So this morning I was reading this piece by Michael Gerson in the Washington Post where he explained how Donald Trump winning the GOP nomination would rip the heart out of the Republican Party. In case you’re wondering if I’m engaging in a bit of hyperbole at Michael’s expense, the actual title of the article is, Trump’s nomination would rip the heart out of the Republican Party.
Every Republican of the type concerned with winning in November has been asking the question (at least internally): “What if the worst happens?” …
Cruz’s nomination would represent the victory of the hard right — religious right and tea party factions — within the Republican coalition. After he loses, the ideological struggles within the GOP would go on.
No, the worst outcome for the party would be the nomination of Donald Trump. It is impossible to predict where the political contest between Trump and Hillary Clinton would end up. Clinton has manifestly poor political skills, and Trump possesses a serious talent for the low blow. But Trump’s nomination would not be the temporary victory of one of the GOP’s ideological factions. It would involve the replacement of the humane ideal at the center of the party and its history. If Trump were the nominee, the GOP would cease to be.
Gerson goes on to opine that Trumps nomination would reduce the Republican Party to “an enterprise of squalid prejudice.” But he also notes that he has no idea how Trump might fare in the general election against Hillary Clinton because she has, “manifestly poor political skills” while The Donald is a master of the “low blow.”
If nothing else, there’s a new poll out from Fox News today which might answer at least one of Michael’s questions for him. The poll begins with the usual list of numbers for the GOP primary which we’ve seen too many times to count and aren’t worth any fresh analysis here today. Trump 35, Cruz 20, Rubio 13, Carson 10, Bush 4, Fiorina 3, blah, blah, blah, blah.
But then we get to the general election head to head match-ups and things get a bit more interesting.
Clinton currently ties or trails the Republicans in each of the possible 2016 matchups tested.
Rubio (50-41 percent) and Cruz (50-43 percent) perform best against the presumptive Democratic nominee. Rubio has a nine-point advantage and Cruz is up by seven.
Trump tops Clinton by three points (47-44 percent) and Bush ties at 44 percent each.
Hillary isn’t having a good week, what with her emails showing that she was snipping off security classifications to mail around sensitive documents from her bathroom server, and now this? The only one out of the GOP field that she can manage to beat (or at least tie) is Bush, and he’s currently polling slightly behind “Having Your Wisdom Teeth Removed By A Squirrel.”
But let’s return to Gerson’s premise for a moment and the future of the Enterprise of Squalid Prejudice. Perhaps it’s just me, but I think that Michael is missing a rather key point as to what’s happening inside the GOP these days. Trump’s policies, such as they are, don’t seem to have much to do with his popularity. Some of our readers long ago reached a conclusion about the current state of the GOP establishment which took others among us a bit longer to grasp. There was a “Let it Burn” theme to the feedback we were getting even before Trump got into the race. I’ll confess that I was far afield from that point of view last spring, but the recent passage of the omnibus spending bill really seemed to bring a lot more people on board with the idea that the current state of affairs simply wasn’t acceptable.
While Gerson frets over Donald Trump “destroying the Republican Party” there were obviously already a lot of voters out there who weren’t seeing such a prospect as a particularly bad thing. In fact, one of the biggest concerns being aired was the possibility that The Donald might win the most votes and delegates in the primary and then see the nomination stolen from him at the convention by a coalition of party establishment regulars. If that turns out to be the case, then I’m afraid it truly will be the end of the party as we know it for a at least a decade, if not a generation. To a somewhat lesser extent the same could be said of Ted Cruz, a man not quite so “outside Washington” as Trump, but still despised by many of his colleagues in the establishment for upsetting the apple cart entirely.
But what happens if Trump takes the nomination and then, as this poll suggests is increasingly possible, goes on to defeat Hillary for the presidency? Well… we’ll have lived to see interesting times. I have no predictions as to what comes after that, but rest assured that I’ll keep my seat belt fastened and my table tray locked in the upright position.