Above all else, the Constitutional Convention of 1787 was convened to amend the Articles of Confederation but instead ended up writing a whole new charter to “form a more perfect Union.” The men who convened in Philadelphia in that hot summer knew that united, states would form a better nation than 13 individual states constantly vying with one another against the common good. They faced both internal and external pressures and united they stood a better chance.
That was the thinking then, and now it also applies to the political parties although our Founders were very much against such parties. And despite fits and starts, this country emerged after World War II perhaps the most unified ever. We had defeated fascism in Europe and imperialism in the Pacific. People were migrating from cities to the suburbs, farm workers from to the South to the Northern cities, and white collar workers to the Sun Belt. In the subsequent decade- the 1950’s- there were no hyphenated Americans, just “Americans.” Even the lines that often kept religions apart were blurred. The various Protestant sects were now not Pentecostal, Adventist, Baptist and Methodist. They were just “Protestant.”
In the 1972 elections, 52% of all votes in the House went to Democrats while Nixon was bludgeoning McGovern, a Democrat, in the popular and electoral vote counts. As late as 1984, House Democratic candidates beat Republicans by 4.25 million votes while Reagan defeated Mondale by more than 17 million votes. Since then, partisan differences have hardened and ticket splitting is no longer to be expected. Each Party holds more negative views of the opposing party now more than any time in our history. It is called “negative partisanship” and it is the argument being used to rally Republicans around Donald Trump.
In former political times, negative partisanship did not exist to the degree it does today. And that state of affairs would have been a natural check on support for Trump. But today, the GOP is attempting to convince the 58% of GOP voters in competitive primaries who did not support Trump that although he may be a flawed candidate, he is the lesser of two evils. This is a sad attempt at and justification for party unity.
One would think that since he forced the last two men standing- Ted Cruz and John Kasich- out after the Indiana primary, party unity would be his first goal. But Trump is a unique creature who has stated that although he would like the Party to be unified behind him, he does not find it necessary to defeat Hillary Clinton. The Republican Party is united in but one thing- their disdain for Hillary Clinton, and Trump is counting on that to spur him to victory. Some focus groups have indicated that they are not at the stage of rooting against Trump. Either these focus groups are flawed, or they are stupid. How much more does Trump have to do to convince voters that he is inept and the probably the least qualified candidate ever for the job?
Trump is a victim of his own persona. He is a candidate unlike any other in the past, so the story goes, so why change now? The method towards success that got him this far, he believes, will carry through to the general election.
The only problem with that line of thinking is that voters in a Republican primary are not an accurate reflection of the electorate at large in a general election. Trump starts with an Electoral College vote disadvantage. He believes he can put states like Michigan and Pennsylvania into play, thus upsetting the conventional wisdom because, after all, he is the unconventional candidate. Unfortunately, we’ve heard these sentiments before. The only way he is going to win these states that traditionally go to the Democrats is to become Democrat-lite.
There are three groups of conservatives- the Trump supporters, the NeverTrump contingent (of which this writer is a proud member) and the largest group- the what do we do now group. These are the primary voters who did not vote for Trump and won’t vote for Clinton. If ever there was a time ripe for a third party, it is now, but there is nothing viable out there and time is running out. My guess is the latter group will sit this one out.
For his part, Trump has not been helpful. When the New Mexico Governor did not appear at a Trump rally, he dissed her record as a Republican Governor in a blue state. When Paul Ryan did not endorse Trump, he shot back that he was not ready to endorse Ryan. He then sent Palin after Ryan and she endorsed his primary opponent. When Lindsey Graham gave an endorsement, Trump suggested that Graham was partially responsibility for the rise of ISIS at a Nebraska rally. When Scott Walker did not endorse him in Wisconsin, he dissed Walker, his record and even the roads in that state.
Should we really expect better? Trump is anything but conciliatory in any respect. Conciliation is not his brand and never was. It was what motivated him to press Atlantic City to use eminent domain to kick a person out of her home so he could build a limo parking lot. He’s proud of his litigious nature and spins court losses into victories. The man is dangerously narcissistic and cares only about Donald Trump.
It is exactly this type of person that our Founders most worried about and thought they had built enough barriers to the rise of such people. There is absolutely nothing that would lead me to vote for Donald Trump in November. No amount of an about-face by Trump will convince me that he would make a good, effective, unifying President.
When the final book is written on this bizarre campaign season where we are given the choice of a fraud against a criminal, hopefully we will still have a semblance of the republican form of government our Founders envisioned and so many died to preserve and protect. The playground bully may win in the end, or the fraudulent criminal who has been running for this office for 25 years may win. It is not a question of the lesser of two evils; it is damned if you and damned if you don’t. Either way, we’re screwed and we are further down the road to our Founder’s worst nightmares.