Gradually, it is becoming clearer how the primary election process will unfold between now and the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, July 18-21, and though no one can predict what will transpire at or following the convention, the pathway to getting there has the entire Republican Party establishment in fits and sensing doom for the November election.
Namely, it appears as if Donald Trump is about the run the table from here to Cleveland, beginning with a landslide win in New York state next week. While it is unclear if he’ll technically have enough delegate votes going into the convention to win the party nomination on the first ballot, he will be arriving there as the clear front runner. Woe is me, mumble all in the traditional predominantly neo-conservative party mainstream. Deep splits, fissures and fractures are certain.
Former George W. Bush speech writer and devout neocon columnist Michael Gerson sees this, lamenting as inevitable for his party loss in the title to a column this week: “For Republicans, Is it Better to Lose With Cruz or Trump?” Will it be, he writes, “Tea Party purity” (Cruz) or “‘white lives matter’ nativism” (Trump)? Each, he asserts, “need discrediting defeat” while “unfortunately, they seem to be the two available choices.” Either one, he frowns, will “complicate the job of (GOP) candidates down the ticket and alienate demographic groups that are essential to future national victories.”
Gerson’s preferred choice, which he dreams will come back with a “reform-oriented conservatism” following his party’s defeat in November, is a return to the neo-conservative poison of the W years. That is, cloaking by “accommodating demographic realities,” this would involve reviving perpetual war and global aggression hegemony, the will of international Wall Street predators and the nation’s “military industrial complex.”
Their heroes this time were Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio, darlings of the global interventionist “Project for a New American Century.” Only, Trump had a particular skill at chewing up those two and spitting them out alive.
Gerson has no explanation for how his team became so dissembled and doomed at the top for this election. He leaves that to a much wiser pundit, columnist and CNN commentator Faried Zakaria, who in his remarks this week attributes the chaos in the GOP to the success of the Obama presidency.
“The biggest impact of (Obama’s) presidency can be seen in his opposition, the Republican Party, which is in the midst of an ideological breakdown,” Zakaria writes in his column, “A Transformational President?”
He cites the Wall Street Journal’s Daniel Henninger, who wrote that Obama “is now close to destroying his political enemies – the Republican Party, the American conservative movement, and the public-policy legacy of Ronald Reagan.” In other words, this wrecking job could leave Gerson’s hopes for a Reaganite revival in the dust.
Zakaria observed that Obama’s success has been “a passive one. He has let his opponents self-destruct and never overplayed his hand.”
Instead of allowing the GOP to paint him as a socialist radical, he noted, “Obama did not take the bait, governing from the center-left, even making a concession on Social Security larger than any Democrat ever has,” even to the point of “enraging the Democratic base.”
So, unable to paint him as a socialist and perhaps for other reasons, “many Republicans’ rhetoric about Obama quickly became personal – with insinuations about his origins, race, religion, faith and loyalty to the country.” In the face of this, “Obama never lashed out, demonstrating discipline even as his opposition grew wilder,” Fakaria noted. “As Obama kept his cool, the Republican Party descended into the politics of identity, flirting with racial, religious and ethnic grievances, and moving away from its core tenets of limited government, free markets and free trade. The result has been an ideological implosion.”
This is a particularly wise assessment. It paints the picture of a great universal truth, a scene on the scale of great Biblical cautionary lore, mythic legend or a timeless fairy tale. Resolving and persevering to do the right thing can drive one’s enemies stark raving mad.