03 March 2016

A modest proposal for Mitt Romney

What on earth makes Mitt Romney think he can stop Donald Trump by giving a speech? Whose minds, exactly, does Romney think he can change? It's more likely that Romney's intervention will only make Trump supporters double down, while it might make still-skeptical Tea Partiers, those sticking to Sens. Cruz or Rubio, to reconsider their resistance to The Donald. To many Republicans, and many conservatives outside the party, Romney is the embodiment of a GOP establishment incapable of motivating the hidden majority -- those traditionalist Americans who've allegedly remained aloof from politics because no one really represents their reactionary values -- the way Trump seems to have or promises to do. Romney himself now seems to believe in a hidden majority of his own: the center-rightists who secured his nomination in 2012 but presumably stand aloof now because all the remaining contenders, except perhaps for Gov. Kasich, are too far to the right. Romney failed, however, to do the one practical thing he could do at this moment and endorse one of Trump's three remaining rivals, instead saying that any of them would be better, and have a better chance of beating Hillary Clinton, than Trump. It might have been more practical still for Romney to skip the speech and use whatever influence he still has to convince two candidates to drop out and turn the race into a mano-a-mano that Trump would be more likely to lose. It's a pretty good guess, however, that neither Rubio nor Kasich is willing to stand down in favor of Trump's strongest rival, the almost equally despised Cruz. The Republican situation now is the reverse of what it was when Romney won the nomination four years ago. Then, the insurgents were divided while the "establishment" was united behind Romney. Now, insurgents are coalescing around Trump while the establishment remains divided. And on the other side of the Republican divide, no one wants to listen to a loser insult Trump. This is what the "establishment" candidates still don't get. The reason their attacks on Trump haven't seemed to work is because the attacks are coming from them, and thus can be dismissed on ad hominem principles. The Stop Trump forces need to find a credible "outsider" spokesman willing to take the fight to Trump on his own terms, as a spokesman if not a candidate, or else there's one thing Romney could do to get the Trumpeteers' attention at a level they can comprehend.

Mitt Romney, as everyone knows, is a pretty rich guy, if not as rich as Trump. He's telling Republicans now that Trump is sure to get beat in the general election. So what? many will answer; so did you, Mitt. What Romney should do now is tell people that Trump will get beat worse than he did, and put some money behind the prediction. If he's so confident that Trump will be crushed in November, let him bet an appropriate amount of money, at least seven figures -- not to give to Trump, but to donate to some charity chosen by rank-and-file Republicans -- that Trump will get fewer electoral and/or popular votes than he did in 2012. If that happens, Trump makes the big donation and Romney can look toward 2020 with the same sort of "I told you so" line Jeb Bush is sure to offer. If Romney loses the bet, it's unlikely he could look much worse to the TPs than he does already, and if Trump actually wins the election Romney may still be able to say he told them so four years later if President Trump effs up as badly as many expect. This is the sort of pro wrestling level challenge that would actually intrigue Trump's fans, and you might well see some pressure placed on Trump to take the bet and prove his monetary manhood. The idea may sound outlandish and unbecoming the dignity of a presidential election, but dignity is down the drain already and anti-Trump Republicans should be willing to try anything now. I won't even ask to be credited with the idea; consider it my bit of disinterested benevolence during the campaign season.

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