With Donald J. Trump at the cusp of grasping the Republican Party’s nomination for president, a party and its elders, whether for impotence, or for shock, or fear, or a combination of these, or maybe more, stands transfixed between the sure calamitous consequence of inaction and the rewarding, but perilous, outcome of a counterinsurgency. The house of Lincoln is under assault but Lincoln is away.
That Donald Trump, who had been implicitly accommodated by party leaders during his Birther assault on Barack Obama, now explicitly seizes such endorsement and validation to harvest the seeds of fear and distrust is a no-brainer. In this ethos that has been partly cultivated by party elites, fear passes for reason, government is synonymous with evil, and compromise, no matter how self-benefitting, is worse than the betrayal of Jesus by Judas.
In hindsight, for anyone who had cared to notice, the abrupt surrender of the moderate Speaker of the House John Boehner to the wimps and yelps of the ungovernable members of his caucus creepily now appear a harbinger of today’s chaos.
And while it is true that Trump has been able to tap into the gross socioeconomic unrest and unease among voters (the richest 0.1 percent, 160,000 families, from owning 7% of the nation’s wealth in the 1970s now own 22 percent), we know great leaders are not those who appeal to the inherent demons in our nature but to our better angels. Contrast the message of optimism and inclusion of FDR during The Great Depression to the populist diatribe of hate and exclusion of Hitler at the onset of Nazi Germany.
Yet, confronted with such staggering affront on decency, respectability, chivalry, civility, and hope, party elders–George W. Bush, John McCain, Paul Ryan—are loath to openly engage Trump in a slugfest to redeem the Republican party. There seem to be abundant thinking that any coordinated and overt warfare to deny Trump needed votes before and at the convention will be sure to alienate the many millions who support Trump and as such a noticeable faction of the party.
But gentlemen; if Trump wins this nomination, win or lose the General Election, there will be no party to come back to. You would have tacitly watched the party of Lincoln die a horrendous death in your lifetimes.
First, to continue to cower in the face of Trump is to repeat the mistake of these past years and God bless those who repeatedly do the same thing and expect a different outcome. In the quest for power, the party made beds within its ranks for those who assaulted civil institutions, for example, the “You lie!” interruption of an American president during a solemn address of Congress. A party hungry for power refrained from antagonizing this wing for fear of losing a majority in the House of Representatives and hopefully regaining a majority in the Senate. Well, the party had its wish and the debt of complicity suddenly come due.
Second, nothing could be more specious than the belief that there is a party, that this present house can continue to stand divided. To channel Lincoln when he made a bold prognosis of the inevitable eventuality that must happen between the opponents and advocates of slavery: I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other. For so it goes in our political discourse today; the tension is not that there shouldn’t be diverse rooms in this house to accommodate different hues of the same breed but rather that a partitioning of the foundation of the house leads to a logical collapse. It is this foundation that Trump, the Tea Party, and their supporters are hacking at. The party has tried to co-opt this faction of the party but as the Boehner saga shows, they have no interest in governing or being governed. Win or lose this nomination fight, they are here now and cannot stop till they envelop the whole or the party suffers an intractable civil war that shreds it into pieces. Think of Trump and anarchic entities like him as cancer cells—once in the body, they feed on the host, promulgate by proselytizing decent cells into bad cells, and obliterate all organs till the host is dead … as well as themselves.
Third, a frequent refrain from Speaker Paul Ryan has been the caution to respect the whims and desires of Republican primary voters no matter how visceral or damaging they may be. It is an argument that’s not without a hint of merit. There is serious pain on main street America and party elites in both parties missed it, as reinforced by similar groundswell support for Sen. Bernie Sanders in the Democratic Party.
So if primary voters are voting their anger and frustration, it is to be expected. And Trump, for his part, has done a good job of putting words to this pain, but unfortunately, in such manner that desecrates and chastises settled rules of civic discourse. For instance, inciting supporters to assault those who disagree with his candidacy and offering to pay their legal defense fees, as well as threatening violence should he lose the nomination. Is this the valid ‘wish of the primary voter’ Paul Ryan is willing to accede? It is an eternal truth: evil prevails when good men fail to act.
There is an inescapable browning of America. By the year 2050, the current racial minorities in this country will become the majority and yet this is a group that is openly assailed by the eminent standard bearer of the party? Outside of self-immolation, there is no other word in the English language that can best describe party elders’ madness if they allow this to happen.
Of course, a counterinsurgency against Trump is not without consequences. In this election year, the party might actually lose votes to an independent run by Trump. And could this ultimately equal a loss in November and having to conscientiously rebuild and coalesce fragments of a battered base? Yes. That’s what you do if you have a vision for not just what is but what can be. And I strongly believe there is still time to salvage this election: Gov. John Kasich represents the moderation the party’s post-mortem painfully cried for after the 2012 loss by Mitt Romney.
Organize to deny Trump the 1237 votes he needs to win this nomination. On the convention floor in Cleveland, it is your party and not Trump’s. Bring to bear the full force of the establishment he has so railed against and deny him the nomination from the second ballot onward by coalescing around Kasich.
Just as Julius Caesar stood on the banks of the Rubicon in 49 B.C. and contemplated the consequences of inaction should he not march on Rome, Republican party elders stand at such threshold today: To abandon the party to Trump or take back the party from an impostor and consequently save the nation from morass and darkness.
Martin Luther King Jr. sums it up best: …On some positions cowardice asks the question, is it safe? Expediency asks the question, is it politic? Vanity asks the question, is it popular? But conscience asks the question, is it right? And there comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.
Saving the nation from a President Trump is this right.
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