So at this point I am a RINO. I remain registered because I live in a deep blue state and believe firmly in the two party system. The occasional GOP governor (as we enjoy now) keeps the system honest.
My preferred GOP candidate is Kasich. His experience is is much deeper than the other candidates (this was frankly true even when there was a much wider field of candidates.) He espouses conservative values without being dogmatic and offensive – although he is not conservative enough for many in the party. The essence of politics in a republic is compromise and taking the best deal you can get. Maximalist positions will marginalized you. The GOP seems to have forgotten this which takes them on a path to defeat. Kasich could also plausibly beat Hillary – it is difficult to imagine Trump or Cruz doing so (barring some sort of Hillary scandal meltdown – which given the Clintons is not impossible.) That being said, Kasich has been painfully awkward on the campaign trail and one can see why he is not generating much enthusiasm. (And yes, his recent missteps are making it worse and worse.)
So the likelihood gives us Cruz or Trump. A fine conundrum for the party of Lincoln in the world’s greatest democracy. I despise Donald Trump – I’ve said it before many times, no need to go into it. Cruz is hardly a compelling alternative. He is not moderate and there is something fundamentally dislikable about him and his actions do little I’ve wondered about this interplay between surface appearance and people’s hearts before. As for his actual positions… two words: gold standard.
Cruz is a smart guy, Princeton and Harvard. One expects politicians to say all kinds of BS. (They all promise that they will get better deals from other countries or make congress get things done. Most have some ludicrous stand on some policy issue or other. Fine, that’s the business they’ve chosen.) But the gold standard is absolute lunacy. It would up-end the international financial system in all sorts of really bad, bad ways with no upside. If Cruz really believes it, then he’s pretty nutty. If he doesn’t and is just saying it because it makes some constituency happy, well – is that kind of worse?
But if it has to be Trump or Cruz, well, I guess Cruz.
A democratic republic relies on rules of the road. There are actions that players within our system do not take. Presidents always push for authority against Congress (and other institutions). But usually only so far. The epitome perhaps was President Andrew Jackson responding to a Supreme Court ruling by says, “John Marshall has made his decision. Now let him enforce it.”
What happens in a president simply refuses to do what Congress or the Supreme Court orders. There is a lot of push and pull in this, but it is rare to blatantly disregard Constitutional authorities. Presidents that start doing this will provoke crises – that will not be fun.
My fear with Trump is that if frustrated with Congress, he will summon a mob. I don’t think he can upend our system, but I don’t want to watch this process. It will be ugly. Assuming Trump plays the game more carefully, what he is likely to do is make lots of noise about key issues.
Now this is part of politics. Voltaire wrote that medicine is the art of humoring the patient while nature takes its course. So is politics, that’s fine. But Trump will inject more bad feeling and anger into our system.
Do I believe that Cruz is a secret insider who will turn establishment where Trump will not? Hardly, rather I think he will suck at trying to upend the system. His appeals for action will be less effective.
But yes, he will probably show a greater tendency to play within the rules. We are less likely to have mobs formed or impeachment hearing. I think politics over the next decade is going to be plenty nasty without any of that – so I’d rather skip it.
Let me be clear – this is not a full-throated endorsement – or any kind of endorsement. I think I’d vote for Sanders before either of these guys. Seriously (even though I have huge problems with him as well.)
Update: Dana Milbank in The Washington Post makes the exact same argument I make – better of course – but still the same.