This is funny considering it’s coming from George W. Bush’s former speechwriter.
By Michael Gerson
Every Republican of the type concerned with winning in November has been asking the question (at least internally): “What if the worst happens?”
The worst does not mean the nomination of Ted Cruz, in spite of justified fears of political disaster. Cruz is an ideologue with a message perfectly tuned for a relatively small minority of the electorate. Uniquely in American politics, the senator from Texas has made his reputation by being roundly hated by his colleagues — apparently a prerequisite for a certain kind of anti-establishment conservative, but unpromising for an image makeover at his convention.
Cruz’s nomination would represent the victory of the hard right — religious right and tea party factions — within the Republican coalition. After he loses, the ideological struggles within the GOP would go on.
No, the worst outcome for the party would be the nomination of Donald Trump.
It is impossible to predict where the political contest between Trump and Hillary Clinton would end up. Clinton has manifestly poor political skills, and Trump possesses a serious talent for the low blow. But Trump’s nomination would not be the temporary victory of one of the GOP’s ideological factions. It would involve the replacement of the humane ideal at the center of the party and its history. If Trump were the nominee, the GOP would cease to be.
Whatever your view of Republican politicians, the aspiration, the self-conception, of the party was set by Abraham Lincoln: human dignity, honored by human freedom and undergirded by certain moral commitments, including compassion and tolerance. Lincoln described the “promise that in due time the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance.”
It is this universality that Trump attacks. All of his angry resentment against invading Hispanics and Muslims adds up to a kind of ethno-nationalism — an assertion that the United States is being weakened and adulterated by the other. This is consistent with European, right-wing, anti-immigrant populism. It is not consistent with conservatism, which, at the very least, involves respect for institutions and commitment to reasoned, incremental change.