WASHINGTON, D.C. - I have bad news and I have bad news.
First, the bad news: The Republican Party has not been able to stop Donald Trump because the Republican Party is morally responsible for Donald Trump.
Now, more bad news: The Democratic Party will not be able to stop Donald Trump because the Democratic Party is politically responsible for Donald Trump.
I am not saying that Trump is going to be the next president of the United States. I am out of the prediction business. I am in the warning business.
What I am saying is that if Trump completes his seizure of the Republican Party, the Democrats will be no more able to stop Trump in the general election than the Republicans were in the primaries. If Trump is then vanquished in the general election, it will be in spite of the Democrats, not because of the Democrats.
Trump will have to be defeated by political forces separate and greater than the corrupt and failed two-party duopoly.
Trump voters believe one thing fervently: Both parties are dirty.
The vast majority of voters agree completely. They differ on whom they dislike and mistrust more.
The duopoly has earned the contempt it is held in. For 30 years, both parties have promiscuously feasted on polarization and unlimited special interest money; they’ve replaced governing with campaigning. Their toxic partisanship has dragged down American’s trust in all government – Congress, the Supreme Court, the presidency.
The crooked duopoly cannot be trusted to stop Trump because it delivered this plague upon us.
Republicans bear much more blame for Trumpism – moral blame. Here’s why:
- Since Richard Nixon and his henchmen launched the GOP “southern strategy” in the 1960s, the party has used racist rhetoric and policies to attract lower and working class white voters. Trump has merely turned up the volume and polished the delivery.
- Republican policies and economic reality have left these same voters worse off than they were 30 years ago while the top of the money chain has flourished. Economic inequality is greater now than in the Roaring ’20s.
- The Republican leadership has empowered and bamboozled two far-right factions – religious archconservatives and small government zealots. The party has not been able to deliver what it promised to either of these loud constituencies, for obvious reasons: the vast majority of Americans, increasingly secular or unaffiliated with traditional religion, disagree with the religious conservatives; a substantially smaller government is not realistic for a diverse nation of 322 million people in a globalized economy and a dangerous world.
- Republicans in Congress adapted an unprecedented policy of legislative obstruction during the Obama administration, despite the severity of the Great Recession and the national security challenges facing the country.
- Republican legislation and jurisprudence have completely deregulated the finances of elections so that individuals with great wealth or fundraising capacity can bypass traditional political gatekeepers.
- The unpopular and unsuccessful war in Iraq was the work of a Republican president, legitimized and marketed by the party’s neoconservative intellectual elite and embraced by Republican legislators.
- Finally and simply, Republican powers and leaders did not even seriously try to stop Trump until after Super Tuesday. So far those efforts have been uncoordinated and half-baked. Worse, they have lacked any moral or patriotic class.
With respect to Trump, the sins of the Democrats are more political than moral, though not exclusively so:
- Democrats have had no more success than Republicans in addressing the stagnant plight of lower and middle income Americans; they have been just as attentive to the 1% as the Republicans. Obamacare was a huge and important exception.
- With cowardice, Democrats were too quick to ditch President Obama when poll numbers went south early in his administration.
- The party failed to develop a next generation of national leaders and is about to nominate a badly beaten up candidate, someone it is easy to imagine losing to Donald Trump.
All together, this adds up to an obvious truth: Only a nut would trust the discredited two-party duopoly to dump Trump.
So what is to be done?
Republicans can’t give up on the nomination, though time is about to run out.
The party needs to come to grips with the fact that a brokered convention is now the only way to stop Trump; no one else can get a majority of delegates. The party must figure out how to give John Kasich a win in Ohio and deny Trump a win in Florida. Then they need to deprive Trump of enough states to keep him under 50 percent. In some states, they will have to convince either Kasich or Cruz to bow out; in late states like New Jersey and California, they should immediately recruit favorite son or daughter candidates.
If Trump gets the Republican nomination, one can only hope that there is a hidden reservoir of establishment power that can convince their SuperPACs and Koch brother networks to sit out the 2016 general instead of carpet-bombing Hillary Clinton. And one can only hope that there is a cadre of Republicans who will lead their own #NeverTrump campaign.
The Democrats will need that help and more. We all will.