Political pundits and newspaper columnists characterize the race between Donald Trump and Ted Cruz as one of votes and delegates, party allegiances and betrayals. In reality, the race is for the soul of the Republican Party.
People who have never been involved in the political process have come forward in record numbers this year, over and over, to express their opinion. The pundits attempt to neatly group people into factions, but the issues are more nuanced than that. In a normal election cycle, the candidate who best settles out the issues of stability and amalgamates the moderate and religious, or libertarian and very conservative tends to win.
Cruz and Trump could not be more different in character and political DNA. Neither can offer the big tent to build a perfect coalition. That’s a good thing for the party and we need to let it happen.
To use a biological metaphor, the candidates are like DNA strands in a zygote, drawing the genetic material from a mother and father to themselves. The Christian, small-government, classical liberal chromosomes are all attracted to Cruz. The America-first, personal liberty chromosomes are attracted to Trump. But Republican voters tend to have some of both.
The battle in Cleveland will be more for the soul and character of the GOP than the candidates put forward. We have to let the natural process work, and not monkey with it to produce some test-tube, lab-generated, genetically-modified Republican Party. The result would be a Frankenstein monster and it would die a horrible death (along with the GOP).
The GOP has to find its soul and create a new, coherent and natural set of chromosomes from this mess. And it will be messy.
The nature of the process is that some genetic material will be discarded. Either conservative Christians and “movement conservatives” in the small-government, liberty crowd will be forcibly ejected from the GOP, or the nativist, America-first, trade protectionists will be gone. These two wings just won’t go along easily with each other.
To get specific, we can’t have a compassionate Christian response to a problem that includes killing the families of ISIS members. We can’t have a coherent answer to the abortion scourge that includes Planned Parenthood “doing good things.” We can’t have a party opposed to the Left’s P.C. culture that includes shutting down debate and curtailing the press’ First Amendment rights. We can’t have a solution to global trade that includes belittling and demonizing our trade partners, allies and rivals.
These issues must be resolved–not reconciled or papered over or shoved to the back of the drawer. Cruz is unapologetic in his faith, unswerving in his commitment to small government and states’ rights, and single-minded in his support for Israel. Trump is equally committed to America finishing first in trade, international relations, and global power; but Trump pursues a very secular path to these goals.
The character and soul of the GOP will either be one of real compassionate conservatism (not the slogan) and small government (versus Uncle Sugar), or it will be “Make America Great Again™” under a no-holds-barred, give-em-Hell populist banner.
It’s time for the pundits who are pining for the “big tent” coalition to put away their fantasies. The GOP will unite, but not everyone will be along for the ride. The new DNA will at least have the property of being more pure, less diluted, and more sharply defined than it has been since Reagan left office. That’s a good thing.
While I pray that our party chooses the way of life, liberty, small government, and compassionate adherence to Judeo-Christian values, I understand that there’s a chance it might not happen in Cleveland. The forces committed to the populist banner will not easily surrender, and they will not abide by tradition, convention, or even civility.
The party will get a new set of chromosomes. What DNA remains behind will find a way to express itself. I would rather find myself in that which has been ejected from the GOP, outside the party’s DNA, than part of a Frankenstein monster doomed to a miserable and short existence.