Well that was ugly.
Even in terms of Presidential politics, this latest Republican primary was a bloodbath — Donald Trump’s tumultuous path to an all-but-now-inevitable Republican nomination has done undeniable damage to the fabric of the Party.
And even as the man himself goes around the country obnoxiously, and repeatedly, declaring victory, the fact remains that without the support of the Republican establishment his victory speeches will come to an abrupt halt in November.
#NeverTrump represents a formidable electoral wall, and one the billionaire real estate mogul will pay for personally if he continues to alienate the party’s most respected voices.
The numbers are clear: Trump is trailing Hillary big-time in national polls. And with more than a few prominent long-time Republicans denouncing the party, and even pledging to support Hillary, it’s clear that Trump’s record primary numbers are unlikely to translate to a general election.
But with as many as four Supreme Court seats up for grabs, a Middle East in turmoil, and an economy that many believe is teetering on another recession , the country can ill afford four years of an increasingly left-leaning Hillary Clinton.
Afford it or not, however, a Clinton Presidency is inevitable if Trump continues with the fantasy that his shoot-from-the-hip, populist rhetoric will capture the minds of the general public the way it has the disaffected alt-right. While he will never win the adoration of establishment naysayers, he’d better convince enough of them that he’s not the wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing they think he is.
Here are five things he can do to start the ball rolling:
Take a rhetorical chill pill.
Trump’s childish name-calling and threats of violence must stop immediately. Like yesterday. Aside from being un-Presidential and immoral, it will do nothing to improve his massive negatives among the establishment and the general electorate. Nor should it.
The American people want a President, not some belligerent moron about to be cut off by the bartender.
As a newcomer to the national political stage Trump probably deserves a few breaks here — while such behavior may have been begrudgingly tolerated in the boardrooms of his empire, he doesn’t own the country.
This goes for his supporters as well. If they want to see their guy in the White House, they better take a deep breath at the rallies and on Twitter. We are all adults here, allegedly.
Table the tariff talk.
While Trump’s oft-mocked border wall may actually help American workers (immigrants have repeatedly won the lion’s share of new American jobs), his tariff trade wall is the stuff of economists’ nightmares.
Like everything, free trade comes with pros and cons, but mostly pros. In his quest to protect American industry, Trump will instead hurt Americans. As Simon Lester at Cato points out:
“Furthermore, flows of foreign investment in the other direction demonstrate the absurdity of Trump’s objections to free trade and investment flows. In the past several decades, many foreign-owned companies have opened factories in the United States. BMW in South Carolina, Airbus in Alabama, to name just a couple.
In theory, Trump could shut down the flow of U.S. investment that goes abroad. In doing so, however, he would almost certainly aggravate our trading partners and trigger limits on foreign investors setting up shop in the United States.”
In other words, trade is a two-way street.
By imposing tariffs on Chinese goods, Trump could well trigger a trade war and turn a possible global recession into a global Great Depression. Can’t blame the establishment for wanting no part of that action.
Keep his tiny hands off the Constitution.
Conservatives, real ones anyway, are generally strict constitutionalists. And for constitutionalists the sanctity of the Amendments is directly related to the order in which they are listed. Hence the justifiable horror at Trump’s vow to essentially piss on the very first one by “opening up” libel laws.
In other words, he wants to be able to sue the media out of business for doing its job. Putin would no doubt be proud.
Amending the Constitution is a very difficult process for a reason: to protect it from power-hungry dictators and plutocrats who would rewrite the law of the land for their personal convenience.
Trump’s disdain for the First Amendment is a cardinal sin to conservatives who revere it and point to its sanctity as a central part of their political philosophy. There is no room for negotiation here, nor should there be.
The Constitution is political gospel, and heretics shall be treated as such.
Put potential SCOTUS picks in writing.
While the Supreme Court is currently more or less divided, the next President will have the opportunity to monopolize the nation’s highest court by filling as many as four vacancies. Make no mistake: the election of a Democrat will effectively terminate the fundamental principles of this country’s founding.
The establishment is justifiably still reeling from Trump’s suggestion that his pro-choice sister would be a “phenomenal” choice. If there’s anything approaching the sanctity of the First Amendment for real conservatives, it’s every child’s right to life. While Trump has since claimed he was joking, abortion and the Supreme Court are no laughing matter to conservatives.
While Trump has also made comments suggesting he would veer right on potential nominees, his record of switching positions begs for permanence.
Mr. Trump, put five of your top nominees in writing should you win in November. To have their records vetted by the establishment. End of story.
Don’t screw up the veep.
This is probably the best, and quickest, way for Trump to shore up establishment support. Unfortunately, for him at least, the aforementioned flaws displayed during the primary may have painted him into the ultimate corner.
Trump’s constant mocking of the establishment and core conservative values will undoubtedly make it difficult for him to find the right running mate.
Let’s be honest: were Cruz to join the Trump ticket, a good portion of the #NeverTrump army could be convinced to reconsider their positions. Unfortunately, by labeling his potential ally “Lyin’ Ted” and mocking Cruz’s wife’s appearance, Trump has basically made this potentially powerful union an impossibility. There are plenty of other reasons to be sure, but his immature name calling certainly didn’t help.
The same goes for potential running mates that are female or minority, or better yet, both. Let’s face it, today’s politics are sadly intertwined with demographics, and the Republican Party needs all the help it can get with every single one outside of white males.
Trump, however, has insulted nearly all of them, further hurting not only his chances but the future of the party itself. To fix this he needs to do everything in his power to woo a running mate that the establishment approves of, and hopefully one that can help to undo the damage Trump has done to Republican efforts to woo women and minority voters. In other words, if possible, he should avoid picking a white male.
Good luck with that.
While none of these, or even all taken together, are magical cures for the deep divisions among the Republican establishment and Trump’s supporters, they are a start. And Trump has to start somewhere if he hopes to become the next President of the United States.
Make no mistake: Trump has the potential to become a formidable candidate. That is if he can heal the deep wounds he inflicted during his outlandish primary campaign.