Come on Republicans, you can do better than Donald Trump

To say Donald Trump is the front-runner for the Republican nomination is an understatement. He is above 60 percent in national polling averages and leads by roughly 30 points in Iowa. His lead is much narrower in New Hampshire, although the state, where Democrats and independents can vote in the GOP primary, is not necessarily predictive.

Trump feels inevitable, but nothing is settled until Republicans actually caucus and vote. They would be well advised to opt for one of the alternatives who are far and away better on the merits, more likely to win in November, and, if elected, more likely to deliver — free from the wild drama of a second Trump term — conservative results.

Trump’s defenders tend to dismiss the conservative criticisms of him as concerns about his “mean tweets,” or now, to be more accurate, his mean Truth Social posts. It’s true that his fulminations on social media are crude and ridiculous, but this isn’t the fundamental problem. Because he couldn’t bear to admit that he’d lost to Joe Biden in 2020 (after trailing him in every national poll), Trump insisted he’d won and did everything he could to overturn the result, including trying to bully his vice president into violating his oath and preventing and delaying the counting of the electoral vote. When a mob, fervently believing Trump’s claims, fought its way into the U.S. Capitol to try to end the count, Trump did little or nothing to try to stop it.

These were infamous presidential acts and represented serious offenses against our constitutional order. Nothing can justify them, and it’s wrong to simply pretend that they didn’t happen. It’s impossible to imagine Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley, whatever their other flaws, engaging in such grotesquely selfish behavior injurious to our republic. On this basis alone, both are vastly preferable to Trump.

One reason no one has gotten much traction against Trump, besides the backlash against the indictments, is that the electability argument has been rendered null and void by his strong polling in a hypothetical matchup with President Biden. The Democrat is so weak he could lose to Trump, but the former president is still a risky bet compared with another Republican candidate without his baggage. As Biden demonstrated in his Valley Forge speech last week, Democrats plan to make the race all about Trump if he wins the nomination, in a repeat of their winning formula from 2020 and 2022. Nominating someone else would instantly deny the Democrats their most powerful weapon in the cause of winning an otherwise unthinkable Biden second term — Trump’s radioactive persona.

In his first term, Trump notched some important wins and even forged some creative victories (think the Abraham Accords). He’d be an enormous improvement over Joe Biden on many policy questions. But much energy would be wasted on his personal vendettas and fighting back against the Left’s sure-to-be-unhinged reaction to his return to the White House. He’d have trouble attracting talent to serve him. His bad instincts on trade and NATO, tendency to personalize everything including foreign relations, contempt for rules that get in his way, and erratic nature would risk real harm to the country. He’d be an easily distracted 78-year-old one-termer sure to get wiped out in the midterms, once again.

Again, whatever their downsides, both DeSantis and Haley would avoid almost all these pitfalls. DeSantis, in particular, is an accomplished governor of a major state, with an impressive agenda of conservative reform under his belt. He is a serious-minded policy maven who wouldn’t fail as president for lack of discipline or knowledge.

None of this is to deny the outrageous lengths to which the Left has gone to target Trump, most recently by denying him access to the ballot in two states, with perhaps more to come. Much of the GOP has rallied to Trump and considers the fire he draws from his enemies a sign of his strength and efficacy. The enemy of my enemy is my friend is one of the most ingrained dynamics of collective life. But Republicans have better friends available to them, who haven’t disgraced themselves by trying to deny the results of an election, who would be quite likely to vanquish Biden, and who would be capable presidents.

It’s not too late to choose one of them, and forge a better path for the party and for the country.

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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