This week has turned into a festival of schadenfreude for liberals, as we watch Republicans of all stripes coming to grips with their putative nominee, Donald Trump. The reactions can be broken down into three categories, none terribly edifying.
— Resignation and acceptance. Many Republicans and conservative commentators who staunchly opposed The Donald are now busily explaining why he’s really not that bad.
Some of these people can’t bear to utter the man’s name; they simply say they will support “the Republican nominee,” whoever that is.
— Phony re-evaluation. These folks, like the insufferable Joe Scarborough, say they will decide based on how The Donald comports himself from now on. As if he didn’t have a lifelong record of being a self-entitled woman-hating narcissist, and a year-long record of conduct unbecoming a major-party nominee.
— Denial. Some insist they will never vote for The Donald, although most refuse to say what they might do instead. A few are opting for Hillary Clinton, but most are temporizing. Which begs the question, is Clinton really worse than Donald Trump by any rational metric?
Here in Vermont, we have one gubernatorial candidate (Bruce Lisman) in category two, and one (Phil Scott) in category three.
Not that Republicans have any good options, but neither man is covering himself in glory.
Lisman released a statement saying he would “carefully evaluate Donald Trump’s candidacy and listen to what he has to say.” Really, Bruce? You haven’t paid any attention until now? The past is a blank slate?
Seems to me, Lisman is engaging in lame triangulation. With Scott openly saying he will not vote for Trump, Lisman is trying to figure out which path is the more fruitful: support Trump, thus vaguely positioning himself to the right of Scott; or forswear Trump and play to the center, which makes him look like a cheap imitation Phil Scott. But a Trump endorsement would be an albatross around his neck if he actually won the GOP nomination and had to campaign for centrist votes.
And it’d be tough for Lisman to claim, as have so many longtime Republicans, that he’ll vote for Trump as a matter of party loyalty. Recall that, until he launched his candidacy, he insisted he was nonpartisan. To be consistent, he’d have to declare that he truly believes Donald Trump will make the best president.
As for Scott, I give him credit for consistency. He has said all along that he wouldn’t support Trump, and he reaffirmed his stance immediately after the Indiana primary knocked the pins out from under Ted Cruz and John Kasich.
However. Consistency is not the same thing as principle, or leadership for that matter. Because Scott goes on to say that he won’t vote for Hillary Clinton either; he’ll leave the line blank or cast a write-in vote.
Which is an interesting exercise of leadership: refusing to make a choice for the most powerful office on the planet.
So Donald Trump is too awful to support — but Scott won’t lift a finger to help defeat him. I ask again, is Hillary Clinton truly that awful?
Scott told Seven Days that he doesn’t trust Clinton.
“I’m running for Governor to restore faith and trust in state government and I’d like to have a president who can restore faith and trust in the federal government as well,” Scott said.
Let’s take a step back for a moment and remind ourselves that he’s talking about a woman far more accomplished than himself. She served for eight years as a U.S. Senator, and served honorably as Secretary of State through extraordinarily difficult times.
Phil Scott seems to have bought into some or all of the decades-long conservative hate campaign against Clinton, which makes me wonder how much Republican orthodoxy he has absorbed on other fronts. I’d like to hear him define exactly how Clinton is untrustworthy, and where he differs with her on policy as well as style. He owes the people of Vermont that much.