The dangerous temptation of the "Clean Slate" crew

Conservative talk radio host Michael Graham (who I failed to get a picture with at CPAC this year) has shown up in The Federalist this week with the latest Wile E. Coyote scheme to gain popularity in the #NeverTrump movement: Why A Clean Slate At The GOP Convention Makes Sense. This new master plan seems to be the successor to the Flip A Lot of Delegates After the First Ballot strategy which has been in vogue since it became rather pitifully obvious that nobody was going to get anywhere near as many delegates as Donald Trump for the big show in Cleveland this summer.

While it should be fairly obvious from the title, I’ll share the optimistic vision of things to come which Graham paints in the opening of his piece.

Imagine it’s the day after the GOP convention, and across America voters who’ve spent months dreading the horror of a Hillary versus Trump election wake up to discover the GOP ticket is…Condi/Perry 2016!

Imagine the relief, the joy, the “holy crap, how did we escape?” elation the GOP electorate would feel over a Trump-free future. Now ask yourself: Are once-panicked Republicans really going to give a rip about Rule 40-b?

I only picked Condi/Perry to make a point, not show a preference. It could be Ryan/Haley or Walker/Scott (Tim, senator of South Carolina) or, if you’re a old-time comics fan, Mitt and Jeff! (as in Romney and Sessions).

What people dismissing Karl Rove’s “clean slate” concept are missing is the old adage that nothing is good or bad except by comparison. Compared to “GOP nominee Donald Trump,” everything sounds good. Or at least not as bad.

In case you skimmed over the excerpted section, I’d ask you to read the last paragraph again because it contains the core of what’s going wrong in the camp of some of our conservative thought leaders at the moment. Does anyone else recognize something not just disconcerting but downright creepy in the quote, nothing is good or bad except by comparison? It is a standard hymn from the playbook of liberals, socialist and communists. One of the defining elements of at least the social conservative wing of the GOP has long been that there absolutely is such a thing as the concept of Good and Evil, paired with a core belief that it’s always better to be on the side of Good.

This is how far we have fallen in the collective rush to “stop” one candidate seeking our own party’s nomination above all else.

Reading through the rest of Michael’s essay you’ll see the tried and true arguments of those who prioritize stopping Trump at all costs above both directing our energy toward the real enemy (Hillary Clinton) and mutual respect for other members of their party with whom they disagree. The Donald’s poor approval ratings and dismal prospects in head to head polls against Hillary are on display. So too are bits of fond reminiscing about 1920 and 1880, as if the days of smoke filled back rooms and party insiders shutting out rank and file voters around the country were something to pine for. Also featured are the regular reminders that we have rules and those rules need to be respected, even if those same rules would be the current subject of a pitchfork and torches style rebellion if they were being employed to foist Jeb Bush off on us.

When you add it all up, the sum of these arguments certainly makes a powerful case for those dreaming of a clean slate. Oh, if we could only go back and have a do-over, eh? I can truly sympathize with the sentiment. I’d love it if we could hop in the Delorean, ramp up to 88 miles per hour, go back in time and make sure Biff never stole the sports almanac. Heck, I’d like to swing back a considerably shorter number of years and stop the New York Jets from picking up Geno Smith. But the reality is that the Steelers still got the final wild card slot last year and I’ve just got to live with that. Even Doc Brown came to regret building his time machine, and those hoping to cast a new ticket as if the primary battle never took place should keep these lessons in mind.

Your fantasies regarding some “clean slate” plan in this regard would be entirely valid (assuming you live in #NeverTrump Village) were it not for one little thing. Or, more correctly, tens of millions of little things. Those “things” are the armies of people who have shown up to vote in record numbers from coast to coast. We are constantly reminded on social media of the fact that if Donald Trump “only” gets 40% of the total votes, then 60% of the Republican base is Anybody But Trump. What they fail to mention is that, by that logic, 70% of the GOP Nation is Anybody But Cruz and better than 90% are Anybody But Kasich. But I suppose that doesn’t make for a very good bumper sticker.

What Graham and his cohorts cheering for a clean slate fail to grasp is that their increasingly desperate thrashing in opposition to Donald Trump has led them to abandon principles in the name of the cause and begin acting more like Democrats than Republicans. The ends now justify the means in NeverTrumpistan, and if that means telling tens of millions of Republican voters, whether they supported Trump, Cruz, Rubio, Kasich or any of the rest of the pack, that they wasted their time, well.. so be it.

How easily we sell off our values when tunnel vision sets in. I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Many of the people endorsing such plans are the same conservatives who for years railed against the establishment railroading the base. If only the party leaders could have listened to their voters in the past we’d have had some real conservatives on the ticket instead of Moderate Mitt or John “RINO” McCain. But when the largest number of voters get together and pick someone you personally object to – no matter how well expressed your reasons may be – you go running back to mommy and daddy and beg them to shut down the ignorant, unwashed masses and take over the process. What some of these proponents of a conservative agenda seem to have really been saying all this time was, the party elite doesn’t need to listen to the voters.. they need to listen to me.

This isn’t some rallying cry claiming that we need to nominate Donald Trump or that only he can “make America Great Again.” Frankly, I still believe that Ted Cruz is the most solidly conservative voice available, as well as being the most fierce and skilled debater to put up on a stage with either Hillary or Bernie. But what I am arguing for here is the reform of a system which is not only flawed but open to corruption, and badly in need of cleaning up at the local, state and national levels. These flaws were not in evidence for the voting history of all but the oldest readers because the sketchy rules now being examined were never a factor when we went into the convention with an overriding favorite. But now that we have a hotly contested race and a divided base, the cracks in the foundation are in evidence. And too many of us are ready and willing to use those loopholes to our advantage. If you want the GOP to be a party which reflects the values and choices of its registered members across the nation, their participation, activism and, yes… votes, need to be the deciding factor in the nominating process. And that reality will likely need to include a nod to the fact that you’re not always going to get a majority of the flock lining up behind a single shepherd.

We’re experiencing a free range primary where the voters were given the better part of two dozen choices which crossed every line of ideology and demographics. They have slowly but surely winnowed the field to a few contenders through a mostly democratic process. (Don’t get me started on the unbound delegates again.) What we wind up getting is what we asked for, and even if it’s a bitter pill to swallow for some, it’s time to suck it up take our medicine.


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