Only a Conspiracy Can Stop Trump Now

As a liberal website, we’re not in the habit of giving advice to Republicans, but because we agree with the National Review (for very different reasons) that Donald Trump is a menace to America, we’ll make an exception. Here’s our best counsel to the loyal opposition:

We keep hearing that establishment Republicans are having conniptions over the possibility of Trump winning the party’s nomination. Yet you haven’t made any concerted effort to stop him. In fact, establishment candidates have strangely spent most of their time attacking one another instead of Trump.

Now that you’ve dithered so long, if you’re serious about stopping Trump’s Big Mo’, there’s only one way to do it: Prominent, establishment Republicans must unite and declare publicly and unequivocally that you will not support Trump if he wins the nomination.

Is this a drastic and dangerous strategy? Yes it is. Is it absolutely necessary? Yes it is. You don’t really have a choice. Your Plan A—waiting for Trump to self-destruct—didn’t happen. Plan B—hoping a clear establishment candidate would emerge early—also hasn’t happened. Yes, it’s Rubio now, but by the time he manages to put Cruz away—if he does—it will be too late. (And many of Cruz’s supporters will be flocking to Trump anyway.) According to this report, polls show Trump leading in 10 of the next 14 states. And according to the Washington Post, he already has a plausible path to a delegate majority. No single candidate is strong enough to challenge Trump, and time is getting desperate.

If you want to take down Caesar, you’re going to need a conspiracy. That means Plan C: a collective declaration by name-brand Republicans—candidates, former candidates, elected officials, donors, celebrities—that Trump is unacceptable as the nominee, and you will not campaign or vote for him under any circumstances.

A press conference of distinguished VIPs would be a nice start. We bet Jeb Bush, Chris Christie*, Lindsey Graham, Carly Fiorina, and John McCain would answer your call. Scrounge up as many Congress members as you can, and maybe even get Arnold Schwarzenegger. The announcements must be in unison, or at least close together. And the attack must be large enough, and sustained over a long enough period of time, to create a bandwagon effect.

You’re also going to have to borrow a few tactics from Trump himself:

Be bold. Trump has shown that if you want to suffocate your opponent, you suck the air out of the room with a big, bold pronouncement. Keep the media attention focused on you. A massive, public, and prolonged repudiation of Trump by well-known Republicans should do the trick.

Attack your opponent’s weakness. It’s been said more than once that Trump has a bully’s instinct for an opponent’s most sensitive weakness. In Trump’s case, his most exploitable weaknesses are his utter lack of experience in governance and the perception that he is rash, thin-skinned, and temperamentally unstable—all of which would make him dangerous as a president. Your message is:

  • We are gathering here to announce we will not support Donald Trump as the Republican Party’s nominee.
  • He is grossly unqualified to be president—in experience, temperament, judgment, and character.
  • His words and policies are an affront to conservative and American values.
  • Trump is not just wrong for America, he would actually be dangerous for America and the world.
  • Our opposition is not about politics. It’s about patriotism.

(If you need more ammunition, see this post on why Trump terrifies us.)

Exploit your leverage: Until now you haven’t attacked Trump because a) at first you didn’t think you needed to, and b) when you did need to, you were afraid he would bolt, run as an independent, and destroy the party’s chances in November. He won’t do that now that he thinks he can win. You finally have some leverage; there’s no reason except cowardice not to use it.

Will this strategy work? Maybe. It obviously won’t sway the diehard Trumplings, but they aren’t your target. Your audience is the millions of undecideds and bandwagoneers. You need to sow the seeds of doubt in their minds, jolt them from their me-tooism, and make them think long and hard about the consequences of supporting Trump.

Luckily, Lindsey Graham has already started the ball rolling by declaring he is “re-evaluating” his support after Trump’s 9/11 apostasy in South Carolina. And Trump himself broached the issue when he suggested the RNC, by not intervening in his spat with Cruz, was in “default” of the agreement candidates signed to support the nominee.

Make no mistake: It will take something this powerful to undo Trump. Every win in every primary now adds to his snowball effect—gathering more and more undecideds and joiners in downhill primaries who just want to ride a winner.

The only way to stop a nearly irresistible force is with an immovable object—in this case a wall of stalwart Republicans who will firmly (and finally!) reject him. Nothing else will work. Your only other option is Plan D—a brutal convention cage match that will leave the victor bloody and broken only three months before the general election.

That’s not really a plan, because even that won’t work if 1) Trump has already wrapped up his delegate majority by then, or 2) he’s the best dealmaker in the room.

And Plan C is infinitely better than your current strategy, which apparently is to stand around scratching your ass, hoping that Caesar accidentally steps in front of a speeding chariot.

No. It’s time to be brave. It’s time to say out loud what you already know in your heart: That in the privacy of the voting booth, you cannot vote for Donald Trump.

Face it: Your party is going to be eviscerated no matter what. The only question is: Do you want to wield the knife, or do you want Trump to do it for you?

You’d better decide, and you’d better do it quick. If Trump cleans up on Super Tuesday, your decision could be made for you. And if you don’t act by the winner-take-all primaries on March 15, all will be lost, and political life as you know it will be over.

Republicans: The Ides of March approach. Time to sharpen your knives.


* Well, maybe not Christie. –Ed. (2/26/16)

An Open Letter to Dilbert creator & Trump Apologist Scott Adams

Dear Scott,

I was reading my favorite comic strip online recently and noticed your blog post titled “Why Does Trump Terrify People?” In your post you note that many people seem to not only disagree with Donald Trump and his ideas but seem to actually fear him. This apparently mystifies you, since you say you don’t fear Trump in the least, so you thoughtfully tried to analyze the reasons behind it. You suggest, for example, that people may fear:

  • Trump’s policies on immigration
  • Trump having his “finger on the button of the nuclear arsenal”
  • His attitudes toward race and gender
  • His perceived lack of empathy

But then, disappointingly, you also make excuses (some of them pretty tortuous) for every one of those issues. Though you say you “don’t share his politics on a number of topics,” the tone of your essay seems entirely sympathetic to Trump. You even call him the “safest candidate in the history of presidential elections.”

At the end of your Trump apologia, you say, “So why do you think people are afraid of Trump? Did I hit all the reasons?”

Well, since you ask: No, Scott, you didn’t. You gave us a good running start, but there are a few other things about Trump that give us the heebie-jeebies.

While “terrified” might be an overstatement, many of us are shocked and appalled at his success so far, and the idea of Trump as the leader of our country and the most powerful person in the world is indeed profoundly unsettling. If I can try to speak for what I desperately hope is a strong majority of Americans, here are some of the reasons why.

Continue Reading…

Rubio and the Tyranny of the Fatal Gaffe

Make no mistake: If Marco Rubio’s campaign has suddenly burst into flames because of his odd, preprogrammed debate performance last week, we will not shed a tear. But we can lament, in a general and nonpartisan way, the latest example of a depressing political trend: the fatal gaffe.

The fatal gaffe is the phenomenon of a perfectly viable political candidate being torpedoed by a single mistake. Recent examples include:

  • Gov. Rick Perry forgetting the third government department he was going to wipe off the earth (“Oops.”)
  • Howard Dean’s unnerving rebel yell at a 2004 campaign rally
  • John Kerry’s two-faced explanation of his position on an Iraq war funding bill: “I actually voted for the $87 billion before I voted against it.”

It’s not a new phenomenon (some may remember Ed Muskie’s tearful—and campaign-ending—defense of his wife in front of the cameras in 1972), but it does seem to happen more frequently in the social media age. It’s why leading candidates are dogged by spies with video cameras, just hoping for the next unguarded, viral moment.

It’s a sad development in politicking for two reasons:

  1. It’s yet another way of trivializing our elections. It further reduces them to “gotcha” moments and a game-show mentality: “Bzzzt! Sorry, wrong answer, but thanks for playing.”
  2. It promotes the very thing voters say they hate about politicians—their caution and artificiality. What candidate is going to be open, honest, and straightforward with voters if they know that any spontaneous misstep could be their last?

We should allow candidates (and presidents) the occasional human flaw. And the fatal gaffe is an absurd premise to begin with. Did Perry’s brain cramp in a stressful situation really disqualify him from being president? Did Dean’s irrational exuberance mean he could never be “presidential?” And do Republican voters really think that Marco Rubio, who has excelled in every previous debate, is suddenly no longer fit to lead their party because of one off night? (It’s even more absurd because debating skills aren’t really a qualification for the presidency. Unlike in Great Britain, where a prime minister must regularly engage with Parliament, in the U.S. policy arguments between the president and his foes generally take place remotely, via speeches, spokespeople, and press releases.)

People will argue that this presidential minefield we have laid is a test of character and the fitness of a candidate for the relentless pressures of high office. But that’s a facile and false rationalization. One mistake does not prove anyone’s character.

In an ideal world, our elections should be substantive debates over serious issues, not a gladiatorial blood sport. But this is far from an ideal world, of course, and we confess we don’t have any real solutions here; we’re just railing. Perhaps we can impotently suggest that the mainstream media be more careful about piling on after every mistake. And (for a number of reasons) we believe the two major parties should talk seriously about moving the first primaries to May or June instead of February; if we had less free time, perhaps we could all stay a bit more focused.

For all of that, if Republican voters want to toss away one of the most articulate spokesmen for their vile conservative agenda, we have no objection. All the better for the good guys. But let’s hope Democrats will not be inclined to make the same mistake.

Cheap trick: The GOP’s shabby new rhetorical device

Has anyone else noticed the cheap rhetorical device conservatives are employing more and more these days? The formula goes something like this: “We can’t work on [one problem] until we solve [a far more difficult or even impossible problem].”

For example:

  • We can’t work on comprehensive immigration reform until we stop illegal immigrants from coming across the border.
  • We can’t pass simple, common-sense gun control laws to help prevent massacres; the real problem is mental illness.
  • We can’t take in Syrian refugees until, as Donald Trump says, “we figure out what the hell’s going on.”

Rhetoricians may already have a name for this tactic, but it’s basically a maddening cross between misdirection and the false dilemma. In reality, of course, it’s a call to inaction, but to a certain audience it can sound superficially sensible.

Democratic candidates should be on the lookout for this ploy in debates and on the campaign trail. The best reply is simply to call out the tactic to your audience, and then turn it into a weapon against conservatism.

Point out that this is a common ruse by conservatives to avoid having to do anything about a problem. Mention other examples, like the ones above. Remind your audience that there’s no reason we can’t work on both problems (closing the gun-show loophole and committing more funds to fight mental illness, for example; or passing immigration reform that includes more border security).

Saying we have to solve an intractable problem before we can work on a manageable problem is just an excuse to do nothing. It’s a scheme to maintain the status quo, which is what Republicans do best. Why is it that conservatives never want to solve problems. Whether it’s immigration reform, climate change, gun violence, or millions of people without health insurance, conservatives can always find an excuse not to act. That’s not leadership. It’s not a philosophy of greatness. And it’s yet another reason conservatives should never be allowed to run our country.