The Republican Party has to decide to either embrace its nominee, or repudiate him. Its decision will either destroy or save it. It must decide, this summer, if it is the party of Ronald Reagan or Donald Trump. It can’t be both.
The Republican Party of Alaska faced a similar decisions in 1998. Its Republican nominee for Governor was a fraud and a liar named John Lindauer. The liberal media had not exposed him during the primary, but as soon as he won, it all came out. The State Central Committee, on which I served, met to decide what to do.
Lindauer was our nominee, and some said we had to stand by him. The GOP hadn’t elected a Republican Governor in 20 years, and incumbent Democrat Tony Knowles was vulnerable. If we repudiated the man who won our primary, Knowles would almost certainly win reelection. The argument was that while Lindauer most certainly was a liar and a fraud, he was our guy, and we had to stick with him.
The majority of the Central Committee disagreed. Sticking with Lindauer meant that the Republican Party was about winning elections and getting in power, and absolutely nothing else. So we condemned our own nominee and voted to support a write in campaign by the second place finisher in the primary, Sen. Robin Taylor of Wrangell. Robin fought hard and well, and his write in votes exceeded those of Lindauer, who was on the ballot. Lindauer plead guilty to some campaign violations and left the state. The Republicans maintained their majorities in the House and Senate, which they’ve held ever since. Knowles was reelected, but the Democrats have not won the Governorship of Alaska again. Republicans today hold supermajorities in the Alaska legislature.
Ten years later the Republicans of Alaska made a different choice. Their nominee for the Senate, incumbent Ted Stevens, was under indictment for corruption. Former state legislator David Cuddy ran against him in the primary, warning Republicans of the danger of a Stevens nomination. He was ignored, Stevens was nominated, and when he was beaten by Nick Begich the Democrats had their 60th vote for Obamacare.
Everyone who was at that Central Committee meeting in 1998 will never forget who was there, and what side they were on. The true character of every participant was revealed, and is remembered to this day. The same will be true in Cleveland. What does the Republican Party stand for, if anything? And what, precisely, is the character of the men and women who are delegates to its Convention?
What do they stand for?
Trump the man, and Trump the candidate, bears no resemblance to the President who, more than any other, defined the modern Republican Party, Ronald Reagan. He was a true conservative, honorable, and a consistent and effective advocate of the Constitution. Trump is the opposite, a raging narcissist and bully, contemptuous of the restraints imposed on the government by the Founding Fathers. He won the nomination by appealing to the worst instincts of the American people — tribalism, jealousy and vengefulness.
There’s a risk that Republican divisions this year will end up electing Hillary Clinton and losing the Supreme Court for a generation. In fact, the only way of avoiding that outcome is by repudiating Trump and backing an Independent candidacy by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, Mitt Romney, or some other candidate who has the ability to win enough electoral votes to throw the election into the House of Representatives. Abbott could win the 38 electoral votes of Texas, and pick up 50 more by winning the Far West. This is Trump’s weakest area. His open opposition to the transfer of federal lands to these states, and Abbott’s endorsement (echoing the position of Ted Cruz) of it, would be enough to win these states, their electoral votes, and deny Trump any possibility of getting to 270.
The 12th Amendment gives each state one vote when there is no electoral college majority. No state is required to vote for the candidate who won its electoral votes. Every state, and every Representative, is a free agent, tasked with voting their conscience. Clinton could never win such a three way contest, since there is nowhere near a majority of Democratic states. The Republicans in the House of Representatives would make the choice, Trump or Abbott (or Romney, etc).
They would decide. Every conservative in the country should work to give them that opportunity. The alternative is catastrophe.
Fritz Pettyjohn was the Chairman of Reagan for President, Alaska, 1979-1980, and is a former Alaska State Legislator. He blogs daily at ReaganProject.com