The GOP coming down with a bad case of the “if onlys”

(AP)

(AP)

Among those Republicans willing to acknowledge the coming calamity that is Donald Trump, an epidemic of “if onlys” has broken out.

“If only we had nominated Marco Rubio …”

“If only we had nominated Ted Cruz …”

“If only we had nominated Bobby Jindal …”

OK, maybe not so much that last one. But you get the point. Republicans came into this election cycle confident that they had a strong field of candidates from which to choose, a weak probable opponent in Hillary Clinton and a great chance to finally retake the White House. Then, the story goes, along came that Trump creature to ruin it all.

On a human level, you can understand why that story is appealing. In almost any disaster, you can look back in regret and find a way that it could have been avoided, a moment at which things might have gone differently. If only you had just left the house 30 seconds earlier or later, you wouldn’t have gotten into that car wreck. If only the course of the Titanic had been 50 yards to the south … that kind of thing.

But in this case, I don’t think the story is true, and those conservatives who comfort themselves with the “if onlys” risk missing the real problem.

The story isn’t true first of all because the problems plaguing the Republican Party are not of Trump’s making. Long before he entered the race, the party was deeply dysfunctional and at war with itself. Republicans didn’t trust each other and often seemed to dislike each other. They certainly hated and undermined their own national leadership, despising Mitch McConnell and forcing John Boehner to resign in frustration as speaker. The job of trying to run the GOP House had become so toxic that they had to beg and plead with Paul Ryan to take it, and he relented with great reluctance.

And long before Trump announced his candidacy, the GOP base and its media-entertainment wing had explicitly rejected the recommendations of the RNC’s post-2012 “autopsy”, which had stressed the need to broaden the party’s appeal to women, younger voters and minorities in an era of profound demographic change. The GOP core had zero interest in such outreach; it was itching to refight the same battles that they had fought and lost before, but this time without euphemism or restraint.

In that kind of atmosphere, any candidate who counseled a different course — Jeb Bush, John Kasich, Lindsey Graham — stood no chance whatsoever of getting the nomination.

And the political reality is that a bitterly divided party unpopular with voters and insistent on defying demographic realities would have had a tough time winning in November even without Trump at the top of the ticket. The race might be closer and the down-ballot prospects would not be so dire with someone else as the nominee, but I doubt the final outcome would have been different.

Again, Republicans are going to tell themselves something different, and I understand that temptation. But if you look honestly at the two men whom they most often offer as alternatives to Trump, my conclusion becomes stronger not weaker.

Look at Rubio. He dropped out of the race back in March after he got creamed by Trump by 19 percentage points in Florida. That simply does not happen to a candidate capable of winning on the national stage, not in his home state and in his own party. It could never have happened to Ronald Reagan in California, to Bill Clinton in Arkansas, to George Bush in Texas. It would even be inconceivable for John McCain in Arizona or Al Gore in Tennessee. But it happened to Rubio. The campaign exposed him as vacillating, immature and opportunistic, and every bit the “Little Marco” that Trump labeled him. Voters saw that, and responded.

That’s even more true of Cruz. When he left the race in May, he did so with a favorable/unfavorable polling average of 32/57, and his popularity has declined even further since then. His unctuous personal style and uncompromising, outdated social conservatism will never appeal to a national general-election audience. Even at the height of the culture wars, the GOP had never nominated a candidate like Cruz, and a style that couldn’t work in the previous quarter-century is certainly not going to work in the next one. Cruz is one of those politicians fated to remain very popular within a limited band of voters and very unpopular outside that group, and that’s not the description of a future president.

The bottom line is that Trump is not the cause of the GOP’s difficulties. He is a prominent symptom of them, and in many ways magnifies them. Post-November, he will also be a scapegoat for them. But he did not create them. The GOP base and the general-election electorate look at the world very differently, and the things that you have to say and do to appease the GOP base in the primaries will make any candidate a difficult sell in a general election, which is conducted outside the bubble, among voters not already thoroughly immersed in the cramped world view of the modern, meaning archaic, Republican Party.

Until that changes, the outcomes won’t change.

Reader Comments 0

1709 comments
tireOfIt
tireOfIt

Roger Stone, a longtime Republican political operative and current ally of Donald Trump, on Monday said the GOP nominee should release his tax returns right away.

St Simons he-ne-ha
St Simons he-ne-ha

yeah, the republicans have an integriteh problem, a sincerety issue.

Other than having zero credibility, yes go with that, it's a weiner

Kamchak
Kamchak

Taken together with other factors, there is a strong indication that I will be the starting quarterback for The Oakland Raiders.

Kamchak
Kamchak

Hills is dying SHEETZ

St Simons he-ne-ha
St Simons he-ne-ha

i think a big ol commercial ad saying 'soft bigotry' and 'low expectations' and a whole lotta 'plantaaaaaaation' oughta do it, oughta get them from <1.0 to the Big Fat Zero.

If they put out those ads, we should pay for them hahahaha

Kamchak
Kamchak

@Donnie_Pinko 

His and Kerry's at first halting and then tepid calls for 'continuity', but NOT support for Erdogan or the current elected government specifically, are, taken together with other factors, pretty strong indicators that Obama was firmly behind the coup plotters.

This is your proof?

Obama's "tepid" response is evidence that he was behind the failed coup attempt? 


I've had a "tepid" response to the Braves this season, so that makes me responsible for their .343 record.

ROFLMAO!

Donnie_Pinko
Donnie_Pinko

@Kamchak @Donnie_Pinko 

That...taken together with other factors... =  a pretty strong indicator.

Operative phrase there being 'together with other factors'. 

First day with that English language semantics guide there sport? 

Kamchak
Kamchak

@Donnie_Pinko 

 Operative phrase there being 'together with other factors'. 

Taken together with other factors, there is a pretty strong indication that I will win an Oscar for best director next year.

OldEngineer
OldEngineer

@Kamchak @Donnie_Pinko This one is the master of vaguery squirt molded to fit his desired "facts" and if you don't see that you're just (fill in the blank). 

gotalife
gotalife

reb is pretending his gop love minorities.


Hilarious.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@gotalife I love few people, which means I don't love the majority.

That does not mean I hate or dislike the majority.

I expect the same can be said for Repubs as a whole.

The belief that Repubs have no concern for minorities is BS and a product of Liberal brainwashing of their base.

Falling back on the old saying, Dems want to give minorities fish, Repubs want to teach them how to fish.

OldEngineer
OldEngineer

@JohnnyReb @gotalife So why is Trump at 0 to 1% then - his trustworthiness and policies? Never actually meeting with any of them? His derogatory remarks about them? 

Menace
Menace

@JohnnyReb @gotalife  Do you really believe the drivel you espouse?  You're like 10lbs of crap in a 5lb bag.

CherokeeCounty
CherokeeCounty

I'm guessing 'the blacks' already know how to fish.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

Trump's latest appeal for black votes stating what have you got to lose is right on the money.

Dem policies, especially that of Obama, has done nothing but let blacks slip further into decline.

Blacks voting for Hillary is asking for more of the same. 

honested
honested

@JohnnyReb 

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH!!!!

breathe, breathe, breathe...

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!

Keep 'em coming!

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@Wascatlady @JohnnyReb @OldEngineer

Hey, remember when Ross Perot had his big chance to do outreach to The Blacks and he told 'em a story about how his daddy raised him to believe that The Blacks "were people, too"?

I think that speech might've been about one-third as patronizing and offensive to the supposedly intended audience, as was Trump's.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@JohnnyReb @OldEngineer What seriousness?   Who redrew voting districts to disenfranchise voters?  Who is refusing to address the voting rights act?   Which candidate is saying he is going to be the law and order candidate which in the end will make three strikes you are out worse not better for black people?  Donald Trump is a pathological liar which is worse than a liar.

BuckeyeGa
BuckeyeGa

appeal to black voters with hardly any blacks in the audience, yet he skips talking to the NAACP or Urban League lolol

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@OldEngineer @JohnnyReb @StraightNoChaser SCOTUS removed the requirement for most states to receive approval of redrawn districts.

Only one or two remain needing approval and I think it's not even the whole state but districts within.

You can google and come back and educate us.

StraightNoChaser
StraightNoChaser

@JohnnyReb @StraightNoChaser @OldEngineer Not exactly, SCOTUS removed the meat of the Voting Rights act, the part that makes sure that the south does not misbehave, and kicked it back down to Congress to fix and reword it because the verbiage is old and outdated, and we know that they have refused to do so to this day.  What Republicans have done instead is taken advantage of the removal by passing voter ID laws to disenfranchise voters.  

Visual_Cortex
Visual_Cortex

@JohnnyReb

what have you got to lose is right on the money.

Did you hear the rest of that speech? Where Trump went on to tell The Blacks that "their" "schools are no good"? That they "live in poverty"?

He stepped on his crank yet again. The guy's just a hateful small minded gavone from the outer boroughs, and he can't remake himself into something he's not.

Peachs
Peachs

Trump is a very nasty person, wouldn't make it down south, so they put the light on Hillary like the Godfather is just a side issue.  

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@Peachs quite the contrary Peachs.

Trump talks like he sits at the neighborhood gas station playing checkers with the regulars.

Hillary is the corrupt one, not Trump.

JohnnyReb
JohnnyReb

@OldEngineer @JohnnyReb @Peachs Trump leads Hillary on pinocchio's only because he has been checked more.

Trump checked 52 times receiving 50, Hillary checked 36 times receiving 31.

So Hillary has a slight margin but nothing to brag about.

OldEngineer
OldEngineer

So Trump's RATE of lying is on top of the heap then. Nice Stretch, Armstrong. Sarcasm?