The ‘Probably Not Trump’ movement

by John Burris ([email protected]) 437 views 

There’s a movement on Twitter called “Never Trump.” It’s the Internet manifestation of the way many Republicans are feeling in June 2016, since our presumptive nominee has spent his life supporting Democrats and has now hijacked our party at exactly the wrong time.

A few have declared their intent to never surrender to the Trump-train. The most prominent on my social media accounts are Arkansas State Representative Nate Bell and United States Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE). Some others are blindly following. Some are rationalizing, saying anyone is better than a Clinton.

I’m sympathetic to rationalize and do it often, but today I find myself in a fourth camp. Call it “Probably not Trump.” I’m there because he’s a terrible human being, as crass as LBJ but enriched with money legally stolen from others and living in a digital world that reveals him for what he is. Most of the terrible things about him have already been said.

Examples of his insecurities and instabilities are rampant.

He’s insulted the character of Mitt Romney and George W. Bush. Maybe one politician insulting another is a small offense, but I consider it large since I respect them both. Trump’s staff is filled with people who have long worked in the underbelly of campaigns and enjoy the politics of politics more than anything else. It’s common, but dangerous. Most of all, Trump just seems like someone I would meet and never want to be around again. He’s entertaining, but only from a distance and only for a moment. He’s not a president and he’s not a Republican.

But still, actual Republicans must face reality and make a decision. Is Trump, despite it all, less damaging to the country than Hillary Clinton? I’m beginning to think maybe not, at least in the long-term.

His flaws are very real. Yes, everyone has them, but he fails to conceal or control them. There are two real jobs of any president: commanding the military and projecting America’s image across the world. I don’t trust Trump to do either.

Propping him up and plugging our ears will only prolong the damage. My country and my party might be better off to admit we lost this round before it even started. Congress can still be the firewall to President Clinton, and history proves you can lose a battle but still win a war. Reagan could not have beaten Carter if Ford had not lost to him first. It’s not ideal. It’s just possibly more ideal than the alternative that does lasting damage to two things I love.

I think I understand all the arguments for why I might be wrong. One is Supreme Court Justices, since the next president will make several nominations. But I don’t think Trump will nominate conservatives, so that settles that, at least for me. Another is all of the power and patronage that comes with controlling the White House. Republicans have lived without executive control for eight years. We can live for a few more.

The most compelling case to support Trump has nothing to do with him. It’s the team-sport nature of politics. It goes that the principles of our team beat the principles of their team, so we’re better off with the worst of ours over the best of theirs. I’m sympathetic, and have made the argument often.

In 2012, as the former House Republican Leader and then campaign chairman for the caucus, I spent the weekend before the November election going door-to-door in Garland County for Rep. Loy Mauch, a nice man but a Confederate defender. In between doors, I was fielding phone calls defending Rep. Jon Hubbard, despite his idiotic remarks on slavery. I even defended Charlie Fuqua, challenging a friendly Democratic incumbent, who advocated for stoning children for disobedience. All three men lost, as did countless other Republicans we thought would win, probably in part because of bad candidates tarnishing a good brand.

But at the time, I defended them all. Not because I believed in them, but because I believed a Republican majority in the Arkansas legislature could do great things. The damage an individual member could do on their own was limited, but the impact of their vote on team objectives was critical. That’s why politics is a team-sport.

The Presidency, however, is not. One man can do much damage. Since principles should dictate party, there’s no obligation to support a man who hijacked a principled party for his own self-gain. And it’s certainly not principled to blindly follow that man off of an electoral cliff. Perhaps we should brace for the impact of the crash that’s coming, instead of haughtily proclaiming loyalty to the pilot instead of the passengers.

For Republicans, it’s possible that a good retreat may be better than a bad stand, as the saying goes.

I’ve been told to never say never and always avoid always. I could be convinced that President Trump serves the long-term interests of Republicans and the country. Until then, for me, it’s probably not Trump. I don’t feel strongly enough to debate it much. It’s just kind of where I am.

I’m bracing for impact, but hoping another pilot comes along.