Diary

The #NeverTrumpers push an option that does not really exist

The question for the (supposedly) conservative #NeverTrumpers must be: is it somehow preferable to have a ‘nice guy’ Democrat as President, with liberal policies and appointing leftist judges to an absolute [insert slang term for the rectum here] who nevertheless has the (mostly) right policies and who appoints conservative judges? Bill Kristol and Washington Post columnist Michael Gerson seem to believe so:

Will a Republican candidate stand up against Trump in 2020?

Michael Gerson | Columnist | November 15, 2018 | 6:21 PM EST

Republicans thinking about opposing President Trump in the 2020 primaries are facing the hardest of political choices.

Toppling a sitting president of your own party is a maneuver with the highest degree of difficulty. The most relevant historical model is probably Eugene McCarthy’s race against President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1968, which helped persuade the politically wounded Johnson to withdraw. But McCarthy had a clear policy handhold — opposition to an increasingly unpopular war — and appealed to a discontented element within his party.

What are the handholds for a challenger to Trump? Economic conservatives are generally happy with the 2017 tax cut. Social conservatives are generally satisfied with Trump’s judicial nominees (and should be). Foreign policy conservatives are generally not pleased with Trump’s sabotage of alliances, his compulsive personal diplomacy and his abdication of leadership in promoting American values, but the Republican foreign policy establishment was almost uniformly opposed to Trump the last time around, and it mattered not at all.

There’s more at the original, including this, much further down:

The problem with Democrats making this argument about Trump’s character is simple. To abandon the president in favor of a Democrat, Republican voters are forced, not just to value public character, but also to value public character above conservative economic policy, and above the appointment of conservative judges. And — though it pains me to say — not many Republicans place that much weight on matters of character. They will take Trump plus Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh over any Democrat of unimpeachable integrity. If, however, any of the serious Republican prospects — Nikki Haley, Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, Mitt Romney or John Kasich¹ — run against Trump, Republican primary voters will face the challenge: Why not conservative policy and public character?

The answer is given in the part Mr Gerson didn’t mention: Senator McCarthy’s quixotic campaign against Lyndon Johnson’s renomination drove the President to not seek another term, but it didn’t get Senator McCarthy or any other Democrat elected in 1968; it resulted in Richard Nixon being elected. The option of ‘conservative policy and public character’ is an option only in the imaginations of men like Messers Kristol and Gerson.

Unless President Trump dies in office during his initial term, there are only two possibilities come November of 2020: either President Trump is re-elected, or the Democratic nominee, someone who will almost certainly not be a ‘moderate’ in any practical sense of the word, will win.

Justice Brett Kavanaugh is 53 years old; he might serve another thirty years on the Supreme Court, far longer than Mr Trump will be President. Neil Gorsuch is 51 years old; with good health and some luck, he might serve until 2050. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is 85 years old, and we all know that she’s like to last on the Court until a Democrat becomes President, but, let’s be brutally honest here, she might not succeed in that. Amy Coney Barrett is just 46 years old; if Justice Ginsburg should leave the Supreme Court while President Trump is still in office, she could serve on the Supreme Court until 2060!

In the absolute best case scenario for him, President Trump will leave office on January 20, 2025. When he leaves office, his personality will leave with him. If he is replaced by a Democrat — and the voters only very rarely elect someone of the same party to follow a departing President, the elder George Bush in 1988 being the only such instance since Herbert Hoover succeeded Calvin Coolidge in 1929 — many of President Trump’s policies will be as reversed as much as possible, but his judicial nominees will continue to serve.

And make no mistake about it: regardless of what the Framers of the Constitution intended, the Supreme Court has made almost irreversible political policy for decades now. The legalization of abortion was by no means a public desire in 1973, but the Court forced it on us then, and the almost continual efforts by conservatives have not been able to reverse that. The Court forced states with constitutional amendments and laws prohibiting such to accept the cockamamie notion that two men or two women could legally marry, and even if the Supreme Court reverses itself, there are thousands upon thousands of homosexual couples who are now legally married and whose status will not change. That prohibition on ex post facto laws, you know.

And it won’t be too much longer before the Supreme Court will have to say something about whether, legally, girls can be boys and boys can be girls in this mixed up, muddled up, shook up world. If Justice Ginsburg manages to hold on until 2021 or 2025, there’s a greater chance that The Kinks will be the ones setting that legal policy . . . and Justice Ginsburg’s probabilities of making it until 2021 seem a lot better than making it until 2025.

We have to remember: though Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh are relatively young, John Roberts is 63, Samuel Alito is 68 and Clarence Thomas is 70. Any of them could leave the Court early; Antonin Scalia was supposed to have been in good health, right up until he died just shy of his 80th birthday. The notion of replacing President Trump as the Republican nominee with Nikki Haley is an attractive one only if you are naïve enough to believe that Mr Trump could be unpopular enough to lose the Republican nomination yet the Republican nominee still win the 2020 election.

I will admit it: I do not like President Trump’s personality and public demeanor. He is vain, narcissistic, a huge blowhard and a lot too off-the-cuff for me. And while I did not approve of the tax cuts before spending cuts were made — which they never will be — I most certainly do approve of his policies on immigration and the economy, and rolling back what can be reversed of the ridiculous Obama Administration social policies. His foreign policy of putting American interests first, ahead of what the ‘globalists’ prefer, is how an American president should think and act; he is President of the United States, not of the world.

President Trump may lose the 2020 election, but one thing is absolutely certain: if the GOP nominates anyone other than Mr Trump in 2020 — unless, of course, President Trump chooses not to run again or has died in office — the Democratic presidential nominee will win. It is not better to have a guaranteed loss with Nikki Haley than a possible victory with President Trump.

Policies matter. Judicial nominations matter. The President’s personality matters as well, but it is a much shorter term consideration than the things he does, the things which will have consequences long after he leaves office. You don’t have to like President Trump to realize that he’s the only real option conservatives have right now.
______________________________________
Cross-posted on The First Street Journal.
______________________________________
¹ – Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, Mitt Romney or John Kasich, seriously? Jeff is a Flake, Mr Corker mostly a coward, Mr Romney already a two-time presidential loser, and Mr Kasich won only his home state primary in 2016, and that with less than half the vote.