The Republican Party will probably not even miss my presidential vote (assuming it counts), which is what it will lose if I sense that the nomination is being finagled away from either of the two likely nominees, Donald Trump, and my second choice, Ted Cruz.
I’m over sixty, so unless my longevity is above average, there are not that many election cycles left for me. The GOP has got to think about the future, and the fact of the matter is that I’m one of those old, white, nationalistic conservatives that Kevin Williamson hopes will die soon.
The party won’t miss my contributions to the cause either, which amount to only so much as a small business owner who battles every year to remain in the middle class can afford to donate.
If Trump or Cruz get the most votes, win the most states, capture the most delegates, prevail after legitimate convention balloting or any combination thereof, and are robbed of the nomination, I’ll probably start looking for the exit.
For the record, I’m a team player, even when the nominee is less conservative than I would have hoped. I couldn’t get excited about centrist Senator John McCain, but I defended his running mate, Governor Sarah Palin, in the face of withering fire, even after she and the “maverick” lost the election.
After four years of President Barack Obama, a leader who I not only felt didn’t represent conservatives, but who had them in his sights with things like the IRS crackdown on right-leaning grassroots nonprofits, I went all in for Governor Mitt Romney. Unfortunately my candidate disappeared in the crucial days leading up to the 2012 vote, apparently supervising the construction of his garage elevator, or getting his dancing horse ready for competition.
When the 2016 candidates presented themselves, I knew only one thing for sure: Governor Jeb Bush was an absolute nonstarter, even though I had supported his brother and father. I agreed with Barbara Bush’s early assessment, that we’d had enough Clinton and Bush. I’ve always liked Mike Huckabee, but more as a media pastor, less like a kick-ass conservative avenger. Senator Ted Cruz I knew of mostly for his read of Green Eggs and Ham, vocal opposition to big government, and fervent defense of constitutional principles. In the early going, I fantasized about a Cruz/Huckabee ticket, a conservative avenger paired with an empathetic man of the Cross to smooth the edges.
Then came the candidacy of Donald Trump, which inspired me to write several pieces in my fledgling year as a contributor at PJ Media.
My submissions were patently serio-comic, because if you want to be taken seriously, you’ve got to be cautious. I didn’t want to get too far out in front of something and end up looking like a dope. I resisted taking Trump seriously because the narrative he was espousing was so spot-on that I suspected the whole thing must be some kind of dream-state production number, too good to be true.
Trump said a lot of things that a lot of people, myself included, wanted to hear, and that we knew we weren’t going to hear anywhere else. We were going to drag the global economy back to the American table and negotiate its ass off. We were going to put a major hurt on ISIS, and terrorism generally. Tear up the Iran deal and the Affordable Care Act prior to disposing them in the trash. Excavate and send to landfills the layers of self-serving, established political hierarchy. Dismantle the pinko Common Core apparatus. And once and for all exert the sovereign right to secure by any and all means the borders of our country. What’s not to like?
I was thrilled during a 2012 debate when Newt Gingrich stuffed John King’s pernicious ex-wife question back down the CNN anchor’s throat. Trump went further, calling out the phalanx of lefty journalists covering his rallies as “horrible, disgusting people.”
On issue after issue, the Bergdahl swap, Gitmo, the Syrian refugees, Trump was saying what I was thinking, and when a potential leader does that, there’s a whole lot of extraneous Twitter twaddle, tit-for-tat with the ladies, and abortion malapropisms you’re willing to overlook.
This I can tell you: the story I was looking for was a nationalistic story, and Trump was the only candidate who even came close. I couldn’t have known at the time of my first Trump post that the nation was on the precipice of a phenomenon. I was either ahead of the curve, or I was the curve.
Tales of how Trump had donated to Democrats and invited Hillary Clinton to his daughter’s wedding fazed me not one iota. That’s smart business practice. I’d never given a nickel to any Democrat, but here in Portland, as left-wing a city as they come, it’s wise to talk whatever neutral talk is necessary to ensure you don’t lose roughly half your customers on ideological grounds. Trump greasing the wheels with bipartisan dollars seemed totally understandable.
Trump’s tough talk, the anti-PC, and the Alpha-male brusqueness struck me as major positives in an era where everybody is afraid to say anything substantive. The Best of Trump on the stump, exemplified by mantras like “Get them out,” “Go back to Univision,” and “We love the poorly educated,” were just the kind of politically nihilistic, establishment-threatening rhetorical flourishes I wanted to hear.
While I understood that the tenor of Trump’s presentation was often relentlessly low-brow, there was no part of it that struck me as unfamiliar. His pugnacious delivery and aggressive intent reminded me of nothing so much as the legions of job site managers and construction honchos I’d been exposed to over decades. I was glad somebody was finally laying the issues out in stark, cut-to-the-chase terms.
At the same time, I was not gullible. I did not consider Trump the second coming of Reagan. I was body-surfing at the edges of the movement, unwilling to commit to the big wave. Many times while watching his speeches and cable appearances I literally doubled-over with laughter, so different Trump talk was to the couched and coded politi-speak of the day.
As the early debates and first primaries played out, Senator Cruz became the professional, albeit renegade, politician in my script, who would step in when-and-if the Trump show closed out of town, and the reality of it having all been unreal settled over the landscape.
But the show went on, and when Trump said, “I haven’t even started on [Hillary] yet,” it was music to my ears.
Many of my fellow conservatives were going hard in the opposite direction. They christened my “master of reality” a clown prince, and when Trump began to get traction they exhibited a loathing for the frontrunner that I reserve for insidious Democrats like Alan Grayson, Jonathan Gruber, and Harry Reid.
While perusing issues of my longtime subscription to The Weekly Standard, I was exposed to the reality that the candidate who was saying the things I most wanted to hear was roundly despised, even more than Ted Cruz was, by the political and media establishment.
I realize that my appreciation for Trump makes me something of an outlier, even as masses fill airplane hangars and the moving goal posts of a worried party establishment are set in motion.
If you believe Donald Trump is a stalking horse for the Democrats, a man with no ethical core, a flat-out liar who knows he can’t deliver anything he’s promising, and/or a reprehensible businessman promoting a brand by riding herd on Krauthammer’s “best reality show in history,” we’re not on the same page.
If you believe that Trump will lose epically to Hillary Clinton, we don’t agree either; my sense after decades of political watching is that given the demographic swings and social upheavals of the last twenty years, Senator Cruz is less likely to beat her, is too conservative, is too theologically oriented, and will have a distinct uphill climb in a general election. Similarly, polls suggesting that John Kasich is the only Republican who can beat Hillary seem suspicious, as if leftist operatives are weighing them to conceal trepidations about the candidate they most fear. In my estimation Trump, perceived shortcomings and all, is the GOP’s best hope, if they’ll have him.
The most resonant anti-Trump argument, the one that delivers a cold shower to my hot storyline of Trump as avenger, is that he is simply not qualified in terms of actual knowledge, temperament, and statesmanlike skill to be president.
It’s a fair point, but I’m not ready to jump ship and fall in line behind Cruz just yet. We’re up to our ears in qualified. Republican qualifications have gotten us where we are, and at this late juncture mean squat.
If Donald Trump gets the most votes, wins the most states, and has the most delegates, and is somehow blocked from the nomination through intra-party disenfranchisement, the GOP probably won’t miss my vote. If Ted Cruz captures the nomination via legitimate convention balloting and is somehow robbed of the nomination by establishment machinations, the Republican Party will survive without my vote.
How can you miss a vote that does not count?