CLEVELAND — The Republican Party will nominate Donald Trump as its candidate for president at the national convention here this week, which means the RNC will serve as a kind of ceremonial marker for a rather unusual political purge: a purge in reverse.
The Republican leaders who show up to the convention and climb aboard the Trump train will be purged from whatever comes after the GOP. The ones left standing will be the ones who stayed away—or, like, Sen. Ted Cruz, showed up, but not to endorse Trump.
Make no mistake, the GOP as we know it is over. It will not survive Trump’s nomination and his almost certain defeat in November. A number of high-ranking Republicans seem to sense this, and they’re shunning the convention.
In fact, the 2016 RNC is almost more notable for who’s not coming than for who is. In addition to the raft of GOP senators off mowing their lawns and fly fishing this week, not a single living GOP nominee or former president will attend. That means George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney will not be in Cleveland. Jeb Bush won’t be there either, nor will erstwhile Republican presidential candidates Lindsay Graham and Carly Fiorina.
Ohio Gov. John Kasich, although he’ll be in Cleveland overseeing the logistics of a huge convention—and even making some appearances—has no plans to speak at the convention and as of this writing had not endorsed Trump. Trump’s other chief primary rival, Cruz, has agreed to speak but still hasn’t endorsed Trump or given any indication he plans to do so.
Convention attendees will at least be treated to remarks by national luminaries such as Scott Baio, noted star of hit television sitcoms “Happy Days” and “Charles in Charge,” soap opera star Antonio Sabàto Jr. (“The Bold and the Beautiful” and “General Hospital”), and Willie Robertson of “Duck Dynasty” fame.
It’s unclear what purpose these celebrities will serve other than chintzing up the convention and turning what should have been a venue for negotiating peace between the warring factions and establishing the new direction of the GOP into a real-life State of Union Address of President Camacho.
On the bright side, Sarah Palin isn’t speaking. Alaska, we’re told, is just too far away.
The Future Does Not Belong to Trump
Joking aside, Republican leaders and principled conservatives now have a duty to break from the GOP, or at least this version of the GOP, and form a new party—or a new movement within the party, to take it back and transform it.
To do that, they need to purge the ranks of the emerging Trump GOP. All those who have thrown in their lot with an anti-free-trade, lifelong Democrat with no apparent understanding of the Constitution should not have a future in the party. Everyone who proved they were more interested in power than principle should be exiled.
The convention, then, is a kind of litmus test. We now know where most everybody stands. The VP fiasco served a similar purpose for the small group of career strivers vying to get the invitation. It turns out Gov. Mike Pence is exactly who we thought he was. If reports that Gov. Chris Christie was “livid” upon hearing he wouldn’t get the VP nod are true, then surely he’s the saddest Trump clown of them all.
The tragic figure in all this is House Speaker Paul Ryan. He can hardly stand on the sidelines, nor can he reasonably be expected to withhold his endorsement of the Republican Party’s nominee. Ryan himself noted he’s “the highest-ranking Republican in the country,” a post that comes with “certain duties and responsibilities.” Caught in the middle, Ryan has the unenviable task of trying to cajole Trump into supporting Ryan’s fairly well-articulated—if awkwardly named—reform agenda, “A Better Way.”
But trying to get Trump interested in serious policy reform is like trying to get Vladimir Putin interested in free and fair elections: he has no use for them. That’s why Republican leaders who are willing to jettison their erstwhile conservative principles must go. Even if Trump wins in November, conservatives would be faced with a GOP unmoored from any coherent governing philosophy—and a president who is uninterested in one.
Purges happen. Turkey had one over the weekend. Theirs was a bizarre coup d’état that might well turn out to be a false flag designed to rid the country of secularism and give President Tayyip Erdogan a free hand at authoritarian rule. It will be ruinous for him and his people, however it ends.
In actual democracies like ours, we don’t need actual putsches. But political parties must sometimes go through refining fires. Now comes the fire for the GOP. May it burn as long and as hot as it must. The country depends on it.