What do Marco Rubio and the Pope have in common? They both confronted a bully candidate for the GOP nomination who is more intent on seeking attention with insults and abuse than giving us concrete reasons why he should call the shots from on high.
Many conservatives applauded Donald Trump for his remarks on the pontiff’s determination to watch his church’s illegal numbers in the U.S. grow. As for Rubio, less than complimentary things have been said of his collusion with Democrats. In Marco’s case, forgive and forget. We have something a lot worse than an immigration boondoggle to worry about.
Conservatives don’t need a bully candidate or another tragedy
If conservatism wants to save itself, is Trump the direction we want to take?
A threatening bully is a stereotype the hapless GOP can do without. We need a leader with some viable ideas on how to get Washington moving in our direction without alienating so much of the country that a Republican is never again electable.
The old conservatism isn’t working. That’s the kind of conservatism Trump is selling: threats, abuse, bombast, vague allusions to bringing back America’s greatness. Stirring anger and emotion is manipulation, not progress.
The Republican Party rarely measures up to Democrats when it comes to electioneering. We opted for a McCain-Palin ticket to battle Barack Obama. Bad choice. Romney and Ryan played better. They weren’t enough. Now we have the Hillary bogeyman to worry about, something we have been talking up for years as an unstoppable force.
The conservative political establishment has had long enough to think over past failings and plot strategy. This time we got something out of left field we should have seen coming and didn’t count on: a bully candidate with a large conservative following eager to get even with government. Remember, back in 2011 26% of us took notice of Trump as a possible Oval Office contender.1 Surprise. He came back.
It was the Twittered comment about Chicago’s Ricketts family that finally dashed my appetite for Trump and drove me to Rubio. Months ago his remarks seemed on point, his candor refreshing, not just the same tired conservative retreads we have held too dearly for too long. Trump told us what we wanted to hear. At first we liked it. We waited. We waited a little longer. The bluster didn’t segue to rational, intelligent policy discussion. Instead, it got worse.
Bully candidate Trump forces the question: are conservatives idiots?
The Founding Fathers had a lot to say about the character of our nation and the people who lead it. We would do well to remember how the people we elect speaks to who and what we are. While many of us are too politically jaded to expect campaign trail demeanor that reflects restraint and spotless character, we should hope to never again witness the displays of decidedly unpresidential behavior we are being subjected to. Why the endorsement of these antics by so many? Our approval speaks directly to our character and not very highly.
Grass roots conservatism doesn’t mean stupid or uneducated, though if we fall for what we are hearing it might as well. After Trump’s win in Nevada I thought of the scene at the end of Martin Scorsese’s Vegas gangster epic Casino that hinted at this conservative tragedy in the making. The mob-dominated past over, Middle America swarmed the city, tackily dressed, overweight, dollars in hand, eager to lose lots of money as dreams of riches swirled in their heads.
Is that us?
The media made sure Trump’s remark about the uneducated made the rounds almost before it left his mouth. Sadly, his campaign strategy has appealed to the lowest common denominator and too many of us have proved willing to respond to mean-spirited invective in lieu of a coherent platform.
Stealing Democratic strategy
Of course, the uneducated will not put Trump in office and Hillary and Bernie have done a little pandering to the bottom, too. The difference is we expect that from Democrats. There are plenty of conservative supporters of this bully candidate who should know better.
Questioning whether a candidate is conservative enough is almost as tiresome as comparing an opponent’s dedication to Christianity. Trump has no political history to speak of, but in the end it makes no difference. How many of us can say our political views earlier in life are the same as they are now? With age comes wisdom, at least for some. What matters is who and what we are now. Trump has shown us that he is a bully.
How will we reconcile this man’s bullying manner with Congress’s stalwart refusal to budge on almost every issue? The Republican Party is already digging in its heels against Trump. Democrats? Forget it.
Conservative tragedy in the making: can we stop this?
According to a Pew Research Center poll, 32% of Republicans vs. 12% of Democrats are angry at the government.2 There’s a lot of political mileage to be had there. As the primary season grinds on, this anger is hatching a new conservative tragedy we brought on ourselves and may not be able to stop.
If our leading Republican candidate gets the nod for the nomination we lose whether he wins or not. If he loses the race we get Hillary Clinton. Our worst fears come true. If Trump wins, we don’t know what we are getting but if these unpleasant weeks and vitriolic exchanges are any sign, it isn’t going to get better. Wait until we hit the first roadblock with Democrats. LBJ was said to be a bully, but he was also a politician. Many unhappy conservatives like to push a business person for elected office. This will be their chance to find out just how important being good at politics really is.