James Poulos is not frightened by the prospect of a Trump nomination or a Trump presidency:
The most important thing I can say about Donald Trump is that I am not afraid of him. I’m not afraid he’ll be president. I’m not afraid he’ll be the nominee. For the sake of my own sanity and strength, I decline to be. I won’t confer on him the power to annihilate constitutional government, conservative philosophy, or the Republican brand. Trump could ruin America? Give me a break.
I agree with most of this. That’s not because that I think Trump will be a good or even a competent president, but because we have endured a truly disastrous president in recent memory and the country has already been able to recover from the experience for the most part. It’s also a little hard to take the alarmist warnings seriously when we remember that the people shouting loudest about the impending “destruction” of the GOP and conservatism were oddly silent about this when the disasters of the Bush era were doing enormous harm to both. Just as they misjudge threats from overseas, their judgment about political threats at home doesn’t seem to be very good.
It could even prove to be a healthy thing to have a president that large numbers of people from both parties distrust. It might finally cause Americans to be less deferential to the presidency and it might make members of Congress more willing to challenge the executive when it tries to overreach. It might be an embarrassing few years for the U.S. in the world, but as I said we have already experienced far worse not that long ago. As far as I can see, the biggest danger of a Trump presidency is that it would mean the return of unified party rule for a time, but as we’ve seen in the last decade control of both the presidency and Congress doesn’t last very long. But that assumes a Trump win in November that seems very unlikely. The more likely scenario is that Trump wins the nomination, loses the election, and then retires from the scene. It will be a strange, one-off event that no one else can replicate, and the anti-Trumpites will have panicked over nothing.
Insofar as a Trump loss in the general election gets pinned on his policy ignorance and substitution of affect for expertise, that could have a salutary effect on the GOP’s tolerance for candidates that rely so heavily on bluster and aggressive rhetoric. It might also help cure some Republican voters of their tendency to rally behind demagogues just because they happen to say the “right” things, and it could make others realize that the GOP desperately needs to address the concerns of its supporters with something more than the content-free pseudo-populism that has been on offer every four years. If it causes conservatives to become much more skeptical of “American greatness” rhetoric, that by itself would be a huge improvement. Finally, if a failed Trump campaign can nonetheless force more Republicans to recognize the bankruptcy of the party’s foreign policy over the last two decades it would be doing a great service to both the GOP and the country.
The thing that we should fear is that the GOP will quickly go back to being more or less what it has been in spite of this upheaval in the party.