I’ve been avidly interested in presidential politics since I was about eight years old, and have followed or personally covered every election since Kennedy barely beat Nixon.
I remember Michigan Governor George Romney refusing to endorse Barry Goldwater because of that year’s Republican nominee’s stand on civil rights. I remember various Michigan Democratic politicians trying not to appear on the same platform as George McGovern.
But I’ve never seen a candidate like Donald Trump.
The morning after the shocking British vote to leave the European Union, the networks put Trump on the air from Scotland to see what he would say, and he gave us an eleven-minute infomercial for his golf course.
What little he said about the news was mostly ill-informed, undiplomatic, or just plain wrong, as when he congratulated Scotland for voting to leave – which it didn’t. Watching him, I had the distinct feeling I was seeing Homer Simpson pretending to be a salesman.
Conservative intellectuals pretty much agree.
Columnist George Will, who once taught at Michigan State, announced he was leaving the Republican Party and, without explicitly endorsing Hillary Clinton, said it was conservatives’ job to “make sure (Trump) loses.”
Whether or not they agree with that, many Republicans and their allies have increasingly become convinced that regardless of what kind of president Trump would be, as a candidate he’s likely to take their party down to a cataclysmic defeat.
The Detroit News editorial page has long been something of the conscience of the Michigan Republican Party.
The News has never endorsed a Democrat for President – though it declined to endorse either nominee in 2004. Yesterday, beneath an immense headline “Dump Trump,” the newspaper urged the party to change its rules and nominate someone else at their national convention three weeks from now.
Calling Trump an “evolving train wreck” who is unfit for the office, the newspaper said “Republicans should go to Cleveland next month with self-preservation at their top priority,” and change the rules so that Trump could be denied the nomination.
Well, I sympathize – but thinking the party can or should deny Trump the nomination at this point is absolutely crazy. First of all, he won by the rules in force – fair and square. He has more than 200 more delegates than he needs. He got almost 14 million votes, more than six million more than his closest competitor for the nomination.
Regardless of what kind of candidate or president you think he might be, Trump was his party’s voters’ clear choice. Denying him what he rightfully won would be a travesty.
Not to mention something that doesn’t seem to occur to the stop Trump crowd: What do you suppose Donald Trump will do if he feels he has been cheated out of a nomination that is rightfully his?
Every indication is that he would launch an independent, kamikaze bid whose first priority would be wreck the GOP – and which would be virtually certain to give Democrats control of both houses of Congress and who knows how many state legislatures.
Republicans may well want to consider what they need to do to avoid a similar nominee four years from now, but Trump played by their rules, and he won.
They now have a few years to figure out what that means.
Jack Lessenberry is Michigan Radio's political analyst. Views expressed in his essays are his own and do not necessarily reflect those of Michigan Radio, its management or the station licensee, The University of Michigan.