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Is threat of conservative “third party” challenge if Trump is nominee fading?

Is threat of conservative “third party” challenge if Trump is nominee fading?

Was it ever much of a threat?

Bill Kristol, Founder and Editor of that mainstay of the Republican Establishment, The Weekly Standard, has finally come to recognize Donald Trump’s contribution to the Republican candidates as a group.

Kristol is not a Trump supporter and has predicted his fall for months.  After Trump derided John McCain’s heroism for merely being a POW for five-plus years, Kristol said, “he’s dead to me.”  In the same interview he opined, “I don’t think he’ll stay up in the polls, incidentally. Republican primary voters are pro-respect the military. And he showed disrespect for the military.”

In September, Kristol said on CNN, “I doubt I’d support Donald. I doubt I’d support the Democrat.” Instead, “I think I’d support getting someone good on the ballot as a third party candidate.”  In reporting Kristol’s comments, Salon referred to him as a “notorious neocon” and a “neocon prince.”

In October, Kristol went on MSNBC and said flatly “[h]e’s not going to win.”

Kristol apparently thinks, or thought, Trump’s nomination could be mortal for the Republican Party.  On December 20, he tweeted:

Kristol has acknowledged Trump’s positive impact at times.  Even when rejecting Trump for his attack on McCain, Kristol allowed that Trump “said some useful things, I think, and brought some people into the Republican tent.”

But Kristol seems now to be coming around to the position that Trump’s pluses outweigh his negatives.  In an interview with Newsmax TV on Wednesday, Kristol praised Trump’s handling of the Clintons.  According to Newsmax:

[Kristol said,] “It’s called attention to something that Republicans have tried for 15 years to call attention to and have really failed, which is that she’s complicit in his, Bill Clinton’s war on women and his mistreatment of women. . . .

“He sort of got that out there, Trump, when every other Republican has either been too timid or been too ineffective at doing so,” he added. “So you got to give Trump credit for that.”

Clearly, Kristol has been mulling over Trump’s impact on the race quite a bit, because his piece in the January 18 issue of the Weekly Standard expands on this theme of Trump’s drawing attention to key issues.  Titled “Thank You, Donald,” Kristol drives home the point he made to Newsmax – Trump has put Hillary Clinton and her husband squarely in the crosshairs.

As Kristol points out, even Bill Clinton’s former staffer Kirsten Powers conceded Trump’s impact, saying “[w]e are a society that has a blessedly lower tolerance for sexual assault and harassment than in prior years.  This is good news for America, but bad news for the Clintons.  History has caught up with them at the worst possible moment.”  Kristol continues:

History might have caught up with the Clintons without Trump’s help. But perhaps not. Perhaps History—or at least the admonitions of commentators—would in any case have led the GOP to focus in 2016 on appealing to middle America, and on speaking to and for the Silent Majority. But are we confident those admonitions would have had much effect without the urgent spur of the need to compete with Trump?

Kristol even goes so far as to disagree with those fretting that Trump has turned off more voters than he could have possibly attracted:

there’s simply no evidence the Trumpian interlude has hurt the GOP. The Republican party’s overall favorable rating hasn’t changed in these last six months. The percentage of Americans identifying as Republicans hasn’t declined. Obama’s approval rating hasn’t gone up. The Pew Research Center regularly asks which party would do a better job on the economy. In July, Democrats held a three-point edge; in December, Pew found Republicans leading by five. In the same Pew polls, Republicans improved from -2 to +2 on handling immigration and from +12 to +14 on handling terrorism.

But that doesn’t mean Kristol is suddenly on board with Trump.  He’s not:

Writing in mid-June, a couple of days after Donald Trump announced his candidacy, we offered the judgment that he should not be our next president: “We’re not Trump enthusiasts. We’re not even Trump fellow travelers. We’re closer to Trump deriders.”

And so we unapologetically remain. It would be ungracious not to acknowledge Trump’s remarkable standing in the polls six months later. But we see no reason to alter our conclusion that Donald Trump shouldn’t be president of the United States. Indeed, Trump’s behavior over this period has confirmed our judgment. If back in June we wrote that the rest of the presidential field could use “A Little Touch of Trump,” it’s fair to say that we’ve gotten more Trump than we bargained for.

Those who hate Kristol will spew their epithet of choice (GOPe! RINO! Cuckservative!) and dismiss this as a grudging hat-tip, groundwork for walking back his threat to back a third party or an effort to rein Trump in by co-opting him into the establishment itself.

But that’s missing the point.  Kristol is actually giving credit to the idea Prof. Jacobson wrote about when he said Trump has shifted the Overton Window enough to make ideas once at the extreme (or beyond) now now part of legitimate discourse.  That just doesn’t make Trump the best candidate or a good president.


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Kristol is like the guy who acts like he’s leading the parade until he finally turns around and realizes nobody is following.

It’s really not a matter of hating Kristol, it’s matter of recognizing his irrelevancy to conservatives.

    clafoutis in reply to DaMav. | January 10, 2016 at 10:18 am

    ‘Irrelevant’ has got to be one of absolute the worst things to be called.

    Right on. Let’s not forget to add George Will and Krauthammer to that category.

    rabidfox in reply to DaMav. | January 10, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    I wonder just what his definition of “conservative” is. Most of the conservatives I know would prefer Cruz to Trump but either to any of the other alternatives. Seems like it was the RINOs who are threatening a third party run if they don’t get their stompy-foot way.

NC Mountain Girl | January 10, 2016 at 9:01 am

I won’t support a new third party but neither will I ever vote for Trump for any public office. I love the principles this nation was founded on too much to support the biggest RINO of them all.

I think most Republicans realize that an anti=Trump third party would be a guaranteed win for the Democrats, and a reduction opf the Republican Party to clown status.

Trump’s big appeal, is that he is addressing the issues where the Political Elites are thumbing their noses at the American People. He may not give us much of what we want, but the Republican Nomenclatura will give us nothing. The Donald can be the first step in clawing our country back without needing bayonets.

    Kauf Buch in reply to Mannie. | January 10, 2016 at 12:51 pm

    Completely disagree!

    If the GOP Establishment were to run some (ANY!) RINO Troll candidate Third Party, that would ensure that the GOP Establishment – and ONLY THEY – would vote for that idiot.

    Furthermore, it would more likely ensure a Trump victory, as these same RINOs would NOT be voting for Hillary as a “protest” (read: SUICIDE) vote.

    I doubt they’ll do it, though.

Kristol is actually giving credit to the idea Prof. Jacobson wrote about when he said Trump has shifted the Overton Window enough to make ideas once at the extreme (or beyond) now now part of legitimate discourse. That just doesn’t make Trump the best candidate …

Unfortunately, it makes him the only viable candidate. I won’t say serious candidate, as he’s just too thoroughly ridiculous. But it’s no secret that the Republican brand is in trouble, and the rest of the candidate field reflects that.

Trump has moved the ball, all right … but he’s still the only one really kicking it around. And that will be the case until one of the other candidates picks it up and runs with it. Christie, Rubio, Fiorina, Jeb … a bunch of spectators all watching one player; cheering their lungs out but not actually in the game in any useful sense. Unless Cruz manages to catch fire, Trump will remain the only game in town. This doesn’t speak highly of the Republican political class, but you can only run with the candidates you have, not the ones you wish you had.

    clafoutis in reply to tom swift. | January 10, 2016 at 10:20 am

    The Overton Window, both in theory (Prof. Jacobson) and practice (Trump) is a masterstroke.

    Kauf Buch in reply to tom swift. | January 10, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    Trump’s positions, as well as
    Trump’s technique
    make Trump the best candidate and NEXT PRESIDENT.

    Jonathan is just licking his wounds in public.
    There are *still* alot of bitter, sour, resentful writers on the Right who just don’t get it.

Kristol will not be the last DC pundit to come around to the Trump candidacy. They all will shift into CYA mode if Trump begins to pile up primary victories. Polling has become even more of an inexact science than ever in recent memory as they have failed to predict some of the more stunning upsets in previously thought predictable races. I will believe these polls that have Trump up yuge! when people actually vote. However, there is a lot of anger and contempt in the GOP base for its leadership and how they have handled the Obama presidency. And that anger extends to the conservative pundits as well, some of whom thought that Obama was a better choice in 2008 because of Sarah Palin. Given those dynamics, I would not be surprised if these polls are accurate.

Trump is doing just fine without Kristol and his nattering nabobs of negativism.

Kristol is a one-time conservative who traded relevancy and principles for GOPe access. His is a form of prostitution.

We need to get our own party under control, not form a new one.

“Those who hate Kristol will spew their epithet of choice (GOPe! RINO! Cuckservative!) and dismiss this as a grudging hat-tip, groundwork for walking back his threat to back a third party or an effort to rein Trump in by co-opting him into the establishment itself.”

Yes, I despise Kristol as he is a statist hack.

He is, grudgingly, coming around to trump for only one reason. Trump will be the R candidate and the next president. Kristol has been wrong all along. He has been wrong because he wanted to persuade you to support the establishment hack(s). Why? Cuz that is where his money is. His sudden trump niceness is just the hope he can make a buck after all. I hope trump kicks his ass to hell where he and the rest of the donor class belong.

Not about Trump, all about the statist party hacks like Kristol, and their hatred of Ted Cruz:

Angelo Codevilla has it nailed, as usual.

Has the Overton Window shifted to a point where it’s fine for a presidential candidate to mock someone’s physical disability in a mimicking fashion, and then, when called on it, to claim implausibly that he had never seen the person?

Is it now fine for a presidential candidate to insinuate that his rivals are faking their religious devotion, on the grounds of where their parents came from?

No — unless that candidate is Donald the Great. The fandom forgives him for sins they would otherwise consider disqualifying. They’ll even call those sins virtues, but only when it’s Trump who commits them.

They certainly don’t ask for the kind of consistency they demand of all other candidates, nor do they demand any record of keeping pledges that aren’t self-serving. If someone reneged on a promise to support a young nephew with cerebral palsy, out of pique at the child’s parents (and there are reports that Trump did exactly that), why would he keep promises made to the rest of us in his quest for power? Isn’t it clear that Trump will do just about anything to make himself the winner?

The arguments made for why Trump would be more reliable and honorable than anyone else — “He’s not PC!” “He can’t be bought!” — are ludicrous.

Those who hate Kristol will spew their epithet of choice (GOPe! RINO! Cuckservative!) and dismiss this as a grudging hat-tip…

What will those who hate Trump do, if he wins in Iowa and New Hampshire?

Subotai Bahadur | January 10, 2016 at 8:24 pm

I suspect that there will be a Third Party regardless.

1) If the Whigs blatantly rig the convention to deny Cruz or Trump the nomination even if they come in with the most delegates, there will be a Third Party representing the Base. The Whigs know that this will mean a Democrat victory, but it means that they retain control of the rump Republican party. That is their primary goal.

2) If Cruz or Trump is the nominee, the Whigs will either form a Third Party or possibly just join the Democrats. This will guarantee a Democrat victory, but they figure that such would be preferable to Trump or Cruz.

3) If it does not happen during the campaign, and Trump or Cruz is the candidate AND WINS, the Whigs will likely form a Third Party to help the Democrats oppose the new president.

The Republican Party is a case where there is too much vertical distance between what passes for leadership, and those they claim to represent and don’t. In naval architecture, this distance, from top to bottom and the relative weights are called Metacentric Height. Too great a Metacentric Height means a capsize under any stress.