A Conservative Talks Sense

Today I am sharing a column by Ross Douthat of the New York Times.  The thing I find most interesting about this piece is that Mr. Douthat is a conservative, a Republican, and yet he is arguing in favour of Trump’s defeat in November.  It is encouraging to see that not all republicans have partaken of the toxic Kool-Aid.

The Only Way to Remove Trump

To eject the president, you need to beat him.

ross-douthat-thumbLargeBy Ross Douthat, Opinion Columnist

All you have to do is beat him.

Donald Trump is not a Caesar; he does not bestride our narrow world like a colossus, undefeatable save by desperate or underhanded means. He is an instinct-driven chancer who has exploited the decadence of his party and the larger system to grasp and hold a certain kind of power.

But he is also a reckless and distracted figure, a serial squanderer of opportunities, who barely won the presidency and whose coalition is united only in partisan solidarity and fear of liberalism. He may not be removable by the impeachment process, but is not a king; he is a widely hated, legislatively constrained president facing a difficult re-election.

All you have to do is beat him.

For a long time during Trump’s ascent I wrote columns demanding that the leaders of the Republican Party do something to keep this obviously unfit, chaotic, cruel man from becoming their nominee for president. Those columns were morally correct but structurally naïve, based on theories of party decision-making that no longer obtain in our era of institutional decay.

But Trump could have been stopped in the Republican primaries the old-fashioned way — by being beaten at the polls. His base was limited, his popularity fluctuated, and if his rivals had recognized the threat earlier, campaigned against him consistently, strategized with one another more effectively, and avoided their own meltdowns and missteps, there was no reason he could not have been defeated.

All you have to do is beat him.

After Trump’s administration began and immediately descended into chaos, I had one last flare of institutionalism, one last moment of outrage and 25th Amendment fantasy. But since then I have left the outrage to my liberal friends, watching them put their hopes in Robert Mueller’s investigation, in law-enforcement and intelligence-agency leaks and whistle-blowing, and finally — though with less real hope, and more grim resignation — in the House’s articles of impeachment.

Now that last effort is ending, as everyone with eyes could see it would, with the Republicans who failed to beat Trump when it counted declining to turn on him now that partisan consolidation and improving national conditions have sealed their base to him. The mix of expedience and cravenness with which the institutional G.O.P. approached impeachment is no different than the way the institutional G.O.P. behaved during Trump’s initial ascent, and it leaves Trump’s opposition no worse off than before. A failed impeachment doesn’t give him new powers or new popularity; it just shows that the normal way to be rid of an unpopular president is the way that Democrats must take.

All you have to do is beat him.

Of course, in trying to beat him they have to cope with the fact that he is chronically unscrupulous, as the Biden-Ukraine foray shows. And they have to overcome the advantage that his particular coalition enjoys in the Electoral College.

But in other ways the Democrats are lucky to have Trump to run against, as they were lucky in 2016. In a year when the fundamentals mildly favored Republicans, Hillary Clinton got to face off against the most-disliked G.O.P. nominee of modern times. And she would have beaten him — even with Russia, even with Comey — had her campaign taken just a few more steps to counter his team’s long-shot strategy to flip the Midwest.

All you have to do is beat him.

As with 2016, so with politics since. Liberal hand-wringing about their structural disadvantages ignores the advantages that Trump keeps giving them — the fact that in the best economy in 20 years he can’t stop making people hate him, can’t stop missing opportunities to expand his base, can’t stop forcing vulnerable Republicans to kiss his ring and thereby weaken their own prospects.

Impeachment has only extended this pattern, with Republicans voting to shorten the trial even when it makes them look like lackeys, and too cowed in many cases to even take the acquit-but-still-condemn approach that Democrats took with Bill Clinton. So now most of the country thinks the president did something wrong, most of the country thinks Republicans are protecting him, and most of the country is open, entirely open, to voting Trump and the most vulnerable Republican senators out in nine short months.

All you have to do is beat him.

It’s worth remembering, too, that liberalism is not just struggling in America, with our Electoral College and right-tilting Senate; it is struggling all around the world. Which, again, suggests that American liberals are fortunate to have Trump as their Great Foe. If he were merely as disciplined and competent as Boris Johnson or Viktor Orban, to choose leaders with whom he has a few things in common, he would be coasting to re-election.

Instead it is very likely that he will lose. But it was likely that he would lose in 2016 as well. One essential lesson of the Trump era is that likelihoods are not enough; if you want to end the Trump era only one thing will suffice.

You have to beat him.

49 thoughts on “A Conservative Talks Sense

  1. Pingback: QsFiles

  2. You cannot win by “beating” Trump, he will still win by cheating. No, you must TRAMPLE him, CRUSH him, POUND him into the GROUND. Basically, what you must do is SHAME him into leaving, DISGRACE him, EMBARASS him so badly he won’t be able to show his orange face anywhere. And while you are at it, do these things to all his cronies and psychophants.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. I have not always agreed with Ross Douthat’s thinking, but he definitely has some very good points here. I would also add that the Democrats had better consider and utilize those same points…and soon! Thank-you!

    Liked by 2 people

    • ‘Tis like I always said about John McCain … I didn’t always, or even often, agree with him, but I always believed that he had the best interest of the country at heart. I feel the same about Douthart, Will, Brooks and other conservative pundits who see reality far more clearly than the likes of Hannity, Ingraham, and Carlson.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Jill, as you have noted before, it is not just Ross Douthat saying this. Other conservative writers like David Brooks, Michael Gerson, George Will, Erick Erickson, Shepard Smith et al have voiced their concerns. Gerson from the outset called Trump a danger. These used to be the voices of conservatives. Now, they are persona non grata as the Trump followers would rather get their information from dubious sources like Hannity. Ingraham, Jones, Fox and Friends and Trump himself. The truth has a hard time getting into those heads. Keith

    Liked by 4 people

    • And many of them fully embrace the name “Never Trumpers” and have left the Republican Party. Rick Wilson and George Conway have begun a movement specifically designed to defeat trump and are putting money behind it.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Absolutely so! I have high hopes that the Lincoln Project by Wilson, Conway, Schmidt, Weaver, Kasich et al will make a difference. Far more than my small blog will, for sure. Have you seen their first ad against Arizona Senator Martha McSally? It is brutal!

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jill, I have not seen the ad. Republicans who have been derelict in their constitutional duties picking tribe over country should hear from voters and ads. Sanding over Trump’s transgressions do not make us safer or a better democracy. Keith

          Liked by 2 people

    • Quite so. We need to hear more from them … need, I think, to shine a light on their words, to prove to the followers that it is not a democratic conspiracy to overturn the 2016 election, but that their own are also disillusioned.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Wow, hard to believe that a conservative Republican wrote this piece. It gives me hope that not all is lost. Still we must do our part 110% b/c the race will be an uphill battle. Trumps approval numbers are still rising?!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Words of wisdom Jill, from a vanishing breed: reasonable Republicans/conservatives. There ARE several who speak out about him. We should laud them for that. I just don’t know how much of a difference it will make. But, I’m glad you posted this because we need all the help we can get!

    Liked by 4 people

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