I can’t tell if Jamie Weinstein is satirizing Republican doomsaying about the election with this piece or if he really does want Reince to march into DNC headquarters and present his sword.
Granted, the polls look bad, but good lord. Three months left, people! Debates still to come! Plus Wikileaks! And Russians hacking electronic voting machines on Election Day to move votes to Trump! Lotta ball still left to be played. Although it’s hard to fault a man for despairing when the halftime score is 35-0.
Given that Trump is on track to lose and given that his presidency might very well be worse for the country and conservatism than Hillary’s anyway, why don’t Republican lawmakers band together and see if they can come to some sort of deal with Hillary?…
In exchange for an endorsement, Hillary might promise Republicans the right to choose whom she nominates to fill Antonin Scalia’s seat on the Supreme Court. She should also be pushed to agree to some entitlement reform, perhaps in the form of Simpson-Bowles (not the best fix to our entitlement crisis, but better than anything Republicans can hope for when even the Republican presidential nominee rejects the need for entitlement reform). Maybe Republicans could even get her to commit to putting together a bi-partisan (or non-partisan) national security team to include widely respected figures like former Secretary of Defense Bob Gates and retired Gen. James Mattis.
In addition to a public endorsement, the Republican legislators might agree to do everything they can to push through a Gang of Eight-style immigration bill if Hillary is elected. They might also promise to do their best to get her an up-or-down vote on any Supreme Court nominations she makes during her first term. If she demands it, they even agree to help her achieve a federal minimum wage increase.
One obvious objection to this via Phil Klein is that there’s no way to force Clinton to uphold her end of the bargain. That’s why contracts exist. Without the prospect of legal consequences for nonperformance, two parties who don’t trust each other would never be able to make a deal in cases where one has to perform their side of it before the other does. There wouldn’t be a formal contract in Weinstein’s scenario, needless to say. If the GOP wants a deal, it would have to endorse Hillary now and trust that she’ll give them their goodies later, with no consequences if she backs out apart from some voter displeasure. You trust a pathological liar like Hillary to be true to her word, don’t you? Also, how many voters would punish her if she broke all of her pre-election promises to Republicans once she’s president? Democrats would love her for it and Republicans — well, they hate her to begin with. There’s little reason for Clinton to stick to the deal.
Weinstein anticipates another obvious objection: Why would Hillary make a deal with Republicans when she’s beating them to a pulp? You don’t agree to conditional surrender when you’re strong enough to force an unconditional one. Weinstein’s answer is that, although the GOP’s odds of winning are long and getting longer by the day, they’re not zero. A negotiated surrender would eliminate all risk of Hillary losing, which should be worth something to her. Explain that to me, though: How would a “surrender” actually kill what’s left of Trump’s chances? The fatal flaw in this already far-fetched proposal is that many Republican voters and Democratic voters would inevitably be incensed by it. Progressive Democrats would be angry because they’d see it as Hillary trading away a chance to totally remake government in return for reassurance that she’s going to win an election she’s already almost certain to win. Is it worth handing over something as precious as a Supreme Court appointment to Republicans just so that Clinton can increase her likelihood of victory from 90 percent to 100 percent? Is it worth agreeing to — gasp — entitlement reform and shredding the “social safety net”? At this point, Hillary taking a deal would be like Reince walking into DNC headquarters, offering his sword, and Hillary saying, “Wait. Tell me what I can do for you.” War doesn’t usually work that way.
On the other side, a “negotiated surrender” would mean the end of the GOP as we know it. The whole point of Priebus, McConnell, Ryan, et al. playing ball with Trump (reluctantly) over the past three months is to keep Trump fans inside the Republican tent. All three of them expect Trump to be destroyed this fall, I’m sure, but they’re willing to be team players and endure that on the theory that that’s the only way to convince Trumpers to be team players in 2018 and 2020 in return. Having the GOP leadership “surrender” would undo all of that instantly. Trumpers would revolt at a stab-in-the-back beyond their worst nightmares; even Republican voters who aren’t fans of Trump would bristle at the spectacle of the GOP establishment making common cause with Clinton to betray the populist from their own party. It would be a worse backstabbing than removing Trump at the convention would have been. And the punchline is, there’s no telling how many — or how few — Republican votes would actually be influenced by it. How many anti-Clinton Republicans are going to move off of their vote for Trump just because Paul Ryan is telling them the election’s over? Worse yet, how many Republicans are going to move off of their vote if, as Weinstein imagines, comprehensive immigration reform is the price of the GOP’s deal with Hillary? The Republican establishment’s love affair with amnesty is one of the reasons we ended up stuck with Trump in the first place. Watching them swing the election to a Democrat in order to see their open-borders dream come true would seal the party’s doom. It might actually achieve what many people would otherwise find unimaginable, generating sympathy for a boorish billionaire who’s not above bickering with a Gold Star family in the media.
I’d be curious to know, in fact, what a “surrender” would do to Hillary’s polling. It would probably help a little as some Republican voters inevitably took a cue from Ryan et al. and decided that the election’s over and there’s no point in turning out in November. But between angry progressives grumbling about her trading away a total victory and Berniebros seeing a Clinton/GOP deal as further proof of Washington incestuousness, it might actually hurt her polling among Democrats, at least in the short-term.
Still, because the polls are what they are, you’re bound to see variations on this “when does the GOP throw in the towel?” narrative going forward. NBC’s political team took a crack at it in a different context today: If McConnell thinks the presidency is lost, why not confirm Merrick Garland now and take away Hillary’s ability to replace him with someone further left once she’s sworn in next year? Accept the center-leftist in the name of blocking a hard leftist. The reason McConnell won’t do that is the same reason there won’t be a formal “surrender,” namely, the capitulation would enrage so many Republican voters that the party’s probably better off taking its chances on being stuck with a hard leftist on the Court than immolating support among its own base. Besides, Clinton is probably stuck re-nominating Garland anyway. He’s reportedly at the top of her short list, and for good reason: The fact that he agreed to be nominated by Obama knowing that he’d be left to twist in the wind without a hearing for months makes him a sympathetic figure to Democrats. Clinton wouldn’t want to reward that by pulling his nomination to nominate a radical instead. If that’s the choice for McConnell, confirming Garland now or confirming him later, then why not wait?