Thursday, January 14, 2016
THUNDERDOME: LEARNING TO LOVE DONALD TRUMP:
by Ben Domenech
14 JANUARY 16
A very strange trend has emerged over the past few weeks regarding Donald Trump: A number of respected mainstream commentators who have begun to suggest the idea that he might be a better top of the ticket candidate than Ted Cruz. It’s impressive how quickly so many people have started to sound this note – in part because they’ve done so without the auditory signals of resignation it suggests.
Supporting Donald Trump as a nominee over Ted Cruz sounds revolutionary, but is actually an act which maintains the status quo in the party if you believe that he is headed for electoral defeat, as many of these analysts do. Trumpism as a flash in the pan expression of American populism which dies out in a contest against Hillary Clinton is itself a game that ends with the status quo in Washington. And even Trump as President, as unlikely as that sounds, has the prospect of a thoroughly pragmatic chief executive, willing to cut a deal with anyone on anything at any time.
Ted Cruz on the other hand represents an ideological shift – from the perspective of the elite – against the established order of things. The idea that someone so hated by the elected officials and party bigwigs could take over the Republican Party in a hostile manner is more objectionable than the sideshow of Donald Trump to some in the hierarchy of Washington.
This poses an odd hypothetical, though: say for the sake of argument that Cruz prevails narrowly in Iowa, Trump wins New Hampshire, and they go 1-2 again in South Carolina. This sets up a scenario where influencers in the party will have a decision to make: will they hold on to the hope that someone else will emerge down the stretch to challenge Trump, or make peace with the idea that Ted Cruz is their only path to blocking The Donald in the SEC primary and beyond?
Cruz has the more presidential resume. He looks like someone the establishment could deal with on paper. It is only the personal animus toward him that would lead people to choose the SMOD of Trump over him. And yet that animus is real, and palatable. Ted Cruz has not been endorsed by a single sitting governor or senator of his party. The party leadership speaks of him as they would of a malevolent scorpion. Can they swallow their pride and acknowledge, in the current scenario, that he is their only hope to prevent a Trump nomination?
Perhaps they do not understand this as the current state of things. Perhaps they hold out hope that Marco Rubio or Chris Christie or Jeb Bush will get another shot at things. Perhaps they are not wrong. But as things stand, there are two potential nominees of the Republican Party in 2016, and one of them is essentially a conservative Democrat economic nationalist with an authoritarian streak who is one of the most controversial people in America today. Let’s not kid ourselves about who would be a better reflection of the Republican Party in a general election and beyond.