After the latest round of contests and the latest winnowing of the field, here's what [Republicans] are left with: A celebrity hate-peddler whose agenda is built on bluster; a far-right government-crashing ideologue who, if nominated, would lose 40 states; and a governor whose primary season record is 1-28. ~ DICK POLMAN
Do not be misled by the coalition of Republicans -- ranging from conservative media mavens Erick Erickson and William Kristol to former Bush administration bigs and congressfolk to deep-pocketed donors -- who have come together in a desperation bid to stop their very own Frankenstein from getting the presidential nomination, or failing that launch a third-party effort to try to assure that he is not elected.
It is not that they oppose the many vile things for which Donald Trump stands, including racism, religious lunacy, gun nuttery, debasement of women and Stone Age diplomacy, because that is what they and the GOP have long supported. It is because of the calamity that would be visited upon their echo-chamber world with his nomination, fracturing their party beyond repair.
As an exercise in hypocrisy, the Stop Trump movement is in a league of its own, but special mention must be made of Kristol, the Weekly Standard editor whose hard-on for a narcissistic, power-abusing kook and liar by the name of Sarah Palin expedited her ascendancy to the vice presidential nomination in 2008 and coronation as the Queen of White Rage, which was a watershed moment in the slow but steady destruction of the GOP and greased the path for Trump's campaign eight years later.
The movement is targeting the Wisconsin primary on April 5 as pivotal in stopping Trump.
Beginning with the Cheesehead State, most primaries from then on out will apportion delegates based on the winners of each congressional district, which theoretically would allow the anti-Trump forces to deny him delegates in states like New York and California with huge delegate hauls. This, combined with states like Pennsylvania with large numbers of uncommitted delegates, could prevent Trump from accumulating the 1,237 delegates he needs to clinch the nomination before the convention in Cleveland in July.
The success of this 11th-hour strategy is dubious, and although the unpredictable has occurred with regularity this election cycle, there are three lead-pipe-cinch certainties at this point:
* If Trump is denied the nomination, the fisticuffs at his rallies would pale in comparison to what his followers would do when they took to the streets. With, of course, the angry candidate's tacit approval.
* If Trump wins the nomination, he will lose badly. The Senate will almost certainly return to Democratic control and even the GOP's 30-seat House majority, once thought to be out of Democratic reach, may be threatened.
* If the movement exercises a third-party option, Hillary Clinton will win in a landslide of historic proportions. We're talking 48 or 49 states here, and a national electoral mandate not seen in modern times.
The notion of a third-party candidate underwritten by the Stop Trump movement borders on the comical, and it should be noted that some of the leading lights in a party that has relied on voter disenfranchisement to suppress Democratic turnout are now contemplating using it on their own rank and file. Then there is the knee-slapping irony of these leading lights demanding that "the people" have a say in who the next Supreme Court justice is but not have a say in who the party's nominee is.
Although a third-party candidate could get on the ballot in most states or seek the nomination of the Libertarian Party, which does not pick a candidate until late May, the list of people willing to undertake this suicide mission is short and includes lightweights like former Texas Governor Rick Perry, a two time presidential primary flameout with a proclivity for saying dumb things.
Erickson unwittingly reveals the movement's low-expectation desperation in describing Perry as its "consensus choice" for a third-party run because "He would win Texas and at least obstruct Trump."
§As it is, most Republicans don't support Trump, although fully three-quarters of them expect him to be the nominee, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News Poll.
The average total from the 19 primaries and caucuses he has won in his blitzkrieg to Cleveland is only 37.5 percent, or bit more than one out of every three votes. Will some of the remaining two thirds of Republicans hold their noses and vote for Frankenstein in the fall? Sure. Will some Democrats and Independents vote for Trump? Sure sure.
But more than a quarter of the Republicans who voted in the big primaries last Tuesday told exit pollsters that they would not vote for Trump even if he becomes the nominee, and more than a third said they would consider voting for a third-party candidate. More than 60 percent of Americans have an "unfavorable" view of Trump and half of all women have a "very unfavorable view." There aren't remotely enough votes for Trump to pull out of his ass, let alone anywhere else, to make the race competitive despite Clinton's own buffet of unfavorables.
Trump's scorched earth campaign has done one thing: It has united many of the party's major donors, who are belatedly throwing millions of dollars into ad campaigns highlighting Trump's "liberal" past and other perceived transgressions. Meanwhile, the misnamed Club For Growth (it should be called the Club For Greedy Rich White Guys) raised $4 million in February alone to push back against Trump, although the powerful Charles G. and David H. Koch have yet to get off the fence.
Lost -- perhaps -- in the hankie wringing over Trump is that the Republicans' nihilist strategy of creating gridlock in order to embarrass Barack Obama by making the country ungovernable keeps backfiring.
The only way the party can come out ahead in the debate over Judge Merrick B. Garland, Obama's widely-respected Supreme Court nominee, is to not have a debate, and that's not going to happen with control of the White House and Senate, as well as the high court itself, at stake. And so Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell's strategy will backfire because an awful lot of us are sick of bureaucratic inertia -- some 87 percent of Americans disapprove of the job he and Congress are doing -- and sucking up to the Tea Party bed wetters has gotten beyond old.
One of the sadder spectacles of this spectacular year has been the Pianos Keep Falling On My Head dismay of David Brooks, The New York Times' longtime house conservative. Brooks, who always has been about being nice, nicely writes:
"The question is: Should deference be paid to this victor? Should we bow down to the judgment of these voters?
"Well, some respect is in order. Trump voters are a coalition of the dispossessed. They have suffered lost jobs, lost wages, lost dreams. The American sytem is not working for them, so naturally they are looking for something else.
"Moreover, many in the media, especially me, did not understand how they would express their alienation. We expected Trump to fizzle because we were not socially intermingled with his supporters and did not listen carefully enough. For me, it's a lesson that I have to change the way I do my job if I'm going to report accurately on this country."But no matter how much Brooks socially intermingles, he still doesn't get it in giving Trump -- and himself -- a free pass by mischaracterizing the pitchfork populists drawn to the Republican frontrunner as upwardly aspiring Americans hamstrung by an economically stacked deck, which by the way, is how Brooks's buddies Mitt Romney and running mate Paul Ryan wanted the deck stacked in 2012 and still want it stacked now.
There is much truth to the real-life agonies of Trump's rioters in waiting, but to say that his rise is a legitimate expression of their pain is farcical because that masks the sulfurous stench of racism and their not so transparent hope that Trump can somehow restore the racial hierarchy upended by Obama.
How deep is the Republican Party's dysfunction? So deep that some conservatives are actually admitting that (choke, choke) maybe liberals were right all along.
Bret Stephens in the Wall Street Journal:
"Liberals may have been fond of claiming that Republicans were all closet bigots and that tax cuts were a form of racial prejudice, but the accusations rang hollow because the evidence for it was so tendentious. Not anymore. The candidacy of Donald Trump is the open sewer of American conservatism. . . . It would be terrible to think that the left was right about the right all these years."Max Boot, a nasty piece of neoconservative work and so-called party intellectual, tweeted:
"I'm a lifelong Republican but Trump surge proves that every bad Democrats have ever said about GOP is basically true."And David Harsanyi in the arch conservative The Federalist:
"I'm not saying someone shouldn't blow up the Republican Party. I'm saying that that someone shouldn't be an unprincipled imposter."But in the end, or the beginning of the end, which is where the "modern" Republican Party finds itself seven-plus months out from Election Armageddon, old prejudices die hard, and it turns out that the gas guzzler tax-paying GOP elites really don't like a lot of white people either, especially the working-class whites drawn to Trump.
In an extraordinarily sanctimonious article titled "Chaos in the Family, Chaos in the State: The White Working Class's Dysfunction" in the National Review, Kevin Williamson blames Trump's supporters for their own plight. Never mind the yawning gap between the rich and and everyone else, the stagnation of household income and the pernicious effects of global capitalization.
Williamson, speaking for the Romneys and Ryans, variously describes the approximately 100 million white American adults without college degrees as drug addicts, parents who cannot take care of their children, and welfare state mooches propped up by Democrats.
This is part-and-parcel with the notion that the Republican Party is not responsible for creating Trump. Good old cultural rot is. Andrew McCarthy gets his bustle up in The National Review, sounding for all the world like Walter Sobchak from The Big Lebowski:
"What is the natural progression from turning the campus and pop culture over to Amerika-hating radicals, to the vigorous years-long media defense of Bill Clinton's right to turn the White House into a cathouse, to the inability of a father to watch baseball with his young son at one o'clock on a Sunday afternoon without being ready to address erectile dysfunction? It is the cretinous Donald J. Trump campaign."
"Donald Trump is not the cause of deterioration in our politics. He is the effect of deterioration in our culture."The biggest reason anti-Trump efforts are doomed is that even if he can be stopped at the convention, with or without bloodshed, so-called movement conservatives like Romney and Ryan don't have a clue as why there is an insurgency to begin with. And they themselves are not a whole lot different, even if more coherent and less vulgar, than the man with the small hands and peculiar hair they despise for aiding and abetting in the destruction of their party.
POLITIX UPDATE IS WRITTEN BY SHAUN MULLEN, A VETERAN JOURNALIST AND BLOGGER FOR WHOM THE 2016 PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGN IS HIS 12th SINCE 1968. CLICK HERE FOR AN INDEX OF PREVIOUS COLUMNS.
© 2015-2016 SHAUN D. MULLEN.
PHOTOGRAPH FROM BIGSTOCK