With both Ted Cruz and John Kasich ending their campaigns for the presidency, it now appears certain that Donald Trump will become the Republican Party’s nominee. What seemed far-fetched when the “braggadocious” real estate tycoon announced his candidacy last year has become a reality that threatens to tear apart the GOP.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is trying to keep that from happening. “You know what, I think something different and something new is probably good for our party,” he said Wednesday in an interview with CNN.
But other Republicans have vowed never to support Trump, who outlasted 16 other competitors for the nomination. Conservative blogger Erick Erickson compared Trump’s candidacy to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke’s 1990 campaign for the U.S. Senate. “The Republican Party of Louisiana and nationally drew a line and decided the Republican Party could not support David Duke,” Erickson wrote. “But what about Trump? … Why can we not draw a line here? Why can’t the GOP say this is unacceptable?”
The simple answer is that Trump followed the rules in accumulating enough primary and caucus victories to leave expected contenders like Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio and Chris Christie eating his dust. The Republican Party can’t cavalierly ignore the fact that voters made Trump the sole survivor. Denying him the nomination would invite his supporters to vote for someone else. That could cripple the party forever.
Trump can help prevent that. He can make himself a more attractive candidate by actually doing the hard work it takes to provide more than superficial answers when he is asked about the important issues facing this country. Trump’s insults and sound bites may satisfy some voters desperately seeking an alternative to Washington’s current politics. But they shouldn’t be enough to get him elected president.
Take the “major foreign policy speech” Trump made last week. It was so filled with generalities and misrepresentations that it was scary to think that Trump is this close to becoming America’s commander in chief. For example, he said, “ISIS is making millions and millions of dollars a week selling Libya oil.” Not true, pointed out FactCheck.org. Rather, ISIS has been disrupting oil operations in Libya to deprive the country of revenue.
Both Trump and Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders contend that the North American Free Trade Agreement “has been a total disaster for the United States,” as Trump put it. But the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service reported last year that NAFTA has caused neither great job losses nor large economic gains because trade with Mexico and Canada accounts for a small share of U.S. gross domestic product.
If Trump wants his anticipated coronation as the Republican nominee to go unchallenged, he needs to use the time he has before the party convenes in Cleveland in July to show he’s ready to be president. Calling his opponents liars and crooks may have gotten him to this point. But a president must offer more than criticism. He or she has to offer ideas, based on actual evidence, that have a realistic chance of making life better for more Americans.
The above editorial appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer.