The conservative movement must determine its course of action following what is likely to be a definitive loss by the (unconservative) Republican nominee for president. The first part of that will involve waking reluctant Trump backers up to reality so that this disaster doesn’t happen again.
A common objection to the #nevertrump movement is that the Donald, who doesn’t care about political correctness or niceties, will prosecute Hillary Clinton for all of her shadiness, corruption and far-left positions and therefore could be/is the right person to challenge her. This was always nonsense for a number of reasons.
In the first place, it is obvious that Trump’s buffoonish nature, disgusting comments and controversial past easily distract from Hillary’s own extensive shortcomings. (We warned you.) In the second place, compared with his rivals for the Republican nomination, Trump spent very little time going after Hillary’s record, spending most of his time insulting rather than debating his opponents, violating Reagan’s Eleventh Commandment.
But for the lesser-of-two-evils argument – the “Trump isn’t perfect, but he’s better than Hillary” – he at least needs to pass the pragmatic test of electability. That is, can he win? To be honest, the only reason he is anywhere in the vicinity of Hillary Clinton in the polls right now is because he is the nominee of one of the two major parties.
Ask yourself this: if he’s the right person, why is he on track to lose by 140 electoral college votes to one of the most disliked candidates ever? To quote The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake, “if it weren’t for Trump, in fact, Clinton would be the most unpopular major-party presidential nominee in modern American history.”
What Trump supporters fail to appreciate about Hillary is that, in spite of her immense name recognition, political connections, access to fundraising, experience in politics, the historical nature of her candidacy (potentially being the first woman president in the United States) and more, she remains a horribly under-performing candidate. Republicans barely need to “expose Hillary for what she is.” An upstart named Obama beat her in 2008 without “exposing” her in any sense Trump supporters might mean. There was a mountain of evidence that she could be trounced by the right opponent, such as Rubio or Kasich, and at least beaten by opponents like Cruz and, crazy as it may sound, Jeb Bush.
Contrary to Trump being the right person, he really seems to be one of the few *wrong* people. Why? Because no one likes Hillary. The only thing the Republicans had to do was run someone few people hated and they’d be neck and neck or beating her soundly. But they didn’t, so now they’re losing.
To begin our journey back to reality, let’s dispel the fiction that all of these polls showing Trump getting routed are biased. Conservatives thought Romney would squeak out a victory in 2012 and continued to defend that as reasonable after the votes were counted. Instead, he lost by 126 electoral college votes. Trump, as well, is losing.
It is also worth mentioning that Trump performed much better in open primaries than in closed primaries. Some believe this is due to Democrats and independents crossing over to vote for him. For his supporters, that’s good in a “big tent” or “anti-establishment” sort of way. For his critics, it means non-conservatives are monkeying with the Grand Old Party’s process. The problem is that there seems only to be a slight leaning toward Trump among non-Republicans.
But here’s the larger point: the justification for a state party to hold open primaries for a presidential election is that the electorate selecting the party’s nominee is closer in composition to the general election than in a closed primary. In other words, it is more favorable to candidates likely to appeal to people who aren’t consistent Republicans. It would follow then that this would produce stronger general election candidates than a closed primary or caucus would. Trump is proving that this premise is faulty and that there may be no significant justification for open primaries.
So beyond the recognition that the polls as a whole are not “rigged,” there are structural changes that can be made. Some will howl that this is the “Establishment” protecting itself, but if (when?) Trump gets his clock cleaned, it will be justified to ensure we don’t lose a fourth straight presidential election come 2020.
So that we nominate the real “right person,” for president and on down the ballot.
Time to recognize reality so we can begin to deal with it.