Politically Uncorrected: The GOP’s Painful Dilemma

081025_gop_logoBarring some unforeseen circumstances the presidential nomination contests are over. Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump will be the respective nominees of their parties.

For Democrats, that’s probably okay. Even if Democrats are not excited about Hillary, they still think they win with her.

For Republicans, not so much a Trump nomination looks like trouble up and down the ticket: no White House, maybe loss of the Senate, possible loss of several state legislatures and a few state houses.

In short, the GOP needs some “unforeseen circumstances” if, as many now believe, electoral disaster in 2016 is to be averted.

The party’s last gasp efforts to support Marco Rubio and stop Trump on Super Tuesday were clearly too little and too late.  Now the so- called “establishment Republicans” confront a fateful decision – to rally around Trump as a few already have – or try to derail his candidacy by drafting a convention “dark horse,” maybe Mitt Romney or even John McCain.

How exactly that would work out remains to be seen since neither party has had a contested convention since 1976. Moreover, the last brokered conventions were in 1948 for Republicans and 1952 for Democrats. And the last bona fide draft was more than 60 years ago when Republicans nominated Dwight Eisenhower.

One thing, however, is certain; if Trump is derailed, it will not be accomplished in the primaries and caucuses that remain; if it happens, it will happen at the Cleveland Convention in July.

The establishment GOP’s motive for trying to stop Trump is strong. Beyond almost any doubt, a Trump nomination would tear the Republican Party asunder – perhaps presaging a generation of wandering in the political wilderness – as happened to Republicans after Hoover’s loss in 1932 and to the Democrats after Humphrey’s loss in 1968.

Deeply aware of this ominous history, Republican leaders face a daunting dilemma: embrace Trump with its inevitable political costs – or move to deny him the nomination, thereby entering an uncharted political no man’s land.

For many Republicans this will more and more seem like a Hobsons choice which is to say no choice at all. A Trump nomination could destroy them as a major national political party – and few party leaders doubt that.

Further muddying these already muddy waters is the still real possibility of an independent candidacy.  The former mayor of New York City, billionaire Michael Bloomberg, is the most likely to launch such a candidacy.

At first blush, a Bloomberg candidacy may seem promising. Voters in recent polls have indicated they are ready for a third party and given the extraordinarily high levels of dissatisfaction with government, a Bloomberg candidacy would seem promising.

And Bloomberg, who has expressed strong personal concerns about Trump, might do it.

But his disadvantages are formidable. He has to start with no organization at the grass roots level and no candidates running for federal and state offices to be part of his team. He must also pull voters away from the major parties, a difficult challenge given the growing polarization and increased partisanship among the electorate. Finally, he must fulfill the myriad byzantine petition regulations required in all 50 states to qualify as an independent candidate – and he must do so in enough states to give him any reasonable chance to win the 270 Electoral College votes required to win the presidency.

Then there is the personal calculus for Bloomberg: an independent run by him is likely to draw more votes away from the Democratic ticket, earn the support of independents, thus helping his avowed antagonist, Donald Trump. Bloomberg in a real sense would be running against himself.

A Bloomberg run, should it happen, would certainly be a wild card in what has been the wildest of political years.  Nevertheless, his primary role would be that of a spoiler, whose candidacy helps Trump.

All of this presents in ever sharper relief the painful quandary Republicans now face. A Trump nomination could deal the party an electoral defeat in November that might take a political lifetime from which to recover.  An independent candidacy could help, but like all third party efforts, it is fraught with unknowns.

For Republicans, the only viable path forward is to stop Trump at the convention – somehow. But if they somehow can stop Trump at the convention, a Trump independent candidacy is all but certain.

This is truly a choice between the devil and the deep blue sea – the proverbial rock and the proverbial hard place.

Already in late winter, it’s clear that 2016 is likely to be a bad year for the GOP. The next few months should reveal just how bad it will be.

10 Responses

  1. My Uncle Terry is a goof. Remember his prediction 6 years ago about Arlen Specter. Uncle Terry is rarely right but he is always loud.

  2. It amazes me that these left-wing authors and commentators still don’t get it. People are pissed off and anger has always been a great motivator for higher voter turnout. It would not surprise me to see Trump exceed Obama’s 2008 vote total of 3.3m. The added bonus will be plenty of coattails to ensure Sen. Toomey’s re-election.

  3. The purpose of a primary is to let the voters choose their standard bearer and the party leaders should not disenfranchise their own voters by trying to usurp their choice.

  4. Tyler-

    Maybe Trump is bringing out voters who are voting against him!

    This link is to a letter by 60 leaders in the Republican security community (some of them bomb-Iran hardliners). But, they all agree that Trump is too irresponsible, ill-informed, and dishonest to lead the US, and he would be such a disaster and make us less safe.

    warontherocks.com/2016/03/open-letter-on-donald-trump-from-gop-national-security-leaders/

  5. Trump is bringing in new voters who wouldn’t otherwise likely vote for the other Republican candidates. The party should be grateful and make their case that another four-eight years of a Clinton/ Obama like administration would be far worse.

  6. bungy-

    The Republican turnout is high because they are bringing out all the crazies and racists, and there are a lot more candidates to appeal to different wings of the GOP, and the establishment/moderate wing trying to remain relevant for November.

    Hillary and Bernie aren’t that far apart and Dems would be satisfied with either one of them over the GOP candidates, so there is more of a “shrug”. But, there are plenty of Republicans who would vote for Hillary or Bernie over Trump.

    Life-long Republican conservative, Ben Stein (former Nixon speech-writer), announced he would vote Dem for the first time if Trump was the nominee.

  7. One thing’s for sure, I absolutely have no hope in America ever being a great country again. Look at who the Dems and GOP are voting for president. None of them are worth a damn. It doesn’t give me much confidence in the electorate. Whoever is elected, we deserve what we get.

  8. What goes around comes around? After 8 years of racism, anti semitism, constitutional arrogance and corruption from Obama- Trump would be a breath of fresh air.
    Before you knock Trump take a closer look at
    Garbage like Obama and Hiliary. I don’t like Trump as a person but he didn’t violate US laws like those bozos!

  9. MADONNA is a liberal moron. Trump will help the ticket not hurt it. Republican voter turnout has been incredibly high, thanks to TRUMP.

  10. Trump’s methods of anger and bluster, brazenly denying any rationality or moderation, have been used and legitimized by the GOP for 15-20 years. This is the party that voted to bankrupt the US multiple times, refused to fund government, and now, setting yet another new precedent in our nation’s history, are refusing to confirm any Supreme Court Justice nominee. They have found something new to be angry and bluster about every day for years.

    Trumps positions, in favor of torture and his racist anti-Latino and Muslim statements, have been part of the GOP for just as long. He just doesn’t hide behind false rationalizations (water boarding isn’t torture) and code words (we’re not anti-Latino, we just want immigration law enforced).

    I’m not sure why they object so strongly to Trump. I suspect either it’s because they can’t control him, or because he exposes them for what they are.

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