WASHINGTON: Republicans who are thinking of opposing President Donald Trump in the first 2020 face the toughest political options.
Hitting a president sitting by his own party is a maneuver with greater difficulty. The most relevant historical model is probably the career of Eugene McCarthy against Lyndon Johnson in 1968, which helped convince a politically injured president to retire. But McCarthy had a clear policy: opposition to an increasingly unpopular war and appealed to a discontented element of his party.
What are your hands for a challenge for Trump? Economic conservatives are generally happy with the 2017 tax cuts. Social conservatives are generally satisfied with Trump's legal candidates (and should be). The foreign policy conservatives are generally not satisfied with the sabotage of Trump alliances, their compulsive personal diplomacy and their abdication of leadership in the promotion of American values. But the establishment of republican foreign policy was almost uniformly opposed to Trump the last time and nothing mattered.
So why take up this difficult political task perhaps disgrace?
In the first place, no political moment is permanent. After a particularly harmful administrative scandal (not improbable) or a serious economic downturn, a desperate search could suddenly seem a remarkable political prediction. Or not. But no alternative to Trump can benefit from changing circumstances if he or she does not run in the first place. Fortune favors the little irrational.
Secondly, the report by Robert Mueller and a series of investigations of the Congress could destabilize the personality of Trump in overwhelming and disturbing ways. The president could move against important institutions, or against the separation of powers, so that it causes a serious part of the Republican electorate to reconsider its blind support. Not holding your breath, but who could judge this impossible?
Third, even in the absence of a policy, there are elements within the GOP that appear to be open to a counter-Trump message. In a recent poll, 16 percent of Republicans prefer that Trump be a one-term president. On the medium-term evidence, this discontent improves young people and women. Many of these voters, presumably, are less focused on Trump's tax policy, and much more in their racism and misogyny. It's at least one place to start.
In this phase of the 2020 campaign, the Republican case against Trump is not primarily about politics or ideology (although it could be finally). It is not primarily about his ignorance and refusal to learn and improve in his work (though that is the case). The main Republican argument against Trump is this: He is a horrible person who corrupts everyone around him, undermines the essential social standards and marks his party with an image of fanaticism that will last for a generation.
The problem with Democrats making this argument about Trump's character is simple. To leave the president in favor of a Democrat, Republican voters are obliged, not only to value public character, but to value public character above conservative economic policy and above the appointment of conservative judges. And I thought it bothers me to say that not many Republicans put a lot of weight on matters of character. Trump plus Justice Brett Kavanaugh will take over any Democrats of impassable integrity. If any of the great Republican prospects – Nikki Haley, Jeff Flake, Bob Coker, Mitt Romney or John Kasich – run against Trump, Republican primary voters will face the challenge: why not a conservative policy and a public character?
This is the main reason why some Republicans on that list (or some talented candidate still unknown) should run. There must be an alternative focus of intellectual energy and moral leadership in the United States party on the right. This is the one that can hold a presidential campaign – successful or not. For those who say it is useless to protest the leadership of the GOP, a campaign embodies the answer: "Well I protest anyway." For those who say that traditional conservatism is a lost cause, it represents the answer: "Not for me." For those who claim that the effort can not be successful, he says: "First we deserve success, see where we are doing an honorable effort."
At some point, there must be a limit to the political calculation. The story has a role of honor for those who show courage seemingly useless. Someone in American law must argue that racism and sexism violate the promise in the heart of America. Someone should be offended when national ideals are degraded by cruelty and corruption. Someone must be willing to challenge the good political sense in a great political cause.
The email address of Michael Gerson is [email protected]
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