, Brown were to help de­liver Ohio for Clin­ton, the Repub­li­can path to 270 elec­toral votes would be nar­rower than a nee­dle’s eye.

Repub­li­can vot­ers, par­tic­u­larly in In­di­ana and Cal­i­for­nia, can, by sup­port­ing Cruz, make the Repub­li­can con­ven­tion a de­lib­er­a­tive body rather than one that merely rat­i­fies de­ci­sions made else­where, some of them six months ear­lier. A con­ven­tion’s sov­er­eign duty is to choose a plau­si­ble nom­i­nee who has a rea­son­able chance to win, not to pas­sively af­firm the will of a mere plu­ral­ity of vot­ers recorded episod­i­cally in a pro­tracted process.

Trump would be the most un­pop­u­lar nom­i­nee ever, un­able to even come close to Mitt Rom­ney’s in­suf­fi­cient sup­port among women, mi­nori­ties and young peo­ple. In los­ing dis­as­trously, Trump prob­a­bly would cre­ate down­bal­lot car­nage suf­fi­cient to end even Repub­li­can con­trol of the House. Ticket split­ting is be­com­ing rare in po­lar­ized Amer­ica: In 2012, only 5.7 per­cent of vot­ers sup­ported a pres­i­den­tial can­di­date and a con­gres­sional can­di­date of op­po­site par­ties.

At least half a dozen Repub­li­can sen­a­tors seek­ing re-elec­tion and Se­nate as­pi­rants can hope to win if the per­son at the top of the Repub­li­can ticket loses their state by, say, only four points, but not if he loses by 10. A Demo­cratic Se­nate prob­a­bly would guar­an­tee a Supreme Court with a lib­eral cast for a gen­er­a­tion. If Clin­ton is in­au­gu­rated

WASH­ING­TON

next Jan. 20, Mer­rick Gar­land prob­a­bly will al­ready be on the court — con­firmed in a lame duck Se­nate ses­sion — and jus­tices Ruth Bader Gins­burg, An­thony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer will be 83, 80 and 78, re­spec­tively.

The mi­nor­ity of peo­ple who pay close at­ten­tion to pol­i­tics in­cludes those who de­fine an ideal po­lit­i­cal out­come and pur­sue it, and those who focus on the worst pos­si­ble out­come and strive to avoid it. The for­mer ex­pe­ri­ence the ex­cite­ments of utopi­anism, the lat­ter set­tle for pru­dence’s mild plea­sure of avoid­ing dis­ap­pointed dreams. Both sen­si­bil­i­ties have their uses, but this is a time for pru­dence, which de­mands the pre­ven­tion of a Trump pres­i­dency.

Were he to be nom­i­nated, con­ser­va­tives would have two tasks. One would be to help him lose 50 states — condign pun­ish­ment for his com­pre­hen­sive dis­dain for con­ser­va­tive es­sen­tials, in­clud­ing the man­ners and grace that should lubri­cate the na­tion’s civic life. Sec­ond, con­ser­va­tives can try to save from the anti-Trump un­der­tow as many sen­a­tors, rep­re­sen­ta­tives, gov­er­nors and state leg­is­la­tors as pos­si­ble.

It was 32 years af­ter Jimmy Carter won 50.1 per­cent in 1976 that a Demo­crat won half the pop­u­lar vote. Barack Obama won only 52.9 per­cent and then 51.1 per­cent, but only three Democrats — An­drew Jack­son (twice), Franklin Roo­sevelt (four times) and Lyn­don John­son — have won more than 53 per­cent. Trump prob­a­bly would make Clin­ton the fourth, and he would be a tonic for her party, un­do­ing the ex­tra­or­di­nary dam­age (13 Se­nate seats, 69 House seats, 11 gov­er­nor­ships, 913 state leg­isla­tive seats) Obama has done.

If Trump is nom­i­nated, Re­pub­li­cans work­ing to purge him and his man­ner from pub­lic life will reap the con­sid­er­able sat­is­fac­tion of pre­serv­ing the iden­tity of their 162-year-old party while work­ing to see that they forgo only four years of the en­joy­ment of ex­ec­u­tive power. Six times since 1945 a party has tried, and five times failed, to se­cure a third con­sec­u­tive pres­i­den­tial term. The one suc­cess — the Re­pub­li­cans’ 1988 elec­tion of Ge­orge H.W. Bush — pro­duced a one-term pres­i­dent. If Clin­ton gives her party its first 12 con­sec­u­tive White House years since 1945, Re­pub­li­cans can help Ne­braska Sen. Ben Sasse, or some­one else who has honor­ably re­coiled from Trump, con­fine her to a sin­gle term.

Ge­orge Will is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact him at georgewill@wash­post.com.

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