Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty Dumpty had a great fall;
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men
Couldn’t put Humpty together again.
The Republican Party may be Humpty Dumpty. Republican wise men have been meeting to discuss what to do about Donald Trump. Deny him enough first ballot delegates to win, then turn elsewhere at a brokered convention? Run a true free market conservative against him as a third party candidate? Mitt Romney has urged Utah Republicans to vote for Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush has endorsed the odious Texan. Bill Kristol wrote from the American Enterprise Institute World Forum – attended by our own Governor Charlie Baker – that “A specter was haunting the World Forum—the specter of Donald Trump.”
Trump has projected rioting if he’s denied the nomination. A third party candidate would mean a Hillary Clinton victory. Neither option is a path to electoral vitality.
The free market conservative alternative is the brain child of Kristol and elites who talk to each other and come away believing that Republican voters want someone to cut taxes on the rich and slash regulations. They don’t. Consider this from David Frum, George W. Bush’s former speechwriter: “The Republican rank and file are trying to signal that what they want is more secure health care, fewer wars and less immigration. And the party elite keeps saying, right, what you want is less secure health care, more wars and more immigration.”
No, a candidate who takes the party line on the radical rich tax cutting and deregulation agenda isn’t going to lure Trump voters back. As the conservative Charles Murray wrote of working class whites in the Wall Street Journal: “the party they have voted for in recent decades, the Republicans, hasn’t done a damn thing to help them.”
The chaos atop the ticket is a distraction from the inability of the party in government to govern. In 2015 rebellious Tea Partiers in the House finally rid themselves of Speaker John Boehner. The next in line, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, was also unacceptable to the far right. Finally Paul Ryan agreed to serve as Speaker, reluctantly. It was the first time in memory that a politician had to be begged to take the second most powerful job in American electoral politics. As a reward, the House Freedom Caucus recently undermined Ryan’s budget plan.
Over on the Senate side, the Republican caucus seems more loyal to the agenda of Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The problem is that McConnell has no agenda other than, if Obama is in favor, we should block it. Former George W. Bush White House ethics lawyer Richard W. Painter wrote in the New York Times that if Bush was in the political situation facing President Obama right now, W. would have nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, and have expected the Senate to confirm. Painter stated that “refusing to vote on a nominee at all is unthinkable. Voters expect their senators to do their job.” By January the opportunity to confirm a nominee acceptable to conservatives may be lost.
But McConnell is more worried about donor maintenance than performing the constitutional functions of advise and consent. As if the money pressure isn’t enough another source of party leadership, talk radio hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Howie Carr, don’t want the government to govern anyway.
Humpty Dumpty is teetering, and if he falls it’s hard to see how all the king’s horses and all the king’s men put the Republican Party back together again.