If Trump is where Republican primary voters choose to go, the best thing for the country might be not to defeat him, but to push him into office and temper him there.
First, there is the possibility that Trump might — might — do one or two of the things he has discussed. If a President Trump were actually to enforce the tenets of our immigration law, or were to tear up the nuclear deal with Iran and reauthorize a sanctions regime, or were to deploy serious military force against the Islamic State, these would be positive things for the country.
But even if he did nothing helpful, it’s possible we could keep him from doing abject harm. If Trump wants to win, he will have to balance his ticket, at least a bit — Rush Limbaugh is not a viable vice-presidential pick. A President Trump would probably have to select his Cabinet from among Republican officeholders, and they would still have to be confirmed by the Senate. Every member of Congress would be far more jealous of his constitutional authority under a Trump administration. Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have refused to impede the usurpations of authority by a president from their own party, but Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell wouldn’t. Likewise, the massive complex of Washington bureaucrats, which raced to carry out President Obama’s tasks, would surely drag (if not dig in) its heels. And Republican governors, too — reliable conservatives such as Scott Walker, Nikki Haley, and Mike Pence — would not bend to Trump simply because of his party affiliation.
None of the same would happen under a Clinton presidency. Advisers familiar from the last two Democratic administrations would aggressively push forward an Obama-style agenda. Democrats in Congress, who have already demonstrated their preference for power over constitutional process, would assist, as would the Supreme Court, whose next justice, perhaps two justices, would be Hillary-appointed. (Say goodbye to Heller and Citizens United and a whole lot else.) Meanwhile, La Raza and CAIR would continue to hold sway, and Iran would find another ear easily beguiled by its charm offensive.