Dear GOP: We Can’t Save You If You Won’t Save Yourself
And now is the part of the election cycle where the pundit class comes forward and begs the rest of the US electorate to help save the GOP from itself. In the Atlantic, Peter Beinart argues that liberals should support Marco Rubio over Trump, and over in the Washington Post, Michael R. Strain of the American Enterprise Institute is flat-out begging for people to vote for someone, anyone, but Trump. “We all have to stop him,” reads the headline to the article.
We? We? I don’t know if Michael R. Strain is up on the news, but Trump is polling at 49% nationally among Republican voters. He’s outpolling Rubio, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and Ben Carson combined among the people who are actually going to go to the polls to vote Republican. Likewise, Beinart’s suggestion that liberals throw in with Rubio, who aside from his pandering antediluvian positions appears to dissolve into a stammering puddle of flop sweat when people are mean to him, which is a quality I know I always look for in a potential leader of the free world, is actively insulting. Hey, liberals! Save the GOP from Trump by supporting the establishment’s hand-picked empty suit, which it will use to shore up shaky senatorial races and then push and pass a political agenda massively antithetical to everything you believe in! Yeeeeah, thanks for the hot take, there, Pete. Let me know who you buy your weed from, because that’s clearly some primo shit you’re smoking.
News flash, pundit guys: No one can save the GOP from Trump but the GOP, and its voters clearly have no intention of doing that. To repeat: Trump currently outpolls every other GOP candidate in the race, combined. What, pray tell, do you want any of the rest of us to do about that? The answer may be “vote against Trump in the primaries,” but this is where I point out that the rest of us are not GOP primary voters for a reason. Some of us may want to vote in the Democratic primaries. Some of us may be independents and have to wait to see what dumbasses the parties elect. Some of us may belong to third parties because we’re political idealists/masochists. The point is, we have other plans for the day. They are legit plans. They don’t involve keeping the GOP from setting itself on fire.
Also, you know. If I were the paranoid type, I’d look at the pundit class begging the rational portion of the electorate to save the GOP from itself as a suspicious bit of political theater orchestrated by the shadowy cabal that really runs the nation. We can’t let the GOP implode yet, we still have to pay taxes! I know! Convince the liberals to vote against their interests to save a political party whose goals oppose theirs in every relevant way! And as a bonus, that way they don’t vote for that commie Sanders! Quick! To the pundits! I’m not saying that’s what’s happening. But I’m also not not saying it, nod, wink, nod, hand signal, wink.
Even if liberals (to Beinart’s point) and everyone else (to Strain’s) decided to vote against Trump in the states that allow open primaries — or changed their registration to Republican to vote in closed primaries, because, yeah, that will happen — again, Trump has the support of half the GOP voters right now. Folks, it’s Super friggin’ Tuesday. Half the GOP delegates needed for a nomination are getting sorted out tonight (595 of the 1,237 needed, of which Trump already has 82), and it’s a fair bet that Trump is taking every state except Texas, which will go to Ted Cruz, an odious fistula that walks the earth in a human skin.
Now, most of these states as I understand it will allocate delegates proportionally, so Cruz and Rubio are likely to take some. But most are going to Trump. He’s likely going to end the night so far ahead that even the active intervention of everyone else won’t keep Trump from chugging along to Cleveland with a plush stack of pledged delegates. Neither Cruz nor Rubio is going to drop out of the race — Rubio because the establishment’s assassins will murder his future if he does, Cruz because his monomaniacal sense of manifest destiny doesn’t allow for quittin’ — and neither of them is likely to poll substantially better than the other. They’re Tweedle-Dee and Tweedle-Dum all the way down the line. You want to choose between these two embarrassments to the name of Generation X? After you.
But that’s why Beinart tells liberals to vote for Rubio! To get him ahead! Oh, you dear, sweet, precious jewel in the firmament of heaven. Yes, I’m sure that if liberals do cross the line, hold their noses and vote for Rubio in primaries, that absolutely positively won’t be used against him by either Trump or Cruz, two gentlemen who are celebrated worldwide for their probity and graciousness in all things political. Indeed, I see no way this fantastic plan of Beinart’s could ever possibly go wrong, or work to Trump’s advantage with his core constituency of angry white people who may or may not be flaming bigots, but who certainly hate friggin’ libruls.
Folks, I’m the first to admit that my political crystal ball is not exactly piercingly clear, but here’s what I believe: It’s too late to stop Trump. Probably from getting the GOP nomination, but at the very least from being a significant and possibly controlling force at the Republican convention. Is anyone under the impression that, in the case of a contested convention, Trump’s pledged delegates — or his actual supporters — are suddenly going to abandon him after the first ballot? Bless their hearts, but no one’s in love with Rubio, and no one actually likes Cruz. Trump’s people, on the other hand, are in love with him in the way that only the simple can pine for a demagogue. If you want to see what a middle-aged riot looks like, wait until the GOP tries to torpedo Trump at the convention.
But somebody needs to do something! Well, yes. Those “somebodies” should have been the GOP, but it didn’t want to, and then when it wanted to it couldn’t, because it realized too late that its entire governing strategy for the last couple of decades, but especially since Obama came to office, has been designed to foster the emergence of a populist lectern-thumper like Trump. The GOP has made its electoral bones on low-information, high-anxiety white folks for years now, but has only ever looked at the next election, and not ever further down the road, or where that road would lead too. Well, it led to Trump.
And now the GOP wants a bailout, and people like Beinart and Strain are arguing we should give it to them, because the GOP is apparently too big to fail (and yes, this means that Trump is a festering ball of subprime loans in this scenario). And, well. We bailed out the banks in ’08, but no one was punished and no one on Wall Street apparently learned anything from the experience, because why would they? No matter how hard they fucked up, someone would come along to save them, and after a couple of years of grumping about smaller bonuses, they’d be back on top, sucking up even more of the wealth of the nation while everyone else muddled along on a glide path that slowly slides them into financial insecurity.
If the rest of us somehow could bail out the GOP by saving it from Trump, what would we get out of it? The GOP establishment certainly isn’t in the mood to learn — shit, it’s shoving all its chips onto Rubio, whose arms are probably already fitted with the titanium eye screws through which they’ll loop the strings once he’s elected. There’s no percentage in saving the GOP from itself; its policies are already inimical to good governance and have been for the last several election cycles. Saving the GOP from Trump doesn’t change the fact that the GOP is by conscious and intentional design primed to create more Trumps — more populist demagogues who will leverage the anxious discontent of scared and aging white people into electoral victories. That won’t be fixed. The GOP doesn’t want it fixed. It just wants the demagogue to be someone it can control.
The good news is that there is a way for everyone else to stop Trump: It’s called voting in the general election for the candidates who are not him. At this point as a practical matter that probably means voting for Hillary Clinton. This won’t solve the GOP’s problems, but again, maybe from the point of view of everyone else, the GOP’s problems aren’t solvable. Maybe it really does need to blow up and start over. Otherwise we’ll be back here four years out. And eight years out. And twelve years out. And so on.