The late Samuel Francis called Republicans “the Stupid Party” because they tended to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory. I thought we were past all that, but in the Age of Trump that scathing moniker has cropped up again. Signs everywhere point to the GOP’s maddening wont – so annoying to both Mr. Francis and yours truly – to throw an election that should be a sure thing.
Of course, we saw copious examples of this in 2016. Donald Trump – brash billionaire, TV personality, and trash-talking New York tough guy – stormed through the 2016 Republican primaries and seized the GOP presidential nomination by saying things that many voters longed to hear from a strong leader. Ordinary people – frustrated and impoverished by eight long years of runaway government – rallied to Mr. Trump because he looked like he might turn the irresistible tide of political correctness, uncontrolled illegal immigration, and ruinous financial policies that threatened the nation’s financial health, security and wellbeing. But Mr. Trump’s message and his style made GOP elites wet their pants. He could not be allowed to succeed.
Mr. Trump actually had the upper hand in the ’16-election because his opponent was an entirely forgettable first lady and ex-Secretary of State who had racked up a calamitous record of financial chicanery, tone-deaf liberalism and (arguably) traitorous mishandling of state secrets. In poll after poll, majorities of citizens said they wouldn’t trust her any farther than they could throw her. Leaders of her own party thought she might actually be indicted, on the very eve of the election, for violating national security laws. Millions of Americans, well-experienced in handling classified material knew she was guilty as sin.
All that Mrs. Clinton had going for her was a core of Yellow-dog Democrats who would have voted for Diablo himself, if he promised to keep the Federal Gravy Train rolling. Media sycophants pooh-poohed the FBI’s investigation of her security practices, and pumped her awesome “presidential temperament.” But the tale gained no traction. She reminded millions of men of their first wife or an unpleasant teacher; millennial voters had no memory of the “mythical” Clinton years; and young women who long ago smashed the glass ceiling couldn’t see what she offered except more gender/race-pandering, political correctness, and higher taxes. “I am not Donald Trump” was not a winning message.
Democratic Party leaders, living on Valium, hoped Mr. Obama would scotch the FBI’s investigation of Mrs. Clinton, long enough for her to win the election. They also prayed (figuratively speaking, of course) that Mr. Trump would finally blow up his candidacy by saying something so offensive that his own party would turn against him. But every explosive thing he said only enhanced his street-cred. People lined up for hours to attend his packed rallies.
Democrats’ hole-card, of course, was the GOP’s aforementioned ability to mess up a sure thing. Indeed, that hope seemed entirely justified, as GOP leaders started denouncing Mr. Trump for voicing views on immigration that they called “unacceptably bigoted.” They were criticizing Mr. Trump’s reaction to the horrible Orlando nightclub-shooting in which a Muslim gunman killed 49 people and wounded at least 53 others. It was the worst mass-shooting in American history.
Mr. Trump repeated an earlier demand that any new Muslim immigrants be blocked from entering the USA until solid procedures could be established for investigating their backgrounds and political inclinations. President Obama quickly pounced, declaring that this is “not who we are” as a nation, and insisting (again) that Mr. Trump was “temperamentally unfit” for the presidency. (After all, some things can’t be said aloud, even if they’re true.) In fact, Mr. Obama had earlier listed Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Syria, Libya, Somalia, and Yemen as countries from which travelers should be either denied entry to the USA, or closely examined before being allowed in.
But following the Stupid Party playbook, some Republicans echoed Obama’s partisan critique and said they couldn’t vote for Mr. Trump. House Speaker Paul Ryan directed members of his caucus to “vote their consciences” – essentially releasing them from any duty to support their party’s candidate. Isn’t this what Speaker Pelosi always tells her caucus? (Obviously I jest.)
Indeed, the 2016 campaign clarified a key difference between the two political parties. With rare exceptions, Democrats unify behind their candidate. They know that if they don’t, they will lose, as in 1968 and 1980 when significant party disunity allowed Republican wins.
In ’68, Democrats were split between: an “establishment” faction committed to continuing LBJ’s Vietnam War; a growing anti-war faction led by Senator Robert Kennedy; and a segregation (now and forever!) faction led by Alabama Governor George Wallace. Senator Kennedy was moving smartly toward the nomination, but he was assassinated just after winning the California primary. Stoned anti-war lefties rioted at the Democratic Convention in Chicago over anointed candidate Hubert Humphrey’s promise to prosecute the war. Ultimately, George Wallace fatally weakened Mr. Humphrey by winning five southern states and 13.5% of the popular vote. Richard Nixon won only 43% of the popular vote, but 301 electoral votes.
By 1980, the Iranian hostage crisis and the Russian invasion of Afghanistan had made President Carter so unpopular – even within his own party – that he was opposed for the nomination by Senator Edward Kennedy. Mr. Carter defeated the senator, but he lost the Reagan Democrats who helped Mr. Reagan win 51% of the popular vote and 489 electoral votes. President Reagan vindicated voters’ trust by sparking a roaring economic recovery and rebuilding the military.
Bernie Sanders’ spirited campaign and lavish promises drew hordes of young people in 2016. Most probably had no idea that his wonderful “new” socialism has never worked because people won’t strive and achieve if they gain nothing from the effort. The Senator might have pulled off a historic upset of Mrs. Clinton, but he went easy on her – probably understanding that he could split the party if he took off the gloves. After Mrs. Clinton was crowned he campaigned for her like a good Democrat, but it didn’t push her over the finish line.
Despite all her evident flaws – including revelations that the Clinton Foundation had raked in billions in “donations” by shaking down foreign leaders while she ran State – no Democrat office-holder at any level ever disavowed Mrs. Clinton or declared an intention to vote against her. Modern Democrats don’t do that. They (almost) always stick together to get their nominee elected because they understand that the prize is zilch if they lose.
Will Rogers used to say, “I don’t belong to any organized political party – I’m a Democrat.” Today he would say that about Republicans. Instead of unifying behind their voters’ choice, they scatter like green militia at the enemy’s first volley. In ’16, experienced GOP pols could easily have waved Mr. Trump’s brash statements aside and found common ground where they could stand with him:
‘No, we don’t discriminate against anyone by his religion or national origin’ (they might have said), ‘but we must recognize that adherents of a violent faction of Islam mean us real harm. Until we learn how to spot them, we need to protect our people by exercising prudence over whom we let into the country.’
That kind of statement from party leaders might have unified timid Republicans and deflected adversarial media’s slings and arrows. But few had the wit (or courage) say it. Instead, GOP “leaders” trashed their own candidate as a “racist” whom they simply couldn’t support – “on principle.” Did those Republicans really want Mrs. Clinton in the Oval Office? Maybe not. But how would opposing their party’s candidate prevent it? A fifth-grader could see that it wouldn’t. GOP chieftains aren’t stupid. So what was really going on? I see two possible answers:
The conspiratorial answer was that some Republicans didn’t want Mr. Trump to win because he was an outsider who might dismantle their cozy GOP Establishment apparatus. With Mrs. Clinton in office, they would have enjoyed four more fat years of fruitful fund-raising on promises to fight her ruinous policies and put “someone we can be proud of” in the Oval Office. I don’t want to believe that any Republicans would be venal enough to purposely throw an election. But the conspiracy theorist in me (a life-member of the Grassy Knoll Society) kept whispering in my ear: “follow the money.”
The other answer touches on the GOP’s treasured reputation as the Nice Party. Republicans have long been the nice country-club guys of brass-buttoned blazers, two-toned shoes, and polite discourse. No fighting words or dirty political maneuvers. “Punish your enemies and reward your friends?” Heavens no! It was always “I yield to the honorable member from New York,” etc.
Even when they lost – which was often – Republicans were unfailingly polite. Their opponents counted on this. Recriminations and GOP-vows to fight until the last dog died were absolutely taboo. Above all, Republicans guarded against any whiff of racism. Every GOP pol strove to make voters forget their sordid history as the party of Slavery, Secession, Suppression and Segregation.
Wait! You say that was actually the Democrats? Well, no need to mention it. We’re too nice…
The serious problem Mr. Trump posed to Establishment Republicans was that he was trashing – perhaps irreparably – their Nice Party rep. No sacred cow was safe from the heavy fire he laid down. He kept both the media and political opponents off balance with comments that would have sunk most candidates. And the voters loved it. He was the “real deal.” Crowds flocked to hear him. But his success with rude invective and outrageous political-incorrectness shocked the GOP establishment to its core.
Democrats weren’t too happy, either. Having initially dismissed The Donald as a buffoon unworthy of Mrs. C’s steel, they grew alarmed as he won primary after primary, systematically vanquishing one establishment lightweight after another, while gaining more and more followers – including independents and some centrist Democrats upset by their party’s leftward drift.
Democrats feared that Mr. Trump’s rise meant the end of the Nice Party, which they have had so much fun drubbing over the past 90 years. Combative baseball manager Leo “The Lip” Durocher famously said, “Nice guys finish last.” He didn’t coin the phrase, but he believed in it, and he certainly lived it out on the diamond. Democrats believe in it, too. To their horror, they see that Donald Trump is following that same line, and they fear he will convince his party that it’s the right strategy for a winning future. Nice guys tend to lose elections they should win.
Over the opposition of many in his own party, Mr. Trump thrashed Democrats’ presumptive queen bee in 2016. Subsequently, he endured (and overcame) three years of unrelenting enmity from Democrats who refused to accept his election:
- A two-year Special Prosecutor investigation of alleged election-collusion with Russian agents came up empty;
- Formal impeachment over a mischaracterized telephone conversation with a Ukranian president produced acquittal in the Senate;
- Even wild charges from a basement-bound Democrat candidate, that Mr. Trump “mishandled” a dangerous China-produced virus, have not knocked him out.
Undaunted, the president is still in there punching – calling opponents rude names, refusing to “act nice,” and promising voters that he will rebuild the economy Democrats tried to wreck.
Once again, some notable RINOs are standing up… for the other party. 2012 Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney has announced his support of Joe Biden. He is joined by former Senator Jeff Flake (excellent name), former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, former New York Rep. Susan Molinari, and onetime Republican presidential candidate Carly Fiorina. Do they expect key posts in Mr. Biden’s administration? I wouldn’t count on it.
Despite all the media-furor, this election is another plum ripe for Republican-picking. The “nice” establishment-types could still throw it, but I hope and believe Normal Culture voters will ignore those self-serving poseurs, see through Democrats’ chaos strategy, and recognize that a Biden-Harris presidency will help neither the country nor themselves to gain a productive future.
The Liberty Bell is inscribed with the famous verse, “Proclaim LIBERTY throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.” (Leviticus 25:10) I pray that the inhabitants of our land will hear that proclamation and choose liberty. If you’re inclined, send off a prayer of your own. We need all the help we can get.