Ben Carson has passed through most of the five stages of grief and is arriving at acceptance of Donald Trump, the GOP nominee. Carson penned a Washington Post OpEd yesterday, concluding:
There are lots of variables in this political calculation. But as 1,237 delegates begins to look more and more attainable for Trump, expect the GOP party faithful to pivot to the strategic interests of their down-ticket candidates this November.
He offered five prescriptions for dealing with Trump at the top of a GOP down-ticket.
- Dump Trump
- Lone Wolf
- Cuddle Trump
- The Prius approach
- The Ryan test
In summary, these range from outright rejection of Trump–which carries a cost in alienating a man who could give Richard Nixon, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton competition for the most vindictive person ever to seek the White House–to playing for influence like Chris Christie, to a few hybrid strategies.
The problem with Trump, of course, is that he’s on every side of every issue. So what works for Trump doesn’t work down ticket for people who latch on to him. Carson calls that “unpredictable.”
Where this gets tricky, however, is on matters of public policy. Just how would a rock-ribbed Republican handle the dilemma posed by Trump’s waffling on Planned Parenthood and other issues? It’s okay to be willing to “negotiate” if you’re one man setting the agenda, but House Republicans are part of a larger body. They can’t signal gray areas to voters who want absolutes. This will be especially tough for congressmen who won last cycle with less than a five-point margin.
Trump offers the same conundrum Obama left the Democrats with. What worked for Barack doesn’t work for the rest of his party, which took a beating at every level in down ticket elections. Trump can say anything and attribute that to being an outsider, to voter frustration, anger, and stick-it-to-the-man (while being “the man”). But down ticket, whatever Trump says sticks like glue while Trump moves on.
The “hybrid” approach would embrace Trumpian anger without embracing Trump.
I see this avenue having appeal in the Northeast, with its more liberal Republican base, as well as in more populist states such as Minnesota. Candidates such as Sen. Kelly Ayotte (N.H.) will need to acknowledge the furor of the electorate but maintain a statesmanlike demeanor.
Carson is being a brain surgeon, trying to salvage some function out of a tumor-wracked organ that the GOP will become should Trump take the nomination. For someone who ran as an outsider, fueled by voter anger, and briefly took the race from Trump, Carson’s take admits abject defeat.
In the end, Dr. Carson is simply a nice guy who loves Jesus. Admirable qualities, but his prescription offers little hope that the patient–the GOP–can be saved.