Several years ago I penned a piece on then Presidential candidate, Ron Paul, someone who had no chance at the time of being President, but who had captured the affections of far too many discerning people. I know my article could have never swayed the opinions of the typical Ron Paul supporter, but I have received more emails on that piece than on any non-investment piece I have ever written thanking me for that article, telling me that they did not know, or had not thought through, the problems with Ron Paul until that piece.
I hold out no hope that this article will sway the opinions of any Donald Trump supporters, and yet the stakes are far, far higher. Ron Paul never won a single state in three Presidential attempts. My motives to shine a light on his conspiratorial ideology were because he was a credible and capable spokesman for free markets and Constitutionalism, which I will take a bullet for, and yet he was damaging those causes I believed in so much with such an inane and morally reckless view of America and her role in the world. With Trump, my motive is both similar and dissimilar: Similar in that I desperately want to protect the sanctity of the movement known as conservatism for which I consider myself a passionate advocate, but dissimilar in that Ron Paul was going nowhere, whereas Donald Trump has a serious chance of becoming the GOP candidate for the Presidency in the most important election of our lifetimes. Worse, he may even become President.
Do not mistake this article, though, as motivated by the desire to change Trump voters minds. I would be grateful if it happened, but let me concede a few very important things:
Donald Trump has staked his campaign on being a successful businessman, when he is no such thing. His supporters do not care.
Donald Trump has no professed compatibility with conservatism. I don’t mean in a Burkean sense, or Kirkian sense, or Buckleyian sense, or Reaganite sense. I mean, he has no conservative sense at all. None. He has never quoted a single word of any of the great forefathers of conservative ideology, and to the extent he ever spoke or wrote about Ronald Reagan, it was to call him a con man and failed President. His supporters do not care.
Donald Trump’s children are an impressive lot (I give heartfelt props to any parent of means these days who see their kids avoid the pitfalls of drugs and alcohol), but his marital history, professed sexual history, and lifetime as a family man/husband are pitiful. It is he who boasts of countless sexual encounters with married women, not Bible thumpers or Puritans accusing him of it. His supporters do not care.
Donald Trump has not elaborated on one single detail of policy or belief. He has claimed, essentially, three things in this campaign:
(1) He will make American great again. He has not said how.
(2) He will build a wall along the southern border and get Mexico to pay. He has not said how.
(3) He will destroy ISIS. He has not said how.
He has, for six months, been promoted, provoked, poked, and plead with to propose any policy prescription at all; he has pushed back with pejoratives and often the actual “p” word (alliteration abounds). His supporters do not care.
He is lying through his teeth about bankrolling his own campaign. His supporters do not care.
He has demonstrated remarkable ignorance about foreign policy, a frightening lack of command as to who is who on the world stage, and what it will take to defend America from ISIS and the broader Jihadist threat. His supporters do not care.
I am wasting my time to delve into his affections for the individual mandate of ObamaCare, his advocacy of single-payer, his promotion of a wealth tax, his hatred of free trade, his fondness for his hyper-leftist sister being on the Supreme Court, his claim that Bush purposely lied about WMD, and his advocacy for private-use eminent domain. His supporters do not care.
I have written elsewhere that the greatest punditry myth of this election is that voter dissatisfaction with “inadequately conservative” Republicans created Donald Trump. This weekend I even heard the fantastic economist, Brian Wesbury, say that the vote for TARP in 2008 created Trump. Oh please. I have received countless emails, posts, tweets, and proclamations that “Trump is the man because we tried everything else and nothing worked”. Herein lies the rub.
Trump is Pat Buchannan and Ross Perot and Michael Savage rolled into one person, given hundreds of millions of daddy’s money, and then rolled into a hyper-charismatic reality TV star. He is a pop culture icon. He is funny. He is memorable. And he now is the frontrunner to be the President of the United States. He is crude, dishonest, and as likely to make American great again as Pat Buchannan and Michael Savage themselves, but he is the frontrunner for the Presidency of the United States. Heaven help us.
And I actually now am saying, “Heaven Help Us”, not in some meaningless or trite context. I mean that quite literally, for those who care about this hijacking of the Republican party, and much worse, the hijacking of the conservative movement some of us care about, need to beg for divine providence to stop the Trump ascendancy. The stakes are that high.
Trump will not be the President of the United States. His support level is maxed at 35-40% (generously) of the Republican primary voters. In a general election contest, he will lose the nine figure free publicity of the national media, who will turn on him in a New York minute. The blue collar white males who resent the economic changes of the last 25 years will be more than offset by his depleted support from Hispanics, females, and other grown-ups. His skyrocketing unfavorables will matter, and he will lose. And if I am wrong, that is even worse. The United States will be the laughingstock of the world if this man were to become our commander-in-chief.
Within 120 days of his inauguration, his loyal supporters who admire his “no-nonsense”, “tough”, “politically incorrect” approach will find out the hard way what happens when you elect a lifetime negotiation whore to represent you. His core followers may admire his boasting about buying off politicians in the past, but the ethics of the john and the prostitute really are not very different, and to be excited for the john to become the hooker is, well, insane.
Last night in South Carolina, though, a path opened to stop the national disgrace of Donald Trump. The 65-70% of voters who do not want Trump (that should be enough, per my calculator) have a cleaner path now. After a disastrous showing in New Hampshire, the future of the Republican Party, Marco Rubio, came soaring back, contracting Trump’s margin of victory from over 20 points to just 10 points in less than two weeks. He bested Sen. Cruz despite 73% of exit voters calling themselves “evangelical”. He and Trump together destroyed the narrative that Cruz is the man to beat Trump because of Cruz’s strong evangelical base. He gathered the endorsements of Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott, and Congressman Trey Gowdy, and put on a display of the 21st century GOP – young, energetic, forward thinking, savvy, aspirational, disruptive. And significantly, he caused Gov. Jeb Bush to drop out of the race, narrowing the field, freeing up more donors and voters and endorsements to come Rubio’s way, and helping to solidify a narrative that Rubio is the candidate to dethrone the reality TV front-runner.
The math is not there to stop Trump if the non-Trump opponents are still splitting each other up after March 1. Cruz will not drop out barring an act of God before the SEC primary, but Trump and Rubio will together diminish Cruz’s outlook for delegates there. And then all the marbles, all of them, will be in the winner take all state of Florida on March 15. If by then we have a one on one race of Trump vs. Rubio I believe Marco Rubio is going to be the Republican nominee for President, and for that matter, he is going to be the 45th President of the United States. If the non-Trump field continues its destructive cross-fire, Donald Trump is going to be the nominee.
The Obama presidency has been a miserable and abject failure by any objective measure or standard. The national enthusiasm for the Democratic party is pitifully low, as they toggle between the lifetime symbol of greed and corruption that is Hillary Clinton, and the extremist socialist from Vermont, Bernie Sanders. If Trump had run as a Democrat, by the way, we would not be having this conversation, for he would have run away with it by now in a way that makes our primary look like a triple overtime thriller. So praise God he wasn’t savvy enough for that! But my point is this: we have not seen a more winnable election since 1984. The passing of Justice Scalia, the entitlement debt bomb, the lack of a pro-growth economic agenda that is about to become vital to keep the economy from a deep recession, the peeling back of ObamaCare – these are not merely generational challenges or goals; they are imminent. We must win this election.
Donald Trump does not represent a win. He represents a generational loss for the movement that is conservatism. I am not worried about the “establishment” (whoever we are referring to these days when we use that term). I am not really even worried about the GOP as a partisan institution. I am worried in the most fundamental of senses for the movement of conservatism, the ideas and beliefs that I believe will make our nation strong, produce opportunity for the entirety of society, and preserve the principles of the American experiment, the greatest hope for God’s green earth.
And because the stakes are so high, and Trump’s voters so seemingly unpersuadable, I appeal to basic mathematics. Gov. Kasich and Sen. Cruz, both of whom have strong qualities as candidates in their own right, are not going to beat Donald Trump. Perhaps Kasich keeps Trump from winning the winner-take-all state of Ohio, but I doubt it – not as marginalized as he will be by that date. He doesn’t firewall Trump in Ohio by staying in it as much as he does by dropping out and vigorously campaigning for Marco Rubio. With Sen. Cruz, no one who knows his intense personal ambitions believes he will drop out easily. And yet, his most ardent supporters acknowledge the math is not there for him to win; the math is only there for him to keep Rubio from winning. My article is not for Trump supporters unfazed by his incoherence or consistent belligerence. My appeal is to Ted Cruz and Ted Cruz’s voters. My appeal is to John Kasich and John Kasich’s supporters.
For the sake of our country and the movement we have devoted our lives to, sit down with each other and work out the logistics on a single non-Trump candidate strategy that will protect this race from a Donald Trump nomination, and protect our country from a Hillary Clinton presidency.