Monday, March 7, 2016

The GOP Race: Making Sense of It All

Holy crap, did I just hear that right? Did Donald Trump actually talk about the size of his penis? With his kids in the audience?

Yes. Yes, I did, and yes he did.

Decades from now, they will write books about this campaign, and study it in school. We just don't know how the story ends. One thing is clear, though: Trump has lowered the bar on accepted discourse, much as shows like The Jersey Shore lowered the bar on our culture. Can we ever go back? Is this a pendulum, or an endless trend line? Judging from the perspective of my lifetime, it seems the latter. My daughter is working on a paper for school on Calvin Coolidge, and one can only imagine the horror with which Silent Cal, a man for whom reticence was an essential virtue, would have have reacted to all this.

Still, here's where I come out on Trump. Despite his bombast, ego-centrism, puerility, and, well, hair, I think there's a slight chance he might make a good president. I'm told he surrounds himself with good people and much of this is for show. Maybe. His tax plan is actually quite good, but who knows, really, if he'd make it a priority, or even remember what it was. But if he did, that alone might make a Trump presidency worthwhile. Let's put the odds of his being a good president at 25%.

There's an equal chance he would be a complete disaster. I don't think I need to expound on all the ways it could go wrong. 

Then there's a third scenario, the one no one talks about because it's less interesting, which is that he's an inconsequential celeb-president, a la Arnold or Jesse Ventura. Lots of talk, little action. I give this a 50% chance. Feel free to fiddle with my numbers.

So here's the thing. If I'm right, it means there's a better than even chance Trump won't be a disaster, at least from the perspective of a conservative. Hillary, on the other hand, is a sure-fire lock, a 100% chance of being a horror show of corruption, mindless progessivism, and just Clintonism

Trump appalls me, but Hillary does the same and more. A thousand times more. Like a super nova of awfulness next to a red dwarf. We may face the worst choice of candidates in my lifetime, eclipsing some other bad vintages like Nixon/McGovern and McCain/Obama, but a vote for Trump is an easy decision.

Which brings me to Romney. Some of what he said was on-the-money, and some was way over the top. Either way, he had no business saying any of it, certainly not this late in the process. We need to beat Hillary (or, God help us, the angry Marxist from Burlington). We need to beat her with whomever the base nominates. I don't need to tell you all the reasons why. Obamacare, the Supreme Court, tax policy, etc. Romney just made one long commercial for Hillary's campaign. Hell, she can call off the oppo research, because our own guys are doing it for her!

It's interesting how in years where the GOP establishment gave us dogs like Dole, McCain, and Romney, we were told to suck it up and get in line. Now, tables turned, the mandarins have no interest in returning the favor. They scream at the base, but the base is screaming back a thousand times louder. The death throes of the elite are not pretty to watch, and it appears they would rather burn down the whole house rather than let Trump have a shot of beating Hillary. Screw them.

Which brings me to Cruz, the only other viable candidate at this point. There was an interesting development Romney's screed when he said he would support Rubio, Kasich, or...Cruz. Not a lot of people took notice, but this is the first acknowledgement by the establishment that they could support Cruz, albeit if Trump was the only alternative. The feckless Lindsey Graham also conceded, grudgingly, that he would choose Cruz over Trump. This is a change.

Cruz campaign, are you listening? Now is the time to mend bridges with the establishment. Your man's anti-establishment cred is well earned and will not be tarnished for a little outreach. Embrace me, you will say, for I am the guy you hate less.

The race is far from over. Trump has 391 delegates to Cruz's 303. 1237 are needed to win, so we're only in the second or third inning. Cruz slightly outperformed on Super Tuesday and significantly outperformed on Saturday, even picking up Maine, about the last place one would expect. Momentum is on his side.

Still, if Trump wins the winner-take-all states of Florida and Ohio, he will be difficult to stop. Let's hope he doesn't.