The Inevitable Destruction of the Republican Party

Maybe it’s not inevitable, but is sure looks like it from here.

In case you’re just coming out of a coma, Donald Trump thrashed his opponents for the Republican presidential nomination in last night’s primary, winning seven states while Ted Cruz won three and Marco Rubio won one.   Of course, there are a lot more primaries to take place, but the trend seems clear.  The losing camps like to point out that Trump really is getting only about 35% of the votes, indicating that leaves about 65% of Republicans against him.

The problem with that is none of his opponents plan on dropping out soon and it is unclear if any of them does, where their votes would go.   For example, the camps of Cruz and Rubio are far from close, so if Cruz would drop out a lot of his votes would go to Trump.   At the moment the path to the nomination now looks like a red carpet for the Donald.

Except that prominent figures in that vague collection called the “Republican establishment” seem willing to try anything to sabotage a man who at times seems more liberal than conservative, has no real plans for anything and is outrageously crass whenever he feels like it.  In short they cannot stomach the thought of Trump being the current personification of “the party of Lincoln and Reagan.”

The specter of a Trump nomination has driven Senator Lindsey Graham to admit with clinched teeth that he would even prefer Ted Cruz to Donald Trump.  That’s quite a statement from a guy who has joked that if Cruz was murdered on the senate floor, no one would be found guilty.   If you don’t get the joke, he was suggesting how disliked Cruz is by his fellow Senators, probably so since he does not have even one endorsement from them.

Things are so bad that I see various noteworthy Republicans state they won’t vote for Trump if he’s nominated, and hear much talk of plans to prevent his getting the necessary 1237 votes to win the nomination outright.  While none of the others appears capable of beating him, together they may well get enough votes to leave the matter unsettled until the convention in Cleveland in July.

Hence, a floor fight or perhaps more accurately, a gang cage match.

What might happen there boggles the mind.  Except it cannot be good for the Republican party.  It is hard to imagine a majority of delegates rallying around either Cruz or Rubio, which might leave Ohio governor Kasich as the default choice.   Being a popular governor of the state and having a positive campaign not really attacking the others he wouldn’t be a bad candidate – actually a good one in normal times – but the Trump fans are close to a religion at this point, zealots for change no matter what, and if Trump is “robbed” of the nomination, no way they’ll vote same ‘ol, same ‘ol Republican if they vote at all.

The image of Humpty Dumpty comes to mind.

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Donald Trump Might be Even More Popular than Polls Show

Recent findings by a research group called Morning Consult suggest that as well as Trump does in the polls, he might actually be even more popular than that.  This “group” has found that a number of people who back him, usually college educated, are embarrassed to admit it, so they mislead pollsters.

My favorite columnist, Kathleen Parker, reflected on these findings and, as usual, has written a column that is both witty and insightful, shedding light on the Trump phenonmenon in her own unique way.

“Morning Consult’s revelations got me thinking and, by Jove, I think I’ve got it: Donald Trump is White Man’s last stand.”

This link to that editorial is my Christmas gift to you.

Donald Trump and the Difference between Insanity and Folly

One of my pet peeves is the pseudo wisdom often expressed as:  “The definition of insanity is repeating the same mistakes over and over again and expecting different results.” When I initially heard it a decade or two or three ago, it was attributed to Einstein, which immediately made me suspicious.

Einstein was too smart to think it, let a lone say that.  So, I looked into the matter.  While its exact origin seems debatable, one thing clear is Einstein never said it. (1)

It came to mind this morning when a political commentator used it as part of the explanation for Donald Trump’s popularity.  Politicians make the same old promises and nothing much changes.   So, you want different results, choose a non-politician who has been a very successful businessman.   Then the results may be different.

The Donald, if nothing else, is completely different.  Sometimes by the day.  Who knows what he will say or do next?  Making everyone tune in for the latest.  The other candidates look like somnambulists compared with Trump.

But back to the quote above about repeating the same mistakes. It is hard to pin down a common definition of insanity, but if there is one common denominator it’s dwelling in a world that is unreal to the rest of us (2).    It’s like pornography.  We can’t quite define it, but we know a nut case when we see someone acting incoherently (not including drug or alcohol induced).

Expecting different results while repeating the same mistakes is not insanity but folly, arguably our greatest human common denominator.

One small example.  I have a friend who has gambled on horses for decades and his worse days at the track are usually tied to an undisciplined approach to betting.  He’s careless in handicapping the races (also spelled lazy) and allows his emotions and hopes of getting lucky to prompt unwise decisions, often lathered in beer foam.  He has known this for years, but still often repeats those mistakes and  kicks himself afterwards.  Not for being crazy but for being a fool once again.

A much bigger example.   Our two biggest foreign policy mistakes in my lifetime were going into Vietnam and Iraq.  Both were prompted by arrogance and ignorance, the arrogance of power and an ignorance of who we were dealing with in those nations, both so-called friends and enemies.   The lesson that should have been learned from Vietnam is that our shear military might can not solve problems that are fundamentally political in nature.

But we didn’t learn because we still remained arrogant in our might and largely ignorant of what a quagmire we might be getting into.   One of the most distressing things I’ve ever read about American foreign policy came from Richard Holbrooke, a respected albeit controversial diplomat for decades.  He said something like this:   Those responsible for forging American foreign policy know surprisingly little about the nations for whom they are forging that policy.   Not exactly his words, but the gist.

In other words, the elephant of our military is guided through the china shop of international relations by handlers half-blind at best, but still arrogant.

Our inherent human tendency to repeat mistakes is not because of insanity but because of human foibles like greed, delusions, false hopes, arrogance and what have you.   Shakespeare summed it up:  “What fools these mortals be.”  He never said what loonies these mortals be.

By the way, a mistake people have repeated throughout history is to place faith in a demagogue who persuades us he alone can save the day by playing on our emotions and prejudices rather than our rationale side.   Demagogues don’t have a great track record historically, but that doesn’t keep people from following the next persuasive  demagogue who comes down the pike.

Does anyone come to mind?

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(1)  When I researched the topic years ago, it seemed Ruby Mae Brown got “the credit” for those words from a novel of her’s published around 1983. Googling the matter recently, both Wikipedia and Cara Santa Maria in HuffPo asserted that Narcotics Anonymous (NA) gets the credit.  However, blogger Tyson Moore argues that NA may have gotten the idea from Brown before she published her book and a respondent to her piece says NA actually got it from AA, so more research seems necessary for those who really care to pin it down.

For me, I’ve had enough as the statement sounds good but is just plain wrong.

(2)  The increased political polarization over the past few decades has added a caveat to our common sense idea of reality.   Politically, we have lost a common sense of reality.   Political spin has created separate realities, one viewed from the right and one from the left.  That’s why those on the left and those on the right cannot have a meaningful conversation about politics.  A dialogue is impossible without shared common assumptions about reality.