Guest Editorial: Hiring Donald Trump
If you think of the presidential primaries as a hiring process for nominees, the Republican Party is about to offer the job to Donald Trump. As they say in the executive suite when a personnel crisis arises: Alert the folks in human resources.
While there was plenty of interest in the presidential position, the interviewers — the voters — have settled on a candidate with neither appropriate experience nor a coherent governing philosophy. Instead, he brims with outrageous promises and makes statements that sound at times like he’s ignorant of the law (killing the families of terrorists), disconnected from economic reality (demanding that American companies open factories at home) and callous to women and minorities (his sexist put-downs and proposed ban on allowing Muslims into the country).
Sigh. Is HR on the phone yet?
Maybe Trump’s tantalizing vow to “make America great again” and his ability to connect with angry, disenfranchised Republicans (and, yes, even some Democrats) qualifies him for a position as a marketing whiz. “Trump” these days is the most famous name in real estate, steaks and narcissism. But hire a businessman and reality TV star as CEO of our multitrillion-dollar government? No thanks. We do not want to see Donald Trump become president of the United States of America, nor even the Republican nominee. As an apprentice — to name-check his former show — he doesn’t have sufficient potential to grow into the job.
Yet on Tuesday night, Trump cleared a major hurdle to securing the nomination with his convincing victory in Indiana over Sen. Ted Cruz, who immediately quit the race. Gov. John Kasich, Trump’s only remaining rival, dropped out Wednesday. There is now a direct path for Trump to reach the threshold of 1,237 delegates before July’s Republican convention in Cleveland, and to win the nomination on the first ballot.
Trump got this far through vigorous showmanship and a focused message to dyspeptic voters, blasting some surprisingly ineffective competitors out of his way. His appeal among disaffected Republican primary voters is intensely visceral: He’d arrive in Washington a billionaire businessman in a hurry and get things done. After years of gridlock in Washington, who doesn’t find the idea of an outsider appealing? The Democrats have their own in Sen. Bernie Sanders.
But once nominated, the numbers would start to work against Trump. He would be the most divisive presidential nominee of our time. Against even a flawed Democratic challenger, Hillary Clinton, Trump is a significant underdog. His core constituency of white, socially conservative, working-class voters isn’t big enough to get him to victory Nov. 8. About two-thirds of voters view him unfavorably, according to the RealClearPolitics average of opinion polls.
Through the primary season, a majority of Republicans and many conservatives rejected him. Stuart Stevens, a former Mitt Romney strategist, says Trump is “unbalanced.” Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens uses a literary reference about upchucking to describe his feelings about a Trump candidacy.
They see what we see: Trump is an undisciplined political neophyte who loves the limelight and promises big changes, most of which appear either implausible or too vague to take seriously.
What would a Trump loss to Clinton mean for the fractured GOP? Maybe not so much. Both parties have been shellacked in presidential elections and bounced back. In 1964, President Lyndon Johnson, a Democrat, creamed Republican challenger Barry Goldwater. In 1972, against incumbent Richard Nixon, Democrat George McGovern carried only Massachusetts and the District of Columbia. And in 1984, Republican President Ronald Reagan lost only D.C. and Minnesota to Walter Mondale, D-Minn.
There is no incumbent this year, so you have to go back to 1928 to find a closer potential comparison: Republican Herbert Hoover in a landslide over Democrat Al Smith. More recently, things looked bleak for the Republicans after Barack Obama’s 2008 victory, but then came their 2010 congressional victories.
Analysis has failed everyone this election cycle. All you can say for certain is that Trump is a unique character whose success or failure isn’t a true reflection of the Republican Party. At this point, the GOP’s energy might be best directed at figuring out what it wants to look like after Trump leaves the stage.
We’re still holding out hope that Republicans will find the will, and a way, to replace Trump at the convention. Maybe like this: Dear Mr. Trump: Thank you for your interest in the position. Unfortunately, your qualifications do not meet our needs at this time.