by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
I can’t think of a U.S. election since the Civil War where neither of the main candidates has been either conservative or Republican. Until now.
Donald Trump never properly pretended to be a conservative but, until last week, he was notionally a Republican. True, he had come late and maliciously to the GOP. The party was, if you like, the victim of a hostile takeover. Still, he seemed content to use its structures and demand the support of its officers.
Not anymore. In the solipsistic stream-of-consciousness style that Trump uses on Twitter, he has lashed out at “disloyal Rs,” including “foul-mouthed Sen. John McCain” and “our very weak and ineffective leader, Paul Ryan.” Of course, the Donald was always a quasi-independent candidate, and many of those “disloyal Rs” had in fact displayed heroic restraint in overlooking his constant attacks on them.
Now though, he is, as Sarah Palin might put it, refudiating them anyway. “It’s so nice that the shackles have been taken off me and I can now fight for America the way I want to.” Seriously? There were shackles before? We were dealing with a restrained, moderate version of the Donald? God help us.
Where does this leave mainstream Republican voters? No one is even claiming to speak to or for them anymore. They are faced with two humourless, 70-year-old, artificially blond New Yorkers, both long-standing Democrat supporters, both with serious questions about their character, honesty and finances, both unfit for office. I don’t say “unfit for office” lightly. Trump and Hillary plainly see the presidency as a bauble rather than as a high and humbling office. Even if, in some parallel universe, they were the most upright, frugal and selfless of people, that sense of entitlement alone would debar them.
Many Americans, not just conservatives, will cast essentially negative ballots. The only real argument for Hillary Clinton is that she is not Donald Trump. The only real argument for Donald Trump is that he is not Hillary Clinton. Neither argument is convincing. If someone is not fit for office, it doesn’t matter that someone else may be even worse.