As last week’s primary results unfolded, I’ll admit that I was surprised on Tuesday evening when Ted Cruz dropped out of the race. It felt abrupt, though I don’t know exactly why I think that. He’d placed everything on the line in Indiana and had lost rather spectacularly. But I assumed that Cruz would stay in it for a few more rounds of abuse.
Which is not to say that I had enthusiasm for Cruz as a candidate. I’d never cast a ballot for him as dog catcher, let alone president, but his presence allowed me to continue the pipe dream that Donald Trump doesn’t truly have a shot at running for the White House as a major party candidate. Then Cruz left the race; the next day, John Kasich followed and suddenly Donald F. Trump looks like the Republican nominee for president.
I can’t even.
By Thursday, some Republicans were making their peace with the fact that their primary voters have gone nuts. While most mainstream Republicans held the line and refused to actively support Trump, some on the fringes have expressed support. Then Speaker of the House Paul Ryan emerged to say that he’s not yet ready to endorse Trump. Ryan’s position is that his party must stand for something and offer an affirmative policy agenda. That’s a respectable idea. Though I suspect that policy agenda isn’t something I will come to support, it’s at least something the nation's voters can think about and explore.
It’s a far cry from Trump’s pledge to build a wall, torture our enemies, bring back jobs lost because of free market trade, ban Muslims, or his Friday morning suggestion that the United States simply re-structure our debts and pay cents on the dollar, as if making America great is as simple as a Chapter 13 filing. The problem with Ryan’s policy notions is that right now such thoughts are a pipe dream; the GOP has no affirmative agenda because they have no responsible center. Ryan’s party is fractured and angry. Trump may have won many of the primary votes within the GOP but let’s not forget that more primary voters cast ballots for his opponents then cast ballots for him. He’ll take a few self-congratulatory victory laps and then I expect reality to come crashing down on T-rump and the rest of his party.
Reality is that the Republican party has for years collected the support of voters for whom they were prepared to do next-to-nothing. From the Reagan Democrats who emerged in the 1980s to the Christian conservatives who believe they represent a silent majority, the GOP has cultivated these votes with nary an effort to make a return on the voters’ investment. Now those voters are angry and have turned to a charlatan candidate in the form of a smug, privileged millionaire who says whatever he pleases. Your party is reaping what you’ve sown, Mr. Ryan, and it’s not just you but the nation who will have to pay for those decisions.
Thanks a lot.