When I lived in Vermont years ago, I sometimes wrote in on the ballot another Republican politician rather than vote for Sen. Jim Jeffords when he still had the R behind his name. I saw no point in helping him win. To me, he seemed to get in the way of conservative politics there, making it harder for those of us in the trenches to push conservative ideas forward. So, I understand how the wrong politician in your party can make life immeasurably more difficult for others in the party. Boy, do I understand that.
Nonetheless, no conservative should be encouraging Donald Trump to run as an independent in order to cleanse the Republican party and delineate its positions from those of the Know-Nothing Trump. That’s an irresponsible suggestion, in my opinion, yet one made in a commentary by S. E. Cupp on December 10 over at Town Hall (“Run, Trump, Run! –As an Independent).
First, let’s acknowledge that Trump might run as an indie regardless what anyone encourages him — or not — to do. But what bothers me about nudging him toward that option is that it sacrifices the presidential election for a strategy that won’t work anyway. Meanwhile we’d be left with President Hillary Clinton as commander-in-chief since the conservative vote would be divided between indie Trump and the GOP nominee. And, as the mother of someone in the armed forces, that bothers me a lot. As much as I dislike Trump (see my first Red State post on this from the other day), I’d actually trust him more to be the commander-in-chief than I would Clinton.
Think about it. Hillary Clinton lied to the American people about the attack in Benghazi, lied to the families of the victims of that attack, and now, lied to the public again when the families dispute her lies. Add to that her fecklessness as secretary of state, and you have a picture of a clueless leader who’d have no problem spouting untruths if her decisions ended in costly mistakes, even ones where lives were lost.
I completely sympathize with those who would like to hear true conservatives debating Clinton on the issues instead of the daily Trump Follies routine where Trump sets the conversation agenda and Republican candidates have to respond rather than advancing their own ideas. But kicking Trump to the curb isn’t the way to win that public persuasion fight. Don’t think for one second that purging the party of Trump would mean the media would suddenly treat conservatives with a new respect and admiration. If they did, it would last about as long as it takes to say “Trump and the GOP are so much alike…” It’s still going to be hard to get the conservative message out through the many unfair and biased filters out there. We don’t need to sacrifice the blood and treasure of this nation just to straighten out the political party we hold dear.
No, a better strategy is for the candidates to start ignoring Trump and refusing to be sucked in to the endless “Trump said this, so what do you think” questions the media throws their way. We’ve seen this happen to some degree with some of those running. Let’s hope it continues. Because, in the end, elections are about ideas and…persuasion. A winning candidate knows both policy and politics. If no one on the GOP stage has the smarts to play the politics right, then having the right policies won’t make a difference come November 2016.
So, Trump is actually good for the candidates in this regard–he’s forcing them to hone their political skills as they try to fight their way through the babble. Sure, I’d prefer if Trump weren’t such a big distraction. Then it would be more likely the public would hear about Clinton’s peccadilloes, of which there are many. And no, I don’t think Trump is truly a Republican or even a conservative. He’s a crony capitalist who believes in abusing eminent domain, doesn’t have a problem with campaign finance restrictions or with protectionist trade policies. He’s supported Democratic candidates with donations in the past, but opportunity called on the R side of the race this year.
My hope is that he’ll start losing primaries and thus lose the “winning” aura that seems to draw supporters his way. Then we’ll see how true he is to the party he’s joined. If he decides to go independent, woe is us. But for crying out loud, let’s not encourage him in that regard in some unworkable plan to purify the Republican party. Pushing him to run as an indie will have one guaranteed result — electing a Democrat. And then things will return to normal, with the media bashing the Republican party and its leaders, no matter what they did to get rid of Trump’s influence.
Libby Sternberg is an Edgar-nominated novelist.