For many years we shared a mountain home with a rambunctious Siberian husky. A few times she sneaked out and, being a sled dog, ran and ran and ran. Through rugged, dangerous wilds. Joyously, no doubt. Miles later, she stopped, thrilled at the rebellion of her epic adventure. Exhausted.
And totally lost.
After months of running in primaries, that’s where parts of the Republican Party are right now: Thrilled at throwing off the chains of propriety and tradition. Rejecting a squadron of qualified, established candidates. Delighted at defying expectations and its conceited establishment. Exhausted.
And totally lost.
Collectively, GOP voters have picked as their historic party’s 40th presidential nominee a man who isn’t a Republican. A man who doesn’t espouse or support Republican ideals or policies.
A presumptive nominee so full of himself he goes out of his way to alienate important electoral sectors. And a man who says partywide unity after a season of competitive sleaze isn’t really necessary, given his amazing popularity and oversized personality. The multibillionaire Donald J. Trump, whose taxes are now in audit.
It’s hard to imagine anyone less like the first Republican president. On election night 1860, a humble Abraham Lincoln walked to Springfield’s telegraph office to learn if he’d become the 16th president of the United States. On the way, Lincoln bought himself one new pair of socks.
The other day the self-financing billionaire with his own plane said he would begin accepting large donations to finance a campaign in excess of $1 billion, because otherwise he might have to sell one or two of his buildings.
All presidential nominees put their mark on a party. Few would change it as dramatically as this New Yorker. Through impressive primary successes, Trump has, in effect, hijacked the GOP, which has based itself for six decades on free trade, smaller government, lower taxes, robust foreign policies, the NATO alliance.
Trump pays lip service to parts, not to others. Then days later he flips or slips.
What are lifelong Republicans, genuine conservatives and those unwilling to endure a third consecutive term of failed liberal policies to do?
Polls show Americans are unhappy with their choices: Trump or the Democrats’ presumptive nominee, Hillary Clinton. Both are viewed unfavorably, distrusted, even feared.
A quarter of recent GOP primary voters declared they could never vote for Trump in November. Republicans are a political minority to begin with. Losing even 20 percent of them could be disastrous on Nov. 8. Clinton is already appealing to the disaffected as less disliked. What a strange election cycle!
Trump is a lifelong supporter of Democrats and liberal causes who has harnessed voters’ political anger and frustrations to steer the conservative party in a disturbing direction.
He’s a prideful man who so far says the importance of partywide unity is overrated because he’ll attract newcomers to replace any loser defectors or abstainers. Good thing Trump is OK with that because, running unopposed in Nebraska’s primary May 10, Trump got only 62 percent of the vote, meaning nearly 40 percent of Republican voters didn’t pick their presumptive nominee.
What concerns many – House Speaker Paul Ryan, chief among them – is, this is the Republican Party, not the Trumpian Party. What are his core principles, besides making deals that benefit him? Actually, are there principles?
Do they match any traditional GOP core beliefs that voters could hang their support on?
Not enough conservatives seem to know, which spawns suspicion. He’s non-interventionist. He’s for free trade, but not this free trade. He’s pro-life and pro-Planned Parenthood. He’s a big believer in eminent domain, but government seizure of private property even with compensation is conservative anathema.
In November, Trump thought a $7.25 minimum wage was too high. This month it’s not high enough. He’s been all over the board on taxes, too.
With a consistent record, Ryan has positioned himself to protect conservatism, especially his endangered House Republican majority facing annihilation in a landslide Trump defeat, or as stalwart party rebuilder in 2017.
Ryan and Trump had a first date Thursday. Predictably, they talked friendly. Unity is important, a process. Blah-blah. Will Trump soon tweet Ryan trash? To paraphrase Groucho Marx, if you can fake sincerity, you’ve got it made.
Trump also met GOP senators. “I’m someone like many who would love to see him tone it down,” said South Dakota’s Sen. John Thune.
Trump pronounced the meetings very good on many “very important things.” Trump is full of such words at times, with an ineffective filter at others. His fans truly love anything he says, crude, offensive, outrageous, untrue, impossible.
It is, for instance, mathematically impossible to finance all $20 trillion in national debt, rebuild the military and repair the nation’s infrastructure, all of which Trump’s promised to do simultaneously. Oh, and cut taxes.
How would he restore thousands of coal miner jobs? It’s going to be amazing, let him tell you.
And what exactly is the meaning of “Make America Great Again”? It means whatever you want it to mean. “Hope and Change.” “Yes, We Can.” Any of this emptiness sound familiar?
But this time it’s Republicans wanting to blindly believe. Or some of them. There were enough Trumpians to win the primary season. Not enough for November, though.
Is the author of “The Art of the Deal” capable of growing enough to close the deal? Hope so. Doubt it.
Andrew Malcolm is a veteran foreign and national correspondent who began writing on U.S. politics in 1968. Follow him on Twitter @AHMalcolm. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.