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April 30th, 2017

Insight

The dilemma of frightened Republicans

Wesley Pruden

By Wesley Pruden

Published Feb. 26, 2016

The Republicans ought to be comfortable in their catbird seat, surveying nothing but knee-high cotton, corn as high as an elephant's eye and blue skies for as far as anyone can see. They have the happy prospect of running against a Democratic foe awash in scandal and chicanery. Few voters like her, nobody trusts her and she seems as likely to land in prison as in the White House.

But the Grand Old Party dare not break out the bubbly, not just yet. It's caught in a curious dilemma. The party elites, with their hands on the familiar levers of the party apparatus, are the helpless hosts of a party they can't control. They huff and they puff and then huff some more, but at the end of the day they're only exhausted, frustrated, and out of breath.

Donald Trump, rude, coarse and profane, just keeps on winning, despite everything that everyone can do. The latest public-opinion polls show him leading everywhere between the Atlantic and the desert West on the eve of Super Tuesday. He's leading Mario Rubio in Florida and tied with Ted Cruz in Texas. Loyalty to the home boy doesn't count for much this year.

The Republican establishment, having seen that money doesn't seem to work - nearly a quarter of a billion dollars have been spent against the Donald so far - this week called in dozens of Republican office-holders to make ritual endorsements. Endorsers included mayors, aldermen, newspapers, sheriffs, senators, "formers" by the dozens and maybe even a few dog-catchers, all to say what a great president Marco Rubio would make. And so he might. But there's scant evidence that anybody's taking endorsements, one of the great fictions of American politics, at all seriously. Endorsements are the static in the conversation.

Even a former president of Mexico added his name to the lengthening roster of notabilities who "can't stand Trump." Vincente Fox, the former president, is angry at the prospect of Mexico having to pay for the wall the Donald promises to build to keep Senor Fox's countrymen on their side of the Rio Grande. "I'm not going to pay for that [blankety-blank] wall!," he says, employing both exclamation point and F-word.

"Democracy can't take [a President Trump]. Crazy people that don't know what is going on in the world today. This worries me, the last caucus in Nevada. He won 44 percent of Hispanics. I'd like to know who those Hispanics are, because they are followers of a false prophet. He's going to take them to the desert."

Barely a week after the pope was rebuked for butting into in an American presidential campaign with his claim that Donald Trump is not a Christian, a former president of Mexico campaigns against the leading candidate for president for suggesting that Mexico should pay for a wall to keep Mexicans at home. American elections have become the greatest show on earth. Nobody can resist being a buttinsky.

Mitt Romney, who wasted his own chance to be president four years ago, thinks only a bombshell, preferably of nuclear construction, can destroy the Trump campaign now. He thinks he knows there the party can find one. "Every time [Mr. Trump] is asked about his taxes he dodges and delays and says, 'Well, we're working on it.' We're not talking about the taxes that are coming due this year. We're talking about back taxes." He concedes there's a risk. He knows about tax trouble. Harry Reid led the IRS on an unsuccessful snipe hunt against him in 2012.

"We still haven't seen either Donald Trump's or Marco Rubio's or Ted Cruz's taxes and frankly," he says, "the voters have a right to see those taxes."

So desperate have the political and media elites become that a columnist for The New York Times suggested Thursday that only an assassin can stop the Donald. (Ross Douthat quickly apologized and said his Twitter tweet was only the bad joke of a twit.)

If only the Republican dilemma were but a joke. If the Donald goes through Super Tuesday like the draught of Epsom salts the elites have swallowed so far, those elites will have to consider finding a way to live with a nominee, like a spouse inherited from a shotgun wedding. There's little point in performing Hillary Clinton's opposition research. The elites tried that once, conniving with the media to make a pariah of their nominee. Barry Goldwater was even subjected to a head shrink by a battery of psychiatrists, all anonymously and by remote control, of course. To no one's surprise, they concluded unanimously that Barry was nuts. Mr. Goldwater lost to Lyndon B. Johnson, and the Vietnam war followed soon after.

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JWR contributor Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Washington Times.

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