A Donald Trump presidential nomination is the current nightmare of Republicans, both conservative and establishment. A noted conservative has written that “a Trump nomination would not just mean another Democratic presidency. It would also mean the loss of … a conservative party as a constant presence in U.S. politics.” Another critic writes, gloomily: “If Trump were the nominee, the GOP would cease to be.” Establishment Republicans probably agree. Both groups would wake up the day after election day and say, “DONALD WHO?!”
Perhaps. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Republicans should be brave and see a Trump nomination as an opportunity, not a disaster; as a crisis that should be managed, not wasted. True, that contortion would require thinking that Hillary Clinton would be a worse president than Trump. For a variety of reasons, having to do with government structure, personnel, and legacies — as well as Hllry Clntn’s chractr (sorry, someone stole some of the letters) — that is surely true.
Trump has said he would not run as a third-party candidate. That promise might require Republicans to support him if he gets the nomination, even though it is entirely likely — almost assured? — that Trump would renege on his promise if he didn’t get the nomination. That’s the kind of man he is.
Make a Deal with Trump
Republicans need to make a deal with Trump. Will he deal? Of course he’ll deal, because he fancies himself the world’s leading dealmaker.
Trump is not stupid. He knows he can’t win without the support of Republicans, including Republicans running for office. But Republicans running for local, state, or national offices, or at least some of them, can win their races without Trump, especially given that the alternative at the top of the ticket will almost surely be Hillary Clinton (the missing letters were found, in the basement of a house located in Chappaqua, New York), who is distrusted by 60 percent of the American people (and must be unknown to the other 40 percent). That gives Republicans the upper hand.
What’s the deal? The deal is that a President Trump would return to governing in the way the Founders envisioned: Congress controls taxes, spending, and borrowing; Congress passes individual appropriation bills — no more continuing resolutions, which, by their nature, are difficult to reject without shutting down the government; and Congress takes back the lawmaking power it has relinquished to the regulatory agencies. No more governing by executive orders — except to repeal President Obama’s executive orders.
If Trump wants to build a wall on our border with Mexico, he has to propose it and get Congress’s permission. No permission, no wall. Deals with foreign powers, which we used to call treaties, must get Senate approval.
President Trump must promise to be the anti-Obama. Oddly enough — because it surely would be odd — if Trump ended the imperial presidency, he would truly be a transformational president.
Congress Could Unilaterally Make This Deal
How can Trump be trusted in any deal — the man who contracts to pay people who work for him but welches when it comes time to pay up, so that they have to sue? He can’t be trusted. But he doesn’t have to be. If Congress were to hold firm and behave the way Congress is supposed to behave, there would be nothing Trump could do.
Trump could (that’s the conditional tense, indicating a hypothetical case) be a better president, for conservatives, than either of the two previous Republican nominees for the office. A useful rule of thumb is: Never vote for a man whose name is on the McCain–Feingold Act.
That act, which limited campaign contributions, was the worst piece of legislation since the Kansas–Nebraska Act. If Sen. John McCain had been elected president, who knows what manner of disasters he might have proposed and gotten enacted by a compliant Republican Congress? Likewise, Mitt Romney, the grandfather of ObamaCare, might well have proposed legislationes horribilis that, also, a compliant Republican Congress might have been unwilling not to enact.
Admittedly, this Congress, controlled by Republicans, has shown itself to be supine in the face of a president who cares not a whit for constitutional government. But in dealing with Trump, Republicans might decide to be firm in controlling his excesses, and they could be expected to have the wholehearted support of the Democrats. Properly managed, a Trump presidency could be a watershed period for Republicans, the Congress, and the country, ushering in a Great Restoration.
Let’s End the Imperial Presidency
There’s one other reason Trump would have to behave. The Republicans could wield, and presumably with enthusiastic Democratic support, a much underused lightsaber: impeachment. Just the prospect makes the constitutionalist tingle.
If a Republican majority in Congress were not willing to confront Trump, then the country’s problems go well beyond a Donald Trump nomination, and we should stop caterwauling about him.
Almost no one in Switzerland knows the name of the country’s president, so inconsequential is he. Our dream should be — did you ever see a dream walking? — to have the American people, when told at the end of the second Trump administration who their president is, say, “Donald who?”