Republicans, Democrats must ban together to decimate Trump
Editor’s note: this is part four of The Pragmatist’s Manifesto. This weekly column encourages civil discussion about politics in the U.S. Find previous installments @ thetartan.org.
At long last, we have arrived at our current election. After discussing our two-party system with regards to history, media, and math, we can finally address the slow car crash unfolding in front of us. And for Gary Johnson and Jill Stein fans who have stuck with me this long — bear with me, I haven’t forgotten about you.
First however, we must discuss the two main party’s nominees: Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and business tycoon Donald Trump. This is the first time in history when both nominees are the most disliked candidates ever nominated by their party.
Let’s start with Clinton. As a long-serving Democrat at many levels of government, she is truthfully the most qualified person to run for president. To many, she epitomizes the party establishment.
Trump, on the other hand, is everything Clinton is not. He is a real-estate owner who has boosted his brand over the past decade with his shows like The Apprentice and buildings with his name on them. He used his outsider status to launch him over the huge GOP primary field, dominating media coverage with outrageous statements.
I would like to briefly address the idea of an outsider. Oftentimes, a portion of the electorate gets the notion that someone outside of the political realm will “shake things up” in Washington. While the sentiment of this is sound, based on the idea that anyone can become president, the last person you’d want in the Oval Office is someone who doesn’t know how to do the job.
If you were a boss hiring for a job, and someone applied from a completely different field, with no applicable skills, you would dismiss him immediately. The presidency is the most powerful, difficult job in the world. No amateurs allowed.
This brings me to my main point about this election cycle: Trump has upended the two-party balance. He has taken a major party of generally conservative opinion and molded it into his personal one-man cult of personality. While he has hijacked the presidential race, social conservatives, a minority in the party, have hijacked the party platform, turning out something similar to The Book of Revelations. The party’s many principled moderate conservatives are no longer represented. This is problematic because for the first time in many election cycles, the contest is not between two sets of values; one side is represented by a man who is not truly a Republican.
The closest anyone can come to finding a precedent for Trump’s campaign is that of George Wallace and the American Independence Party. Wallace, or Mr. Segregation as I referred to him last week, ran as a strict segregationist. His rallies drew thousands of supporters, he often encouraged violent responses to protesters, he criticized the media and political elite, and was hailed as an outsider. The similarities are striking, except that Trump has been nominated by a major party, not a protest party. This makes him even more dangerous, since his appeal is truly national and he has a chance of getting elected, whereas Wallace’s support was concentrated mostly in the South.
Many of us who watched the debate on Monday can agree that there is no comparison between our two main candidates. While Clinton has her share of campaign problems, they pale in comparison to Trump’s. She came prepared and remained fairly composed for the debate, while Trump touted his temperament through his constant interruptions and interjections. He was easily provoked and could not keep up in a policy discussion without reverting to the same, often nonsensical, talking points he has used for over a year now. It was the first time we saw these two onstage together, and Trump’s obnoxious behavior and general unpreparedness exposed yet again how unqualified he is.
Toward the end of the debate the candidates were asked whether they would honor the result of the election. Both said that they would do so, but the question had only truly been directed at Trump. He has openly questioned the validity of the election and occasionally said that it could be rigged against him. This issue transcends the partisan divide; this type of comment has dangerous implications. If history is any indication, he will probably make comments like this again in the future, despite saying he would respect the result.
Should the election be decided by a handful of states, it is within the realm of possibility that Trump would contest the election if he loses. Even if he is defeated, he will remain in the national media spotlight, perhaps preparing for his next run in four years. However, there is a solution to this potential problem.
Trump needs to be eviscerated. Completely destroyed. It cannot even be close. If Clinton wins in a landslide, he will have no justifiable reason to contest the result and his hateful, fear-mongering campaign will fade away. To accomplish this, though, Clinton will need everyone’s help. Complacency is the enemy; Trump is counting on progressives to stay home.
Now, to my conservative friends who feel abandoned by their party, I ask you for your help. If we band together and send Trump back into the abyss of reality television, perhaps we can restore some sanity to our politics. Still, some of you may be considering voting for Johnson (or for some of my friends on the left, Stein). For those who have not heard about Johnson, he is the nominee of the Libertarian Party, running a campaign that is, in a nutshell, economically conservative and socially liberal.
The Johnson campaign’s strategy is to woo voters who are equally dissatisfied with both major party candidates. This approach, called Balanced Rebellion, relies on the narrative that neither Clinton or Trump is deserving of support. This is completely misguided.
As I said earlier, Clinton has some issues, but to equate her with an ignorant, boorish, sexist, compulsive bullying liar who is also a terrible businessman, is simply incorrect. And when Trump displays his fondness for authoritarian tactics, such as encouraging violence, fanning racism and xenophobia by blaming entire groups of people or religions for complicated problems, or censoring the press, the American people need to show him that our country will not tolerate it.
Moderate conservatives, I will be perfectly honest with you. If Johnson/Weld (or maybe Weld/Johnson) were running as the GOP ticket, the Democrats would be terrified. Their ideology seeks to build a different coalition than the current Trump GOP, one that would draw voters away from the Democrats.
Some conservatives may be unsatisfied with my suggestion, but if you can achieve a shift back to the center like the ones Democrats achieved in the 1990’s, you will be able to elect a Republican to the presidency in the future.
Johnson is by no means a perfect candidate either (e.g., Aleppo), but his ideology is the one that would allow the GOP to function as a real party again, instead of the megaphone for the religious right and the Trump family.
Now, I would be remiss if I did not mention Stein of the Green Party. I am not going to attack her or her beliefs: rather, I will tell you exactly what they are. She believes in becoming a 100 percent renewable energy country by 2030. She wants to forgive all student debt, an appealing but not particularly liberal proposal. She wants to break up the big banks, without a clear alternative to what would replace them. As a doctor, she has said that Wi-Fi is a threat to children’s health, has endorsed homeopathic remedies, and has had to walk back comments that seemed to suggest that vaccines might cause autism (they don’t). She has also never held public office.
If either the Libertarian or Green parties were particularly serious about breaking the two-party mold of our country, the presidential protest vote is not the path for them. As we have discussed, running spoiler candidates in Presidential elections has worked to hurt the overall desires of the electorate as a whole. To create a real base for another party, they would need to win local and state elections, giving them real support for being represented in Congress.
Each of these parties has its own dilemma. After this election, Libertarians should take up the cause of moving the GOP towards its ideology, making the GOP represent a more moderate (and electable) brand of conservatism. The Green Party, however, has already been mostly assimilated into the values of the Democratic Party. For all those Bernie Sanders holdouts out there considering voting for Stein, take a read through the Democratic platform. Sanders’ influence in the primary helped create the most progressive platform in history. Refusing to vote for Clinton at this point is the same as voting for Trump — don’t be the Ralph Nader voters of 2016.
To finalize our journey through my defense of the two-party system, I would like to reiterate a lesson from the Founding Fathers, who were discussed back in week one. As much as they may have disliked parties, the system they set up works best when two main parties maintain the balance of power, instituting incremental change over time. If we can join together in resisting an extreme, unpredictable demagogue, the Democrats will be happy to begin compromising again with the most-likely Republican-controlled House of Representatives.
The only conclusion regarding our election is that it is in desperate need of a decisive statement by the American people. Anything less will not solve our long-term problems. We need an election that works to put us back on the track of sanity and compromise. The two-party system has worked in the past and can work again. All we have to do now is unite behind the banner of pragmatism and prove that the United States can resist the plagues of ignorance, prejudice and hatred.