Scott Lemieux wrote a laugh-out-loud funny article, #NeverTrump: Never Stop #NeverTrumping. It’s about the newest anti-Trump effort. But unlike those loser attempts that came before, this one is really going to work because a lot of people you’ve heard of but who don’t actually have any power are involved in it. But I thought it might be a good time to discuss why Trump absolutely, positively will be the Republican nominee for president.
The truth is, the party can do whatever it wants to do. It can make anyone at all the Republican nominee. It can change the nomination rules to say that anyone is eligible except Donald Trump. And it could do a lot of other more subtle things that would accomplish the same thing. But the party won’t do that because the party would be crazy to do that.
Why Elites Don’t Want Trump as Republican Nominee
Don’t be fooled. The biggest thing against Trump that the Republican establishment has is that he’s going to lose. Him being on the ballot will cause some percentage of Republican voters to not even show up to vote. And that means they not only lose the White House, but a number of down-ballot races that they would otherwise have won. That’s a problem — no doubt about it.
But imagine if the Republican elite come in and say, “You silly Republicans don’t know what you’re doing; so here’s Paul Ryan to run for president!” Now, instead of “some percentage” of Republican voters not showing up to vote, you have a movement. they might show up to vote, just to write-in “Donald Trump.” And then they’ll leave without even looking at the down-ballot Republicans, because they are just part of a corrupt and anti-democratic system.
This is why Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee for president. I can imagine what it must be like for long-time Republicans like Bill Kristol. Cognitive dissonance is a powerful thing. He must have known all this time that the people who were voting for his side weren’t doing it for the same reason. But still, what a shock to have that cognitive dissonance destroyed — and in such a public way! No, they didn’t care about your crazy notions of tax cuts for the rich or rebuilding the Middle East into a libertarian utopia. They just cared about sticking it to black, brown, and poor people.
What the Republican Party Really Is
But like it or not, that is the Republican Party. If it had to depend upon the “reasonable” Republicans like Bill Kristol, the party would get maybe 5% of the vote. The power of Republicanism is the power of hatred. Trump is great because he is the latest and greatest and most obvious example of this. Sure, Ronald Reagan was a bigot who started his campaign as the Republican nominee near where Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were murdered with a speech about states’ rights.
But Trump would never be so subtle. Those civil rights advocates came down to Mississippi to make trouble and they got what they deserved! (Of course, Trump wouldn’t say that today; hating blacks explicitly just isn’t what you do; you hate Mexicans and Muslims instead.) And the people who find that kind of thing appealing are critical to the Republican Party.
Without Bigotry, the GOP Is a Regional Party
Even if you want to be really generous to the Republican Party and say that such people are only a third of the party (and I think it’s more like 80%), that would still make the Republicans a regional party — only competitive in the deepest of red states. And note: I said “competitive” not “dominant.”
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t think that a big loss for Donald Trump will fix the Republican Party. The base will just say that the party didn’t back him. And the elites will just say that you’ve got to keep the bigotry as subtext. Nothing’s going to change in the Republican Party. If old school Republicans didn’t leave the party a decade ago, they aren’t going to leave it now.
But Trump will be the Republican presidential candidate. I am as certain of that as I am about what I had for breakfast this morning. And for the record: as usual, I had nothing for breakfast.