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In Case of Glass, Break Trump

The chance for the GOP to stop Trump’s nomination is narrowing rapidly.

Maybe everybody except Ben Carson should drop out. I mean, it seems as plausible as any other plan to stop the current frontleader of the GOP race for the abnomination. Whoops—too late, he’s finally bowing out. Maybe the Super PACites can hold a meeting and turn everything around? Maybe throw a Romney speech at the problem.

The junior varsity candidates tried variously to out-bully a bully, to paint him as non-conservative, and to scare their voters with tales of a Clinton victory, but it’s yielded no fruit. How should they proceed?

Maybe they can paint the leader as too potent. They can claim that a Trump victory, with America winning so much that we have to change our name to the United States of Win, would make the country complacent. Losing builds character, they could say.

Or maybe they can look to Walt Disney and promise, not a wall, boring concrete with razorwire atop? Promise a coast-to-coast rollercoaster. Get people with a thing for adrenaline pay for it! Biggest coaster ever. $20 per ride times the population of the USA is six, seven billion. Add in the T-shirt revenues and a mandatory annual pilgrimage to the coaster, they could solve our tax imbalance while they’re at it.

Okay, maybe not. They hate mandates. What else is there, though?

What’s that? Behind the glass? A book of new talking points and policies. The risk of alienating their base (who have already defected to join the Trumpercoaster wing). The risk of sounding reasonable on issues from immigration to abortion to tax to climate. Nah, too much like the Churchill quote (‘… after they’ve tried everything else.’).

They have no strong way to get Kasich to drop out. States from Super Tuesday where either Kasich or Carson could be described as spoiler:

  • Virginia
  • Arkansas

But you can’t pin it on either one, as if Rubio had gotten either’s votes in Virginia he would have won; same for Cruz in Arkansas. But with Carson leaving, Kasich may be harder to oust: he did get some silver medals, and he can say that Carson, the spoiler, is gone. But Carson’s small share may not go all to Cruz or Rubio.

Cruz and Rubio have their horns locked together (in the contests, if not the debates) even as they feebly kick in Trump’s direction. And even if they all ganged up on Trump, it doesn’t appear that the voters would change their minds that much.

If Rubio dropped out, it might not even help if the votes split or went to Kasich instead of Cruz. If Cruz dropped out, it’s not clear that Trump wouldn’t pick up a lot of his votes.

Rubio came in second in two contests (narrowly in Georgia, over Cruz, and Virginia). Cruz came in second in four (Tennessee, Alabama, Arkansas, and Minnesota). Trump in three (Texas, Oklahoma, and Alaska). Kasich in two (Massachusetts and Vermont).

It’s just hard to see what the Republicans can really do here. Rubio won’t drop out. Cruz won’t drop out. And Kasich may, but it probably won’t help.

It’s really hard to see how Rubio could win, as even if he takes Trump down, he has to do it in a way that doesn’t benefit Cruz. If Cruz could take Trump down, he might actually win, but his politics make it a tougher task.

That leaves the convention rules. Good luck with that brokered convention.

Good luck!

GOP Debate Ten

Rubio and Cruz misunderstand Trump, so their attacks are ill-targeted. While they may fire up their own voters, they probably won’t make Trump’s supporters care.

Rubio thinks he finally hit the piñata. But, come Super Tuesday, he’ll still be looking for the candy. Cruz tried to pin the donkey on Trump’s tail, but he’ll be lucky to come out with a win in Texas.

Why? They slammed Trump on all sorts of issues, from his labor practices to his business practices to the fact that he (also) repeats himself. Why won’t Trump just fall down like a regular politician?

The problem is, Rubio and Cruz think Trump is a regular politician. They think his rhetoric is the same weak sauce that politicians have peddled for years. But they’ve made a grave error in not hearing Trump clearly. They have failed to understand why Trump is winning, and attacking him (at least, as they have) is not the best way to stop him.

Trump does appeal because of his bravado, but there’s more to it than that. This is a Republican candidate that actually says Planned Parenthood does positive things for women. If Rubio or Cruz said that, they’d be kaput. But Trump says it from a different place. He says it and it comes off as honest and without the strings attached to things that politicians say.

Then Rubio and Cruz attack him for holding what they paint as a negative, the people just don’t take it to heart. Because the attack assumes that you already disagree with Trump, which his supporters don’t.

But Planned Parenthood is small potatoes compared to Trump’s real issues, and Cruz and Rubio have failed to attack those or co-opt them. Big issues like trade deficits, sure, but the biggest issue that Trump rallies people with is: Trump acknowledges that people are getting a raw deal in a very specific way.

Like Sanders, Trump is pointing at corruption of money in politics. But he’s also pointing at trade. He’s pointing at illegal immigration. He’s not the Great Oz, but he’s Dorothy telling everyone that the Great Oz—the American Dream—is just a humbug from Omaha. That the rally cry of the Republicans has been a big stage show.

To Trump supporters, Cruz and Rubio are just a couple of winged monkeys, swooping and screeching. The traditional Republican line isn’t a good fit.

Via Politico: 25 February 2016: “11 most interesting moments of the GOP debate”:

Rubio accused Trump of having just five lines. “Everyone’s dumb, he’s going to make America great again. Win, win, win. He’s winning in the polls. And the lines around the states,” Rubio said, mocking the front-runner. “Every night. Same thing.”

The problem with Rubio’s attack is that he underestimates the key lines:

  • Everyone’s dumb
  • Make America Great Again
  • Win, win, win

That everyone includes Rubio. Trump claims that the whole damn system is distorted, and it’s hard to disagree with that, even if you do disagree about how he’ll probably try to fix it. But folks like Rubio and Cruz don’t make that case. Cruz tries a little, but still falls back on agreement with the establishment too often to be believed.

Those three lines (the poll thing—bravado; the lines around the states is not one of Trump’s greatest hits—a b-side at best) all say basically the same thing: “Hey, voter, these guys [China, Mexico, Obama, the establishment, etc.] are taking you for a ride. I want to stop that from happening and make them pay.”

Cruz and Rubio just say, “Obama is taking you for a ride, so replace him with a Republican rider.” And, as long as they do, they will have a very hard time, attacks be damned, of making inroads with Trump supporters.

Or I’m wrong. We’ll find out Tuesday.

A Supreme Court Vacancy in an Election Year

The vacancy is going to be tough on the GOP, which is why they’ll probably confirm a moderate liberal justice long before the election.

First, although I disagreed with many of Justice Scalia’s opinions, both legal and otherwise, may he rest in peace and have the best of luck in his future endeavors.

The fact is that a vacancy in the Supreme Court is just that, and we ought to fill it. Why?

  1. If there’s another hanging chad election a la Florida 2000, a Bush v. Gore in 2016 would get deadlocked in the Supreme Court and the appellant thereto would lose. In the case of Bush v. Gore, Bush would have lost if there had been a conservative vacancy in the court. The decision was divisive enough as it was, but to have the case decided by anything less than the top court would have made it that much worse.
  2. If there are splits in cases of original jurisdiction to the Supreme Court, of which there have been two in the history of the court, unlike appeals where the lower ruling stands, flip a coin. In one case they let it gather dust, while in the other they delivered an order despite the split—a sort of tie goes to whomever situation—only to overrule themselves later.
  3. The splits on appeal are almost as bad, leaving the law different depending on the circuit, at least until a whole Supreme Court can come to a decision (or the split is broken).
  4. For standing cases, the court may follow the argle-bargle approach as with original jurisdiction: sometimes rehearing once a full bench is present, other times affirming-by-split.

In other words, leaving the vacancy and dealing with the fallout is very much a kludge.

Arguments that the Republicans could benefit by stalling and hoping a Republican wins the 2016 election (and/or that the Senate stays in Republican hands) are worth examining, too.

  1. If the Democrats retake the Senate, the stalling is a loss: they can confirm a replacement (either before the next president is sworn in, or, at their option, letting the next president nominate someone else).
  2. Stalling will hurt marginal GOP Senate candidates. This leads right back to the first list item, but this harm goes beyond the SCOTUS balance. If the elections are close anyway, bad optics can tilt the scales. And Senate elections in presidential years tend to be closer.
  3. Stalling will hurt the GOP nominee for president. They will have to stand before the people and argue that they know the perfect judge that deserves the seat. They, essentially, want to pick the winner and loser. But they also will have to basically state that if they win, they won’t nominate anybody in their last year. It’s just constitutional mutilation.

But the GOP has to save face. The rest of their base, outside the handful of Senate seats, will send more Cruzites to muck things up even more for them if they can’t deflect the idea that they caved to President Obama.

I suspect that Obama will announce the nomination of a fairly moderate liberal. The Senate will wring its hands, shooting off a lot of fireworks from folks like Senator Cruz. They will find some way to save face, possibly by wearing welding masks, but will eventually move forward on the nomination.