If Donald Trump Is Awful, The GOP Is Worse

If Donald Trump Is Awful, The GOP Is Worse

Sure, he can't be trusted, is inarticulate and has no intention of repealing Obamacare. How is that different from the GOP?
Mollie Hemingway
By

There are basically two categories of people who are expressing support for the candidacy of Donald Trump. There are the people who “like” him in the sense that he’s a vehicle for expressing their strong and deeply held dislike of the general direction of the country, the corrupt political climate of Washington, and the performance of the Republican Party in particular. And there are the people who actually like him for real, people who think he’s not just a really fun and funny — almost Dadaist! — thought experiment in the long months leading up to the 2016 election but people who think he shows the right temperament, rhetorical abilities, and prudence required for the leader of a self-governed nation. Let’s leave those dear people aside and focus on the bulk who like Trump and support his candidacy in the sense that they’re enjoying it for any number of legitimate reasons, given the portion of the 2016 race we’re in (early enough to have some fun and try to send some loud messages to the party).

And let me admit that I not only am related to people in this category, both by blood and by marriage, but I also understand the temptation. Yes, I know that Trump is a fan of big government, unpersuasive on substance, and disloyal to everything from policy positions to spouses, but I do enjoy his unpredictability. While the way he speaks is uncharitable and rude and frequently wrong, if you don’t take it too seriously it’s also kind of funny and refreshingly different from the pablum considered acceptable in media and political elite circles. It’s like living in a very unbelievable movie about presidential campaigns, except that it’s real life.

Every time a radio host asks me, usually incredulously, if I could ever in a million years possibly explain how people are signing on to his candidacy, I eagerly respond “yes!” Because I kind of get it. In my less charitable moments, I also want to extend a giant middle finger to the Grand Old Party, which has defecated on its illustrious record from Lincoln to Reagan of rhetorical persuasion, kicking butt and getting stuff done, and become a party of officials who are in absolutely no way responding adequately to the size and scope of problems the country faces. And I also am beyond bored with professional politicians who have spent their lives being careful to avoid saying anything that might offend the media. And on and on.

Establishment types are fuh-reaking out about the Trump phenomenon — and the threat he poses is real and well articulated by Fred Barnes here.

While most of the criticisms of Trump are 100 percent legitimate, there’s a case to be made that he’s nowhere near as bad as the GOP itself.

  • He’s inarticulate.
  • This is something I’ve said about him, because it’s true. He has a lot of charisma, but when it comes to nailing down what he’s trying to say, it’s impossible. Well so what? The GOP is worse. It took Carly Fiorina actually articulating conservatism during the earlier of the first Republican debates to realize how rare it is you hear good arguments for the cause. (Here she is discussing income inequality and the last paragraph is just fantastic.) But recent nominees couldn’t persuade their way out of a paper bag, and none of the current GOP leaders are particularly good at getting a message across to average voters. In fact, as bad as Trump is, he probably does a better job of communicating his points than the average Republican.

    Just to take a recent example, there is no reason why any candidate being grilled by the reliably pro-abortion media shouldn’t constantly mention the substance of the recent Planned Parenthood videos. Some do, some forget. This is Communications 101, and yet half of our political leaders don’t have any clue how to talk about it.

  • He can’t be trusted.
  • Yes, The Donald has gone from saying that single payer health care is the bee’s knees to saying Obamacare is a disaster. He’s flipped on abortion. He’s flipped on his party status. He’s unable to explain if or when he actually became a Republican. It’s absolutely true he can’t be trusted and has no governing principles or logic.

    So? When it comes to trust, the GOP is far worse. You’re talking a political party that has repeatedly promised voters it will do something — about Obamacare, about the abortion regime, about the ever-increasing administrative state, which has taken over so many aspects of everyone’s lives — only to get completely co-opted by crony capitalists whose campaign cash is more convincing than any lightly held principle. That this has happened despite repeated acts of forgiveness by the base makes it all the worse.

    At least Trump is up front about his lack of steadfastness. He’ll cheat on you but he lets you know up front that he’s going to do it, unlike the GOP, a group that constantly promises they won’t do it again.

  • He’s never done anything to address [INSERT ISSUE HERE] in the last decade.
  • Absolutely true. Donald Trump has done absolutely nothing on any issue in the last decade. Well neither has the GOP, right?

  • He’s not serious about repealing Obamacare.
  • Again, absolutely true. Half the time he sounds like Obamacare didn’t go far enough. But how many times do American voters have to loudly oppose Obamacare and put people in office who claim they’re going to fight it only to see no change? If we’re not going to have any improvements to the situation, isn’t it better to have someone who simply isn’t capable of principled opposition to the legislation rather than someone who is but lacks the courage, prudence or leadership to get it done?

  • He’s overseen four bankruptcies.
  • Yep. And the GOP has done little to change the trajectory of the country’s debt, a tax on future generations. Besides, Trump says all the bankruptcies were merely him working within the system as it is. Kind of sounds like the peace the GOP has made with the administrative state, and how it has decided to work within that fiscally and constitutionally unsound system.

  • He’s mean to Republicans.
  • True. He sounds like a not-particularly-imaginative middle schooler. But the GOP elites are mean to Republicans, too. They seem to loathe the base and actively disdain their small government and socially conservative positions. Are we sure one’s better than the other?

  • He struggles with media respect.
  • The relationship with the media strikes me as more co-dependent than hostile, but you could say that some media figures have certainly shown disdain for the man.

    And yet that disdain is absolutely nothing compared to the hostility and hatred that most media types have for GOP figures. Unlike far too many of the GOP elites, however, Trump knows how to play the media like a fiddle. He asks them to jump and they ask him how high. He understands that much of our broadcast news media is entertainment and he plays his role with ease.

    In fact it’s the GOP who keep struggling to obtain respect from a hostile media, no matter how many years the media work overtime to advance progressive policy and political positions. At least Trump fights them while also making them hungry to cover his campaign.

    One friend explained the Trump phenomenon as a combination of “disgust with the GOP, disorientation — a feeling that there’s no way out of our predicament, ignorance that has overrun the culture, and wishful thinking.”

    If at the end of the day it doesn’t matter how clearly voters articulate their views and do the hard work of electing people who claim to represent them, there’s a logic to not backing more of the same.

    Another said Trump is a violent protest to the GOP leadership that hasn’t done anything in many years. “He is the ultimate expression that you, Washington, are fired,” she said.

    It’s not just Washington that voters are fed up with, but also the media. Donald Trump is calling them all stupid (yes, because he calls all people not named Donald Trump stupid, but that’s not the point). The best thing for candidates and the GOP to do at this point would be to start making dramatic moves to address the very serious problems the country faces on the international stage and domestically. And to start making those moves immediately.

    Mollie Ziegler Hemingway is a senior editor at The Federalist. She is Senior Journalism Fellow at Hillsdale College and a Fox News contributor. Follow her on Twitter at @mzhemingway
    Photo By Gage Skidmore

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