I, for one, was happy to see former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld enter the Republican primary this week. I’m not ready to line up behind Weld, especially since there may be other candidates who have yet to enter the race, but I welcome the addition of a second choice for Republican voters and may very well end up supporting him.
Many of my Republican friends have made several predictable objections against Weld’s candidacy such as the fact that Weld is not a true conservative since he is liberal on many issues and that he has not won an election since 1994. Ironically, many of the objections against Weld apply to Donald Trump as well.
First off, let’s establish that there is no consistent conservative in the race. While Weld is libertarian (read “liberal”) on social issues, President Trump is to the left of Weld on a great many issues as well. Any conservative is going to have to look past either candidate on quite a few issues. Conservatives who backed Trump over the past four years should have little difficulty supporting another Republican with inconsistent conservative principles.
While Mr. Trump has a good record on some issues, he has a bad record on others. President Trump gets credit for tax reform, deregulation, and judicial appointments as well as withdrawing from the Paris Accords and issuing a number of pro-life Executive Orders, but his conservative bona fides don’t extend much further than that.
In reality, Mr. Trump’s tax reform and deregulation are offset by his trade war. The president’s affinity for tariffs has led to large increases in both taxes and regulations when it comes to trade. The trade war has increased the trade deficit to a record high while weakening American manufacturing and hurting farmers. Trump’s trade policies have slowed growth to Obama-like levels while his bailout of farmers hurt by the trade war contributed $12 billion to the deficit, which is growing at an alarming rate.
Mr. Weld’s position on gun control has been a frequent objection, but Donald Trump is the most successful anti-gun president since Bill Clinton. After the Parkland school shooting in February 2018, Trump signaled his willingness to accept a variety of gun control measures. His openness to a new assault rifle ban made Dianne Feinstein literally jump for joy. Mr. Trump’s unilateral decision to use the federal bureaucracy to ban bump stocks is the anti-gun left’s biggest victory since President Clinton signed the original “assault weapons” ban in 1994.
Policy aside, the Buckley rule should lead conservatives to consider alternatives to Donald Trump. In the past, I’ve argued that even after four years in the public eye that Mr. Trump was too erratic and had a closet too full of skeletons to be a viable candidate in 2020. In backing Trump and shutting out primary challengers, Republicans would be running the risk that the president would implode prior to the election, as he almost did in 2016, and leave the party without a standard bearer.
Thankfully, Mr. Trump’s implosion happened this week rather a few weeks before the election. Although the Trump Administration claims that Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s failure to find a criminal conspiracy and decision not to recommend charges on obstruction of justice represent an exoneration of the president, the Mueller report is not good news for Mr. Trump. Mueller took time to point out that the report did not exonerate Trump on obstruction charges and suggested that Congress should investigate further. He also listed many instances of bad behavior, lies, and general corruption by President Trump and his subordinates. After the Mueller report, it is almost impossible for Donald Trump to be re-elected.
The damage goes beyond Mr. Trump himself to other members of his team. Hope Hicks said, “There was no communication between the campaign and any foreign entity during the campaign,” and Reince Priebus similarly claimed, “We didn’t interface with the Russians” when in fact there were many secret contacts between Team Trump and Russia. Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders admitted to making things up at press conferences. Even Attorney General Barr’s original letter detailing Mueller’s findings shaded the truth to make Trump look good. Trump’s bad behavior has damaged the reputations of many people who work for him.
William F. Buckley’s famous advice was that conservatives should vote for the most conservative candidate who can win. In the post-Mueller world, that candidate is not Donald Trump. Trump, who very nearly lost in 2016 and only eked out an Electoral College fluke after James Comey’s October surprise despite massive Russian intervention on his behalf, looks to have lost support since his popular vote loss that year. The Mueller report provides a rich trove of material for attack ads that undermine Donald Trump’s already shaky credibility. The president’s only chance is that Democrats nominate another candidate as bad as Hillary Clinton and even that would not be a sure thing.
If Republicans want to avoid an electoral blowout of epic proportions next year, they had better uncircle the wagons from around Donald Trump and find a candidate who has not lost the trust of the public. So far, Weld is the only Republican who has had the temerity to stand up to Trump and may be the only conservative alternative. If Republicans continue to stand by Donald Trump to the bitter end, they deserve the drubbing that they are about to receive.
Originally published on The Resurgent