Rich Lowry is convinced that Trump, whether he loses at the RNC or in the Fall, is going to destroy the Republican Party in the process:
Events can always intervene, and Hillary Clinton certainly has her own weaknesses, but every objective indicator is that nominating Trump would mean a divided Republican party loses in the fall, perhaps badly, maybe even epically.
Probably the most favorable non-Trump scenario is that Ted Cruz beats him on a second ballot at a convention and has enough anti-establishment credibility to take the edge off the inevitable revolt of the Trump forces. But surely Trump would do all he could to destroy Cruz and the GOP in retribution for denying him the nomination.
As for that last part, however, what makes Lowry so “sure”? Though Trump has campaigned in a political suicide vest, threatening to take as many people with him as possible when he finally trips the trigger, why exactly should we believe the threat?
Maybe Lowry, after the events of the last year or so, is just primed to expect the worst…
We do not have to subscribe fully to oft-heard speculation that Trump has been seeking the right moment to exit all along – that he never thought he would get as far as he has gotten, that he knows he could not handle a real General Election campaign, and that he knows how ludicrously unqualified he is to be president – in order to see his conduct at least over the last week and arguably since before Super Tuesday if not since the beginning as simply un-serious.
That Trumpismo has gotten as far as it has would be an index of the weakness of our political culture and its institutions including but not limited to the Republican Party. The success of the fundamentally un-serious campaign equates with our collective un-seriousness. Trump has in this sense been able to functioned as Exhibit A in his own political argument: Things must really be bad for someone as bad as Trump to succeed, thereby justifying Trump: Political perpetual motion.
Yet as far gone as we are, we are not all the way gone. We are not quite ready for Emperor Trumpigula appointing his horse to run the Senate, or operating a national brothel employing Washington’s political spouses. As for Trump himself, suppose he is all or most of the things his adversaries think of him, or worse: Suppose, even, that he qualifies as a “stupid psychopath,” as Lowry’s colleague Kevin Williamson put it: Even-especially if Trump is truly as self-serving as Lowry says, and possibly even if he is pathological as Williamson asserts, the fundamental question before him would still remain what serves him and his interests as he understands them best. Or, even on Williamson’s polemically exaggerated terms, why should we presume that Trump is not just stupid but truly imbecilic, and not just a psychopath, but a simply and predictably self-destructive one?
Should a not quite completely insensately stupid, not quite entirely psychotic Trump, facing unfavorable and deteriorating political prospects, seek to humiliate himself leading a fractured Republican Party to an “epic” defeat in November? Should he prefer, as per Lowry’s “most favorable” scenario, to “do all he could to destroy Cruz and the GOP” – turning himself into a hated loser and maker of losers? How would either alternative profit him – or preserve and burnish his all-important brand – at all?
The path of least resistance, highest reward for Donald J Trump at this point would be to run “conservatively” for the rest of the primaries, and to continue going through the motions of being Trump – if only to ensure consolidation of his intra-party opposition – while gradually preparing himself and his followers to accept some other nominee. By July, if he showed some semblance of good will, good humor, and good sportsmanship, he would receive the party’s gratitude. One suspects that his prominent supporters, especially the major spokespeople and endorsers who hope for a future in Republican and conservative politics, would be deeply thankful.
If he preferred, he can could claim from the moment of decision to the end of time that the nomination was in some sense “stolen” from him, but the claim need not be taken any more seriously than he or anyone else takes any of the countless other nonsensical and self-serving things we all know he is prone to say. He might add that he gave the Republican Party and the country a chance at him, and they failed: He would not be the loser; he would already have far exceeded anyone’s expectations: He would have won: They or we would be the losers, because we rejected him. If the Republican nominee loses, he can write a book on the art of I-told-you-so.
The classiest and most profitable, winningest solution for Donald J Trump is magnanimous acceptance of a relatively close-run failure at the Republican Convention, complete with smiling walk-on for unity pictures, with encouragement to his supporters to follow suit. Afterward, he would be able to maintain out-sized political and cultural relevance, or some semblance of it, salvage and even restore and expand his brand, and return happily to civilian life – or even remain open to some kind of political appointment down the line. Why shouldn’t he? What about his character as we know it or his attitude toward “consistency” would preclude him from taking this version of the high road – proving all “the haters” wrong?
It may be that Trump cannot destroy the GOP, that Lowry has misplaced where his worry should go. The question seems to be, is the GOP, in Lenin’s words “ripe and rotten-ripe” for collapse. That is as he says, “It would be absurd to regard the whole question as one of personalities.”
Of course plenty of commentary has focused on the roots and development of the current state of affairs – Goldwater, Atwater are among the frequently mentioned authors of these fluid dynamics, the “reap what you sow style” of punditry.
So Trump may only be the messenger, able to neither destroy or, through huge acts magnanimousness, save the Party.