Here’s How the GOP Can Get Rid of That Trump Stench
Win McNamee / Getty
Donald Trump is facing a massive defeat - at least if one of the polls (or our eyes) is to be believed. Additionally, there's a good chance a massive blue wave is driving the unthinkable and even "safe" Republicans like South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham at sea.
If so, there will be a fleeting window of time during which sane Republicans can attempt to take the GOP back. To do this, you first have to follow the Cobra-Kai motto: Strike. Hit hard. No mercy.
What I am going to propose is admittedly persistent. It's called "undemocratic". But who said that a political party should be a democracy? It could even be called a "coup" by people who call it that. What I'm proposing is a return of the establishment ... from smoke-filled rooms with party bosses. What I'm saying is that the empire must fight back.
First, let me explain why I came to this conclusion.
In 2015 I received an email from a reader. Concerned about Trump's rise, he suggested that Republicans pull out all the stops to exclude Trump from participating in the primary Republican process.
I forget the details, but I think Trump refused to endorse the Republican candidate (and pledged not to run as an independent candidate). Using Trump's insufficient commitment to the GOP as an excuse, my interlocutor wanted to impose a legalistic litmus test. He wanted the party to disqualify Trump under the guise that some technical requirements were not being met (which, of course, would be selectively enforced to exclude a man).
I hated the idea at the time. There has been a story before that the "ruling class" of the GOP establishment (think Mitch McConnell and John Boehner) are kidding "real" conservatives. Doing this to Trump would only further radicalize grassroots conservatives by playing into their feelings of victimization. Additionally, most of us thought that Trump (like Herman Cain, Michele Bachmann et al.) Would eventually burn out and the GOP would come to its senses and nominate a mainstream Conservative (like John McCain, Mitt Romney et al.). who could deserve the votes of some former Trump voters - as long as they didn't feel cheated. Why alienate a group of voters and turn Trump into a martyr when he could only be given enough rope to hang himself? After all, if I intervened so tenaciously, top-down, and centralized planning, which goes against my laissez-faire philosophy, which suggests that the market would correct itself, Republican voters could be won over and the cream would eventually go up .
Yes, that worked out fine.
I was wrong. Republicans should have pulled out all the stops - by (almost) all means - to crush Trump's radical revolution before the main competitions even began.
Having learned that lesson, I now believe that if Trump loses on November 3rd, then healthy Republicans will have to impose order and discipline or wait for the next Trump.
It will not be easy. Even if Trump is branded a loser and the GOP is in ruins, trying to unilaterally take control of this chaotic mess would be like trying to put a badge on your chest and become marshal of a gang-ridden town in the Wild West to explain. The criminals, caudillos and warlords do not want the law to bring order and end chaos. You make too much money and get too much advertising.
So what is law and order in the GOP?
The GOP was supposed to be a big tent, so I'm not talking about introducing an ideological litmus test, I'm talking about introducing a moral one. The support from the new party apparatus should depend on character and behavior. Without writing a manifesto about acceptable behavior (I'm spitting here. Probably someone smarter than me would take this idea up and move on) I think racism should be a deal breaker. This also applies to threats against democratic institutions (calling the media "false news" or saying that you do not accept the results of an election, etc.). Likewise, any affiliation with conspiracy theories like QAnon would be a reason for a blackball.
And who could actually enforce it?
For this to work, former President George W. Bush would have to lead these efforts. As the last two-term Republican president (and the last Republican to actually win the referendum - 2004), he has the credibility and moral authority to take the lead. In addition, he still has loyalists in powerful positions scattered across the political infrastructure. This would not be a symbolic role limited to signing a comment or delivering a speech. This would be a full time job equivalent to a campaign or running an organization. Unfortunately, I have no idea or seen any indication that he would take on such a role. I sincerely hope that this will be discussed behind the scenes (or that someone will kindly forward this column to them).
Second, I think you probably need Mitch McConnell, who would likely be the minority leader. This is controversial as McConnell activated Trump. But McConnell is a powerful ally, and although his principles could be limited to (a) helping his party, and (b) helping himself, in a post-Trump world, discipline, keep the madmen at bay, and winners picking and losing in the primaries will be perfectly aligned with McConnell's personal goals of holding or regaining power. In all honesty, I think McConnell needs to be on this team because he's just ruthless enough to do what needs to be done.
Who else? Trying to find 10 totally uncompromising Republicans to lead this effort is similar to Abraham's attempt to find 10 righteous men in the city of Sodom. Once promising Republicans like Marco Rubio and Mike Lee and Reince Priebus and Scott Walker and Nikki Haley could have been seen as the obvious leaders of the post-Trump wreck - if they had played their cards differently. I'm not sure who would be willing to put the country above personal ambitions in this way, but I'd likely nominate Mitt Romney and Tim Scott as potential leaders.
It's really hard to imagine this working without involving at least some Republicans who have bent their knee to Trump to one degree or another. A rigid attempt to completely defeat it would likely be a mistake, but it would also be insane to just forgive and forget. Anyone who chooses to get up and fly properly must be loyal to each other and to this cause. There cannot be any freelance work. They all have to sing from the same choral sheet.
Obviously the goal would be to gain control of enough leverage to instill discipline and (yes) some level of fear. This would require some of the biggest names in the GOP to be willing to do the right thing, even if they face contempt and criticism from conservatives on talk radio, on Twitter, and (unless Fox News is ready to be part of the solution rather than being part of the problem), cable news.
What kind of discipline could they impose? It depends on how much leverage you can argue with. Let's say a QAnon Republican is running for Congress. You do not receive any money from a party committee. Zero. Any member who gives them money will immediately lose their committee membership. That and maybe they'll set an example for you and drop a million dollars into your next primary race. Any radio host who has this candidate will lose access to any Republican who wants the team's support. Basically you are with us or with the terrorists (a line George W. Bush can possibly deliver). Oh, and the train is leaving the station, by the way. We may look beyond your previous behavior, but you may or may not join the new team with me. Your call. It has to be hardball.
Make no mistake, anyone willing to try will deserve our admiration. This is because trying and failing would not only demonstrate impotence, but it would also inspire ridicule and hatred. And they would swim against the tide. Once upon a time, leaders controlled the means of production. They had leverage. Today we live in a world where there are no goalkeepers. Backbench Congressmen can get cable news, raise millions on Twitter, start a podcast, whatever you call it. They don't care if the RNC (we have to elect a new chairman, by the way ... maybe Haley Barbour?) Or the National Republican Senatorial Committee are mad at them. Indeed, they can make money out of it! (This is a trend beyond the GOP, by the way. We also live in a world where CEOs of companies are afraid of their millennial employees.)
This may not be an impossible mission, but it's damn close. But what is the alternative? Surrender to the barbarians who are not only standing at the gate but have already broken through the fortress?
Remember, the premise here is that the GOP is in ruins. Jonathan Martin of the New York Times writes, “What some Republicans are starting to say when not on file: Flush the system. In other words, it will be easier to eradicate Trumpism and roll it back to 22 on a landslide than a close loss.
We may be in the process of flushing the system, but it doesn't matter if there aren't adults filling the vacuum. With the same perverse incentives in play, it doesn't matter that Trump lost. You will have a rump Republican party full of candidates for the QAnon conspiracy theory.
Now that we are in the death throes of the Trump presidency, there is limited time to restore order and prevent that fate. But it will take leaders with courage. Will the adults face the occasion?
Help us, George W. Bush, you are our only hope.
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