As soon as it became clear that game-show host Donald Trump was the presumptive Republican nominee, the usual radio ranters and Fox News mouths began the inevitable litany: If you aren’t for Donald Trump, then you must be for Hillary Clinton — it’s Himself or Herself.
There is more to this than A/B testing.
“If you aren’t for Trump, then you’re for Clinton” is a cheap rhetorical ploy. I’d write that any thinking adult would be ashamed for falling for that kind of sixth-grade debater’s stratagem, but a Republican electorate capable of choosing Donald Trump as its standard-bearer is incapable of shame.
The angry insistence — him or her! — is, for the moment, mainly an attempt to forestall further criticism of Trump. That criticism consists of stating a fact that is not a matter of degree but a binary proposition, a yes/no question. It is not that Trump is less mentally stable than Mrs. Clinton (probably true) or that he is more dishonest than Mrs. Clinton (difficult to say) or that he might do even more damage to the republic, or any other point of comparison between the candidates.
The issue, instead, is this:
Donald Trump is unfit for the office.
He is unfit for any office, morally and intellectually.
A man who could suggest, simply because it is convenient, that his opponent’s father had something to do with the assassination of President Kennedy is unfit for any position of public responsibility.
His long litany of lies — which include fabrications about everything from his wealth to self-funding his campaign — is disqualifying.
His low character is disqualifying.
His personal history is disqualifying.
His complete, utter, total, and lifelong lack of honor is disqualifying.
The fact that he is going to have to take time out of the convention to appear in court to hear a pretty convincing fraud case against him is disqualifying.
His time on Jeffrey Epstein’s Pedophile Island, after which he boasted about sharing a taste with Epstein for women “on the younger side,” is disqualifying.
The fact that he knows less about our constitutional order than does a not-especially-bright Rappahannock River oyster is disqualifying.
There isn’t anything one can say about Mrs. Clinton, monster though she is, that changes any of that.
Donald Trump is not fit to serve as president. He is not fit to serve on the Meade County board of commissioners. He is not fit to be the mayor of Muleshoe, Texas.
#share#If he indeed is the Republican nominee, Donald Trump almost certainly will face Hillary Rodham Clinton in the general election. That fact, sobering though it is, does not suddenly make him fit to serve as president, because — to repeat — the problem with Trump isn’t that he is less fit to serve in comparison to Mrs. Clinton, but that he is unfit to serve, period.
Paul Ryan is right to withhold his support, and those who have suddenly discovered that attending the Republican convention conflicts with their cat-shampooing schedule — both Presidents Bush, nominees John McCain and Mitt Romney — have in this matter chosen the better part, while former Texas governor Rick Perry has shown poor judgment. Trump, who long claimed (falsely) that he was self-funding his campaign and therefore was beholden to no one, has just named a hedge-fund boss and former Goldman Sachs partner to raise money, but donors are walking sideways away from him—as they should.
“Unite the Party” talk ignores the question: “Unite with what?” The answer, in this case, is a coddled, petulant, celebrity megalomaniac leading a small movement of cable-news-inspired populist drama queens whose motto is “Eek! A Mexican!” It is shallow, but celebrity is the most powerful force in American culture, more powerful than money and certainly more powerful than argument. Those of you joking about Kanye West running in 2020 shouldn’t laugh too hard.
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But celebrity isn’t all-powerful. Trump had a smashing victory in the New York Republican primary, but he received far fewer votes than did second-place Democratic finisher Bernie Sanders, and barely half of Mrs. Clinton’s votes. The idea that a Trump candidacy is suddenly going to put into play states such as New York and New Jersey is fantasy. Those crying “Unite the Party!” might want to think about how closely they wish to be united with a candidacy that may very well lose 35 states and hand the Senate over to Chuck Schumer, who is of course another recipient of Trump’s many generous donations to progressives.
#related#Those shouting “If you don’t support Trump, you’re for Clinton!” do not wish to speak or think very much about what the Trump movement and its enablers, from Sean Hannity to Ann Coulter, have done to the Republican party and to the conservative movement. They’re going to want to think about that even less as the months go by, and by January there’s very likely to be an outbreak of convenient amnesia. But the rest of us should be frank about what has happened.
The Republican party is preparing to nominate for the presidency a man grossly unfit for the office.