Where Art Thou, Grown Up Republicans?

November 27, 2015

I woke up on Thanksgiving morning thinking about the Republican Party, and about Republicans. I was wondering where the grown ups are. What happened to the merchants, bankers, land developers, etc.? Main Streeters? And Wall Streeters?

I posed the question because Republican Party primary polls—whether state-by-state or in the aggregate—show Donald Trump leading, consistently and by not insignificant margins. His positions are anathema to the business community, writ small or large. He dumbs down everything. He thrives on division and incivility. In the words of a gentleman lawyer with whom I worked many years ago, he’s not a “quality person,” and if my friend was still alive he’d be a horrified Republican.

Coming up on the outside rail is Senator Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is not far behind. Neither should comfort traditional Republicans, however. Senator Cruz revels in not getting along with anyone, which is hardly a virtue among people who succeed by getting along. And neither senator brings to the job he wants the level of experience the Party poohbahs expect. (Ya, ya, Obama. I think President Obama has done a remarkable job, but so what. If you think President Obama was unprepared and that he has failed or worse, saying it’s OK to have a successor with no more experience makes no sense. Back to Logic 100, please.)

So, still in bed, something major crossed my mind. Yes, Governor John Kasich (R-Ohio) has taken on Mr. Trump, but … “Kasich, you say? Oh ya, him.” But there’s no talk about a third party, or billionaire money taking on the Donald, or much of anything else. Just business as usual, with fewer and fewer people saying “he’ll never get the nomination.”

Up and out of bed I started reading the blogs. Quickly, I ran across Plan A for GOP donors: Wait for Trump to fall. (There is no Plan B.), written by Matea Gold and Robert Costa for the Washington Post on November 25. The big takeaway for me is embodied in two quotes, the first from an anonymous party strategist, and the second from Bush donor Andrew Sabin:

They’re in­cred­ibly angry, and [Trump is] the first guy in their mind who speaks to that anger in a visceral way. They have a deep longing for that.


I’m not worried. The voters are not going to think out their candidate until a week or two before they go into the voting booth.

Well, maybe, Mr. Sabin, but if anger really does fuel the Trump campaign, probably not, for what trigger will cause angry voters to rethink their positions before they vote? Republican Party nominee Donald Trump seems not unlikely, or maybe even likely, and that should have plenty of traditional Republicans freaking out.

Wealthy people did very well between 1993 and 2001. Divided government surely played a role, but Clinton Administration policies served the wealthy very well. Very rich people have gotten much richer during the past six years, too. The upper middle class has shouldered a heavy burden, but the wealth gap—especially, the gap between the rich and the super-rich—continues to expend. (Robert Frank explains, in The Real Wealth Gap: Between the Rich and Super-Rich, written for the Wall Street Journal on April 13, 2012.)

So maybe Republican Main Streeters, Wall Streeters, and major donors are ready for Clinton II. Right. Sure. First, Rs don’t like Secretary Clinton. Second, party loyalty matters. Finally, she might not win. When 47 House members—Democrats—voted to stay refugee admissions, nothing ought to be certain. Another terror act, anywhere in the Western World, and the move toward fear may become an avalanche.

It’s probably too late for a third party effort now. A few months ago? Maybe. (Getting on ballots takes time, and systems skew in favor of the two parties.) Third party notions get dissed, but they’re generally candidate-driven. Think Ross Perot. John Anderson. George Wallace. Etc. Had wealthy moderates come together around a fusion candidate things might have been interesting.*

Many in the Republican Party will stay home if Mr. Trump is the nominee. Democrats will vote for another Clinton, but not with pleasure. Many will wish they had had another choice.

*My fusion candidate was Colin Powell, until I noted the fact that he’d be almost 80 on 1/20/2017. No other ideas came to mind.

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