This has been a miserable primary season. We’ve gone through seventeen men and women who purportedly are the best and brightest lights of the Republican Party. Egads! If that’s true, the Republicans deserve and need final rites.
What we’ve seen in most cases is the consistent harping on egos, ids, unsecured ideas that can’t be paid for, rabble-rousing and racism, candidates relying on old information and on old voting blocs, not to mention old campaign tactics. Give each what he wants, forget you’ve said it, deny it as out of context, and pass on to the next group to whom you have to pander.
A more dishonest approach to winning the hearts and minds of voters cannot be imagined.
There were two candidates who kicked the old, frayed traces out of the way and forged ahead on their own. One, of course, was Donald Trump. In his case, it was less a matter of not understanding the issues than resolutely hanging onto the issues that mattered. He was not to be deflected by reality or truth or statistics or facts. He harangued, he shouted, he called people names, he spent not one hour learning anything about foreign policy or economics. His winning issue was fear: crying “Wolf!” in regards to China, Russia, North Korea, trade blocs, nuclear treaties, international terrorism. Daily he disdained his competition, belittling, laughing at, picking ammunition from national tabloids, rumor mills, and his memory, such as it is. And, in large part, he got as good as he gave. He was ridiculed, excoriated, made fun of, decried and warned against.
But the Donald stuck to his guns. Ignorance in this case allowed him total freedom to do and say nearly anything that came to his mind. His fellow candidates who made far too occasional and weak attempts at bringing him down were themselves diced and sliced and hung out to dry.
He made promises he knows he can’t keep. He rarely mentioned men or women of good character on whom he relied for advice of any kind. Richard Nixon got away with his secret plan for ending the war in Viet Nam. Donald got away with bombast, playing coy, and his own secret plans which he couldn’t reveal lest the enemy discover what he had in mind.
Voters had to take him as he was or not at all. They took him. We heard how undoubtedly Mr.Trump would surround himself with the best minds of the establishment, whoever they are. This was the only semi-rational excuse for ignoring Donald’s faults and empty spaces. “He tells it like it is.” Actually he told it the way he wanted it to be.
If in fact he becomes President, there are going to be millions of angry, disappointed fans who will feel belittled and betrayed. They believe he feels for them – the middle classes, the veterans, the poor, the disappointed.
Waking up in November is going to be a nightmare for them as they find Trump as hide-bound, establishmentarian, and slickly political as others whose performances over the years led to the appearance of Donald himself, determined to do only one thing: keep the rich on top, which in this case, means his family and a few friends.
The nation, decrying the Republican bait and switch of the past few years, is in for another bait and switch, perhaps the final one.
The second candidate who dared show consistency in his approach to the primaries was John Kasich. He chose to emphasize his experience –more than the rest of the field put together – and his warmth and humanity.
Here was a candidate for the millions of voters who feared that Trump would be an international embarrassment. Here was a sitting governor who had success. A former national legislator who had success. A candidate the Republican Party should have been proud to sponsor and get behind. A God-fearing righteous man who should have appealed to the myriad evangelicals about whom we kept hearing so much.
Kasich announced early he would not get down in the dirt. He didn’t. Apparently the Party feared that if his hands weren’t dirty, he wasn’t tough enough to win. We think, and thought all along, that by choosing to say No when everyone else was shouting Yes was strong, sensible, adult. The fact that his campaign consistently said Yes to the future as opposed to screaming Watch Out! we thought brave and far-sighted.
But flash, dash, and dirty pool overwhelmed Kasich’s best instincts. And whatever basic instincts for good exist within the Republican Party.
When Kasich “suspended” his campaign this week, he did so in as original a manner as we’ve seen or heard. He mentioned not one competitor. He had nothing to say about the Republican National Committee. He congratulated no one.
Good for him! He was neither martyr nor saint. He was, and remains, simply a Pilgrim who wants to do good works.
We think he will.