The Corner

Politics & Policy

#NeverThirdParty?

Jim, I thought the biggest howler in the Wall Street Journal’s “please, don’t go third party” editorial was the one at the very end:

… But if Mr. Trump is the electoral disaster that many Republicans fear, the first priority to minimize the damage is to preserve the GOP House majority. Assuming the Senate majority goes and the Supreme Court too, the House would be the only check on a return to the progressive excesses of 2009-2010. That priority alone is enough to resist the GOP’s third-party temptation.

As we know from prior experience (see post 2010 midterm election), when the Republicans hold only the House majority while Democrats control the rest of Leviathan, the Journal leads the pack of GOP-friendly pundits who lecture us that Republicans cannot be expected to be a check on progressive excesses because – all together now – “we only control one-half of one-third of the government.” The fact that, under our quaint Constitution, the House happens to be the one-half of one-third of the government that is supreme in matters of spending and taxing suddenly becomes irrelevant. Any conservative who suggests that the House actually exercise its power of the purse and say “no” to Democrats is portrayed as a raving maniac.

Of course, when the Journal backs a policy, such as the surge in Iraq, it doesn’t seem to matter that Republicans hold only one-third of the government and that a Democratically-controlled Congress is united in opposition. We instead hear that the Constitution makes the president commander-in-chief and that, regardless of public opinion polls, it is time for principled leadership.

Interestingly, everybody knows that when Democrats control even less than one-half of one-third of the government, they are tigers, pressing every bit of every available advantage – parliamentary procedures, media alliances, and the GOP penchant for preemptive surrender. Indeed, when Republicans held the White House and both houses of Congress, the government increased the national debt by a staggering $5 trillion dollars (doubling the debt it had taken two centuries to accumulate), added a new entitlement benefit (despite the unsustainability of the existing ones), increased federal control over education (nearly doubling the size of the DOE), and relentlessly instructed us that Islam is a religion of peace. When conservatives asked why, we were told that this was the ransom needed to get cooperation from Democrats.

It goes without saying that when Democrats block a perfectly qualified judicial nominee or threaten to shut down the government, the New York Times and other organs of progressive opinion don’t chew them up and spit them out. The Left celebrates the courage and commitment of its true believers.

If I may speak personally for a moment, opposing Donald Trump has never for me been a matter of “the lesser of two evils.” I affirmatively favor Ted Cruz – I think he’d be a great president. And it has long been obvious to me, when it comes to those on the Right who are more motivated to stop Trump than to support any particular alternative candidate (or at least any remaining alternative), that the only plausible way to do that was to rally behind Cruz – the only candidate who has stood a chance to beat Trump. Yet the Journal has been grudging at best in this regard – as have Mitt Romney and other GOP stalwarts. They nurse against Cruz exactly the kinds of grudges that they tell conservatives to grow up and get over whenever the party offers us Romney, McCain, et al.

I also oppose Trump, but I have resisted signing on to #NeverTrump because I haven’t believed I could do so honestly. I think of myself as #NeverHillary. I could not in good conscience say that I would never vote for Trump if the race came down to the two of them.

Concededly, I’m closer today than I have ever been to confessing error on that score. I’ve kept telling myself, as one loathsome Trump episode followed another, that “he’s still better than Hillary,” or that “there’s a chance he would surround himself with good advisers and pick good judges, which compares favorably to the certainty that Clinton will do harm.” But self-delusion has its limits. Today, atop the accumulation of lunacies and outrages to date, we have the truly insane “Lyin’ Ted’s dad conspired with Lee Harvey Oswald to assassinate JFK” bit. It indicates that my colleagues have been right, and I’ve been wrong, all along. Not only may Trump be unfit; he may be unhinged.

All that said, though, the thought that raced to mind when I read the Journal’s editorial was that they still don’t get why the Trump phenomenon happened.

Put aside whether Trump was the right vehicle. He clearly was not. That’s why I’ve understood the logic of #NeverTrump even if I didn’t agree with it. But why haven’t we had #NeverFundObamacare or #NotOnePennyOver$14Trillion (that’s $6 trillion ago if you’re keeping score). Where are the hashtags for firing or impeaching executive branch officials and slashing executive agency budgets over Fast & Furious, Benghazi, the IRS harassment of conservative groups, the conversion of the Justice Department into a political weapon (including against the nation’s police forces), the lawless executive orders on immigration-(non)enforcement, and so on.

Republicans won’t use the power they have on these fronts, and we make excuses for them. Can it really be that only Donald Trump should get the #Never treatment?

The blunt truth is that the Left demands scalps and Democrats scratch and claw until these demands are satisfied. The GOP’s conservative base asks for justice and accountability, and Republicans tell us, “What do you expect us to do? We’re only one-half of one-third of the government. We’re powerless to check the Left.”

Powerless, apparently, until the specter of electoral rout is upon us. At that point, the Wall Street Journal dutifully tells us that we must preserve the House GOP majority. You know, so we can check the Left.

From where I sit, the Democrats and the Republican establishment both tell me that the candidate championing the principles I believe in is “Lucifer in the flesh.” I still hope Ted Cruz will be the Republican nominee, but if he’s not, I may be happy to have a third-party alternative.

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