The unsinkable, unthinkable Donald Trump
March 11, 2016
The presidential election is a slow motion train wreck I just can’t stop watching. This is the person whose finger is on the nuclear button. It matters who is president. On the other hand, Congress does have a role in governance, not that you’d notice, and so there is at least a leveling influence on the president. For the last seven years, Congress has been on strike, showing up for work less than half time, and doing nothing when they are there. It’s not at all clear what mischief could happen, though, if one of the crazed political parties gained control of both Congress and the White House.
The Republican leadership (and I use that term loosely) has panicked because Trump appears to be their nominee. He’s just bizarre. The victory speech after he won Michigan and Mississippi this week was an infomercial for his steaks, wine, and other fine Trump retail products, a rousing endorsement of Trump University (which will be "terrific!" as soon as the injunctions are lifted), and a list of magnificent properties he owns in several states. At first I was inclined to turn it off. As he went on, without a single word about policy, governance, or political goals, I couldn’t turn it off. Besides, the dog had knocked the remote under the couch. By the end, I was ready to call and order a Trump® vacuum cleaner.
He bloviated for a good 20 minutes, and if you had tuned in cold, you would never guess that he was campaigning to be president. It easily could have been confused for an episode of "Shark Tank." Not a word of it was relevant to the task at hand. If there are actual policies behind the Trump candidacy (other than the border wall, mass deportation, carpet bombing, and a tax cut for him), he’s quit talking about them. Maybe those are enough.
The party poobahs hauled Mitt Romney out of retirement to make a strong statement denouncing Trump. It was a relief to see the grown-ups trying to retake control of the asylum. But Mitt’s speech and round of talk show appearances following up on it did little but remind us all why nobody got excited about Mitt last time around. John McCain joined in, too. So the past two nominees were rejecting the current front-runner, and Trump won two more states.
The problem is that rejecting Trump doesn’t solve anything. If not Trump, then who? Mitt rejected Trump in the golly-gosh-darn harshest terms, but he didn’t endorse anybody else. Even the other candidates said that if Trump is the nominee, of course they would vote for him. Ted Cruz is a sanctimonious jerk. John Kasich seems to be a reasonable, pleasant-enough guy, but his policies as governor of Ohio have been way to the right for somebody who will need to appeal to the majority in the middle to win. Nobody is voting for him.
That leaves Marco Rubio, a one-term Senator who never shows up for work, who wiggles on policy, and has accomplished nothing. The party leadership got behind him early because he is young, attractive, Hispanic, and unencumbered by experience or record. He is literally just another pretty face. Rubio is the perfect empty vessel, waiting for the donors to fill him with ideas. The primary voters aren’t buying that crap, either.
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The Republicans have Trump, and for Plan B, they’ve got nothing. If they get to the convention and Trump has less than a majority of the delegates, then what? Do they reject millions of votes in their own primary process and bring in somebody who didn’t participate in the primary at all? Trump will probably sew up the nomination before the convention despite Mitt’s scolding. Why is Trump unstoppable? Because real people keep voting for him, crazy as he is. Nothing complicates an election like actual votes.
On the Democratic side, Bernie is still keeping the heat on Hillary. It’s hard to see a way for him to win, but he’s certainly more than a gadfly. The conversation on that side has been policy oriented and, so far, free of anatomical measurements. Bernie can’t win, but I can’t warm up to Clinton. She has the ideal resume. She has been engineered and constructed exactly to specification. She’s as perfect a candidate as a 3D printer can make. I doubt she could order a wedge salad for lunch without first checking to make sure there are no arugula farmers’ votes in play. Which is why Bernie continues to appeal. Authenticity apparently matters more than experience or policy this year.
I’m trying to figure out why we have political parties. Could a process where people get on the ballot by petitions have produced a worse set of choices?
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.