Last week’s national emergency vote identified a few Republicans willing to put their principles before their president, but it also revealed they are few and far between. Donald Trump loyalists came out rabidly in attacking these constitutionalists and defending the kingpin of their cult of personality.
It wasn’t the first time Trump betrayed the conservative principles that have governed the Republican Party since Reagan, but it was the first time he saw such resistance (and the first time he’s had to issue a veto). Trump also contrasts with the Reagan Republican in opposing free trade, supporting Rooseveltian infrastructure projects, and coupling his bad trade policy with direct welfare for farmers.
Trump has also done some great things with his presidency. A massive tax cut, a great Supreme Court nominee in Neil Gorsuch, and today, the President is hosting national leaders on the campus free speech fight to possibly issue an executive order strong-arming public universities to support the First Amendment. But whether the pros outweigh the cons is an argument with two valid sides, and one that needs to be made publicly. Forty-three percent of Republicans want to see a primary, according to a Monmouth poll. Primary fights often hurt reelection chances for incumbents, and it’s bound to further divide the party, but it’s worth it if the right candidate runs.
Right now, the only candidate running against Trump is the former Governor of Massachusetts, Bill Weld.
Obviously Weld is not the right candidate, for a litany of reasons. He’s unknown and won’t be taken seriously. He’s too moderate and can’t take a principled stand on just about anything. Gary Johnson would be a better candidate, and that’s not a compliment to Gary. There is also speculation that Maryland governor Larry Hogan will launch a campaign. Hogan suffers similar flaws, but to a lesser extent. Still, he’s an uninspiring, milquetoast candidate. Justin Amash is apparently considering a run, but that could just as easily be with the Libertarian Party. Either way, Amash improves on the former two on principle, but is just as unknown. He’d probably get more attention primarying Trump just because I think the media would very willingly give it to him, whereas in general they’d have a Democrat to prop up.
But I still think there are better candidates.
Ben Sasse is a very principled, but not radical, conservative. His politics are very much influenced by his faith, and the Nebraska senator very much resembles a Midwestern Republican from the times before Trump. While my personal experience here in the Midwest tells me Trump is very strong regionally, he does most poorly when he foolishly tries to negotiate trade policy during harvest season. If he makes this mistake again, it could open the door for a strong challenger who could focus on trade and agriculture. Sasse would be that guy.
To be clear, I do not expect anyone to beat Trump for the Republican nomination. He crushes hypothetical matchups against even Ted Cruz (who is not running). But there has to be a Republican Party after Trump. Conservatives cannot sacrifice the soul of the GOP if they expect it to ever been known as a conservative party again. There has to be some, for lack of a better word, resistance to Trump. He has his place. For all his flaws, he did teach Republicans to fight again. But if he’s the future of the party, Democrats will continue to be as rabid, as socialist, and invigorated as they are now.