To paraphrase the Bad Bard himself, Billy Shakes, “I come to praise Trump, not to bury him.”
That is, those of us on the non-conservative side of the aisle should be enjoying Donald Trump, not fretting over him. He’s a win-win for our side, no matter what happens.
He won’t win. But as a thought experiment, let’s assume he does.
- Nothing much will happen (although it will not happen LOUDLY). He has no real party and no machine to get things done. Other celebrity candidates like Reagan and Schwarzenegger had spent enough time in the political boiler room to understand which valves to turn and which pipes to hit with the wrench. Trump hasn’t. He’s far more akin to Ventura or even Palin, empty candidates who get elected and then find themselves like the dog that caught the car: Now what do I do with the damn thing?
- To the extent anything does happen, it will be things we can live with. For the most part, those things we find most objectionable about Trump just won’t happen. They’re unconstitutional at worst (mass deportation) and impractical at best. And there are many parts of Trump’s agenda that we agree with, such as protecting social programs, increased top-end taxation, and minimal religiosity. The truth is that Trump is a RINO, Republican in Name Only. Until recently he was a New York City Democrat. And he makes a big deal that since he’s rich he won’t be beholden to large donors. Fair enough, but his supporters should also ponder that his track record says he’s not particularly likely to be beholden to them either. He’s more likely to do what he thinks is right, and history suggests that may not be so bad.
- And his election might very well galvanize and unite women and Latinos in a way nothing else has. One of the cathartic events in my understanding of politics was the defeat of the ERA. Based on simple numbers, it should have passed easily, if only women had rallied behind it in sufficient numbers. But they didn’t. Now, some women and 18% of Latino voters say they like Trump. One must assume that reflects the fact that 18% of Latino voters aren’t paying one scintilla of attention and just want to get the pollster off the phone so they can go back to watching TV. Maybe his election will get them off the couch and to the ballot box.
- Finally, it’s not like we can trust those on our side to do any better once they’re in office. We’ve found that those we thought we knew, like President Obama and Joe Lieberman, were ready to either crumple like a cheap fender or change sides at the drop of a hat. After all, as has been well documented, Hillary has a track record of positions (Iraq, Wall Street oversight, etc.) and a history of rule-bending (the email server) that we’d be screaming about if she were on the other side. Can we really say that the Donald is likely to do worse than the Hillary? I didn’t think so.
Now consider what’s behind Door Number 2, that Donald doesn’t win.
- He’s protecting the Democratic candidates. They aren’t getting any press, and that’s just fine. The Clintons learned a long time ago that they were going to get a certain amount of negative press each day, and that the best they could hope for was that each story would be a flesh wound and not a mortal one. Nothing could prevent it…until now. Many of those tough investigative reporters are rooting around over in the Republican space, and the Democrats are getting a free ride. The truth is Obama hasn’t been a great president. We’d much rather the Donald was steering the conversation toward nonsense than letting it settle on issues of substance. It won’t last forever, but the truth is the Dems are getting a bit of a breather, which will be an asset later on in the campaign. In the past few weeks Cheney resurfaced with an attack on the Democrat’s incoherent foreign policy. Hillary’s computer tech took the fifth. Obama got a controversial treaty with Iran through. But who cares about that stuff? Let’s talk about the Donald’s hair.
- He’s doing irreparable damage to the Republicans. They’re being drug into more and more extremist positions in Trump’s areas, e.g., on immigration. Given that they’ve already boxed themselves in by taking extremist positions in other areas, they’re increasingly ending up with platforms that are narrower and narrower, with less and less appeal outside of rural red states. Already he seems to have knee-capped the most formidable new face in the campaign, Walker, and pushed a couple of the more dangerous moderates like Christie out of the conversation altogether. Trump is savaging the field.
- He’s single-handedly rescinded the Reagan Rule, “Never speak ill of another Republican.” He’s got these guys tearing at each other like a sack of weasels. As the tension (and the losses) mount, we’ll see more and more sniping and back-biting, which will leave more and more material for Democrat attack ads once the real race starts. Sure, the Republicans are probably telling themselves that’s good— “getting people engaged,” “building candidates that can stand the heat,” “inoculating the electorate,” blah blah blah. But even they don’t really believe that.
- Finally, he’s shined a bright, and unwelcome, light on a key Republican constituency—scary, ignorant bigots. The truth is that all elections are to some extent identity politics—not just which candidate is most like me, but whose supporters do I feel comfortable standing beside at the supermarket checkout line. It’s not in the Democrats’ best interests to have people’s mental images of Republicans be George Baileys or Ben Carsons or Peyton Mannings or wounded war heroes. It’s a lot better to have those images be of Josh Duggar or Dylan Roof or guys who beat the homeless with sticks.
So for those of us who aren’t fans of Walker, the Bushes, Huckabee, Cruz, ad infinitum and ad nauseam, Trump is more than good news. He’s a godsend.