Trump to the GOP: Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way
Donald Trump is now the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. As the last of 17 candidates still standing after a spirited and harsh primary season, he is well on his way to securing the necessary 1237 delegates for a first ballot nomination this summer in Cleveland. Nothing short of conspired delegate chicanery, will derail the Trump express.
The Republican Party establishment, including the donor class, conservative media, party consultants, and other assorted GOP hacks, are fit to be tied. Understandably so. A year ago Jeb Bush was going to be the nominee. He had the pedigree and resume, and more importantly a $150 million campaign war chest ready to spend buying his nomination before Trump even announced his candidacy.
Jeb also carried the tarnished legacy of his father and brother. “A kinder and gentler nation”, “Read my lips, no new taxes”, “Compassionate conservatism”. All repudiations of the Ronald Reagan brand of conservatism that the GOP supposedly wanted. Any wonder Jeb! never caught fire?
Now that Trump has dispatched Jeb and the other candidates as quickly as Bruce Lee flattening a room full of adversaries in a karate dojo, the GOP is in a quandary. Is Trump a conservative? Is he so offensive to so many groups of voters that Hillary will win in a landslide? Will Trump bring down the entire Republican Party in November? Will he start World War Three? Or quite the opposite on all fronts?
This leaves the GOP with three choices. Lead, follow, or get out of the way. Or perhaps a bit of all three. Kicking sand and screaming #NeverTrump is not a viable option. Neither is the third party candidacy some have proposed to deny electoral college victory to Donald or Hillary, allowing the House of Representatives to select a president, such as a Mitt Romney.
The GOP establishment had 11 months to make their case to the voters as to why any of the other 17 original candidates would be a better nominee than the brash businessman from Queens. Instead they denied his appeal and ultimate ascendency until he was the last candidate standing. Now the Republican Party is stuck with him as their standard bearer in the upcoming elections. What now? Lead, follow, or get out of the way.
Leading implies leadership, as in Congressional and Republican party leadership. Paul Ryan, Mitch McConnell, Reince Priebus, and others. Trump is not a politician. He has never held elected office. He knows business and getting things done. He is a pragmatist, a trait suitable for building hotels, condos, and golf courses, but perhaps less so in the House of Cards world of high stakes political poker. Rather than withholding support and pouting, the smart move for party leaders would be to embrace their nominee and teach him what he needs to learn. Trump is a smart guy and can easily learn a new game as he has demonstrated over the past year. If he couldn’t, he would be back on The Apprentice and not planning a summer nominating convention.
This does not mean Trump abandoning his core political issues or his personality, as those are what won him the nomination. GOP insiders can lead Donald to become an even better candidate, helping him understand the myriad issues, both foreign and domestic, facing the country. Even those with experience can be taught, just as John Elway mentored veteran Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, eventually creating a championship team.
Following means letting Trump be Trump, especially when it comes to his personality and political incorrectness, traits that have endeared him to much of the electorate. Following also means respecting Donald’s political instincts, which have served him well. Whether it’s names like “Crooked Hillary” or “Little Marco”, or talking back to partisan journalists like George Stephanopoulos, these are effective tactics that other Republicans would be wise to emulate on occasion.
Being nice and politically correct doesn’t go far in politics. John McCain wanted a high road campaign with no mention of Barack Hussein Obama’s middle name. Mitt Romney grinned like a dope when Candy Crowley came to Obama’s defense in one of the presidential debates. And floundered when Harry Reid brought out the sharp knives, accusing Romney of not paying any taxes for the past ten years. What did they get in exchange for their civility? Would Trump have turned the other cheek? No way.
Getting out of the way means stopping with the #NeverTrump nonsense and fantasies of Mitt Romney or Gary Johnson running to victory as a third party candidate. It means stopping with threats of voting for Hillary over Donald. Those choosing that route, if they truly believe that’s the best solution, should change their party affiliation and join the Democrats.
Some will have honest and sincere difficulty supporting their party’s nominee. Plenty of voters did four years ago as well, otherwise President Romney would be running for reelection, not getting in the way of a potential GOP victory in November. Those who can’t or won’t support Trump should get out of the way of those who do support his candidacy.
In 2008 and 2012 I don’t recall a #NeverMcCain or #NeverRomney movement. Many Republicans held their noses and voted for the party nominee, or else they quietly stayed home. Something the #NeverTrumpers can’t seem to grasp.
Like it or not, Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee. He is running against a weak, unpopular, unlikeable, and flawed opponent. This election is Trump’s to lose. Given that many polls show Trump and Clinton tied six months away from the election, before Donald has even gone after “Crooked Hillary” as he did “Low Energy Jeb”, “Little Marco”, or “Lyin’ Ted”, there is potential for a “Yuge” GOP sweep in November. An opportunity the GOP would not have with any of the three above candidates as the nominee.
What a shame if the Republican Party squandered this opportunity. Would a third and fourth term of Barack Obama in the name of Hillary Clinton be worth it for pride, principle, morality, or whatever else the #NeverTrumpers use to justify their position? Instead they should lead, follow, or get out of the way. Preferably all three, but among those three options, even the most ardent #NeverTrumpers can find a safe space to hide from Trump’s micro aggressions, protecting their fragile feelings for the next six months.
Brian C Joondeph, MD, MPS, a Denver based retina surgeon, radio personality, and writer. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter.