America may be a nation divided, but most of us can at least agree the Republican Party is in bad shape. Our presidential nominee is an insane, raging narcissist. Our convention was a freak show. The public hates us. Have we hit rock bottom yet? Wake me up when we do.
It’s bad. But even in this bleakest of hours, there is at least this shred of comfort. We’re not the Democrats. Both major parties have put forward ghastly candidates this electoral cycle. But at least ours was hijacked. What’s your excuse, liberals?
Don’t Look Now, But…
A lot of my liberal friends have been concern-trolling lately, expressing their sympathies over the sad state of our party. Thanks, guys. It’s good to know you care. Surely I’m not only person who finds this confusing, though? I mean, I guess I can understand. What with the wall-to-wall Trump coverage, you maybe didn’t notice that your candidate is Hillary Clinton.
Sorry! I hate to be the bearer of bad news. But yes, your party nominated someone who seems to have committed a felony within recent years. Your candidate made a massive foreign policy blunder, then followed it up with a wildly transparent lie, which she personally pitched to the families of brave Americans who died because of her mistakes. That’s just one of a lengthy list of jaw-dropping whoppers she’s told over the course of her never-ending political career.
Which is more offensive in the end? We have Trump, who simply has no discernable relationship with the truth. And then we have Clinton, who regularly tells transparent whoppers she seems to think we’ll actually buy. I’m calling that a draw.
Derailing versus Declining
Here’s the thing that gets to me. It’s well-documented at this point that both candidates are historically unpopular. They’re craven, corrupt, and totally unprincipled. Their ideas and policy recommendations are proven losers. Encyclopedias could be filled with the offensive things they’ve said and done.
So why are these our candidates? Trump at least was something of a weird, freaky fluke. In saying that, I don’t mean to deny that Trumpism illustrates something real about the state of our country and the weaknesses of the conservative movement. There are lessons to be learned here.
Still, Trump did have a kind of devilish luck that enabled him to win the primaries despite a very low ceiling among primary voters. There was the fortuitous timing of San Bernardino, and the behavior of super PACs. There was the folly of the primary candidates in targeting one another even as the party careened towards the cliff. There was the complicit media, hungrily eying the primrose path Trump could lay for the Democrats. There were the open primaries, frustrating the preferences of committed conservatives.
The cards had to fall exactly right (or wrong) for Trump to happen. They did, but it could have been otherwise. Many of us fought tooth and nail for another outcome. The party still reflects those deep divisions.
Hillary Clinton certainly has her detractors as well. Nevertheless, her horrible candidacy wasn’t the product of a weird, freaky fluke. This was the plan. The Democrats literally had years to find someone better, but instead, they moved heaven and earth (trampling a few ethical rules and guidelines along the way) to put Clinton into the catbird seat. Their party didn’t fall prey to a hostile takeover. It fell prey to a friendly takeover.
Our convention was a great illustration of Republicans in crisis. That’s scary, but not quite so scary as a Democratic convention that went pretty much the way it was meant to go.
Breaking Down versus Cracking Up
Suppose you’re on your way to Disneyland, and your car breaks down in Tumbleweed, Wyoming, forcing you to “vacation” there while the car gets fixed. That’s a drag, right? Life could have been so much nicer.
Now suppose that instead your spouse has won a pot of money to spend on a dream vacation. He says, “Let’s go to this one-street town in the middle of nowhere. It’s oppressively hot! There’s nothing to do there! I’m booking the tickets.” The first situation calls for a stiff drink. The second calls for a straightjacket. That’s our present political situation.
The crisis in the GOP is heartbreaking, because it didn’t have to be like this. The crisis of the Democrats is heartbreaking because this is actually what they are. This is their A-game, heaven help them.
With the massive distraction of Trump, we haven’t talked as much as we should about the rather fascinating question: why did Democrats run someone so awful? The decision to go with a candidate America hates so desperately says a lot about the instability of their coalition, the ungovernable nature of their activists, and their total lack of appeal among the young. A throwback campaign was the only trick left in their playbook, and it’s not a great trick.
Lose the Smug, Liberal Friends
Snickering at the untutored conservative rubes has long been a favorite liberal pastime, and Trumpism has given our liberal friends an opportunity to extend the good times just a little longer. They will probably (although not definitely) extend through the coronation of their dark queen this coming January. Very few Americans are excited about this prospect.
Liberals do have some reason to feel triumphant. They’ve held the White House for eight years. Thanks to Trump, they’re now likely to make it 12. But their candidate is already loathed, and certain to be reviled by a substantial share of the public from the moment she takes office. How can Democrats plausibly blame anyone but themselves for the coming storm?
If Trump somehow pulls out a victory, conservatives can at least argue that Trumpites and Hillary had a gun to their heads. Democrats will at some point have to grapple with the reality that their party’s core commitments are abhorrent, while its central policy ideas have mostly failed.
Laughing at the agonies of conservatives must be fun, but don’t let Trump’s ugly mug dominate your entire field of vision. Find a few minutes to look in a mirror. Yes. That’s really what you look like.