One is if he doesn’t win. The other is if he does.
If Donald Trump doesn’t win the White House, there will be plenty of reasons why.
He is a flawed candidate, obviously. The electoral map has been problematic for Republicans since the 1990’s. The party hasn’t been able to adapt to the changing demographics of the country.
But should Trump lose it will be the #NeverTrump brigades that will be made the collective scapegoat. Pundits, party regulars and Trump partisans will point to the disloyalty of the likes of Bill Kristol and Mitt Romney as the reason why the Republicans couldn’t beat a flawed candidate like Hillary Clinton.
Of course, Kristol will blame Trump, and the endless circular firing squad will either split the party forevermore, or exhaust it just in time to give Hillary a second term.
Bill Kristol has been feverishly looking for a third party challenger to jump in the race to stop Trump, in the long-shot hope that Paul Ryan could decide who the next President is in the House of Representatives (which is what happens when the Presidential race ends up without a majority winner).
But if Kristol successfully recruits a sucker to become the sacrificial lamb for a Hillary win, who will bear the blame when the Clintons waltz back into the White House? Well, it will be Bill Kristol.
And the recriminations that flow from that kind of debacle will postpone any discussion of how the party truly needs to fix itself to become more competitive at the Presidential level.
What if Trump wins, despite the opposition from the #NeverTrump forces? In many ways, it would be even worse for them because they will become totally marginalized. They will forever be outsiders as the GOP morphs into a working class party, anti-elitist to its core and hostile to the forces of globalization.
Can you imagine how completely irrelevant the Weekly Standard would rapidly become should Donald Trump win? Trump would be the face of the new conservatism, a conservatism based more on the aspirations of middle class voters, who want more economic and personal security from their government and are less eager to embrace globalists who care more about their expansive economic theories than they do about the cost of bread at Walmart.
I have heard from some conservatives that under no circumstances would they go work in a Trump Administration. They would shun government service that they would otherwise embrace if it were a Romney or Rubio Administration.
That seems short-sighted to me. It seems that if the voters put in place somebody who has little if any government experience, that it becomes even more important to have competent people serve their country, to protect against potential abuses.
I am not of the opinion that the Republic would fail if the voters select somebody like Trump and if Trump turns out the half as bad as some conservative pundits would have you believe, there are plenty of legal mechanisms to either contain his worse impulses (the Congress and the Supreme Court, for example) or remove him from office should his transgressions become too toxic.
But I don’t think Trump is going to be that bad. I think he says many things for effect. I think he likes to get a rise out of his political opponents. The fact that he is so clearly a non-politician is his greatest strength and his greatest weakness.
One thing is certain. If Trump wins, the #NeverTrumpians become completely irrelevant. Maybe that’s a good thing. But maybe it isn’t. I know a lot of good folks who can’t bring themselves to vote for Trump and that’s their constitutional right. But many of these folks could play an important role in making the government work better for the American people, even in a Trump Administration. Which may or may not become a reality.