It's pretty darn depressing when political writers are essentially writing off the 2016 election as a choice between the lesser of two evils — seven months in advance of the election. It's one thing when, after months of negative ads, we shake our heads in disgust, but we haven't even really started yet.
If this is the way we begin, is there any question where we will end? Alienated, distrustful, angrier than we are now, having elected a president with no mandate at all.
We have to do better than this. If Donald Trump is going to be the nominee of the Republican Party for the most powerful job on the planet, then it's time for him, and us, to start taking his candidacy seriously. He needs to start doing his homework. Enough with the off-the-cuff comments of a television talk show host playing for ratings. If Donald Trump wants to be the president of the United States, he ought to start trying to act the part, and see if he can pull it off. If not, fine. It will be clear.
As for Republican talkers, it's time for them to grow up, too, and stop blaming everyone and anyone for the fact that Republican voters are about to pick one of their competitors for a chance at the top job. To hear the chattering class complaining, you'd think Donald Trump was a three-headed monster who'd been foisted on an otherwise perfect party primed for victory. Not so. The Republicans didn't have a credible candidate who could connect with voters. That's a problem you can't blame on Donald Trump.
I watched some of the early debates with my students. I wanted them to get involved — dare I say, get excited — and the closest anyone ever came to inspiring that energy on the Republican side was Donald Trump. Blame the system all you want, but if you look at the candidates and ask the questions voters always ask ("Does he understand people like me?" "Do I feel like he's on my side?"), it doesn't take rocket science to see why we've gotten Trump. He isn't an aberration; he is the logical conclusion of the anti-government gospel that Ted Cruz has been spouting since he got to the Senate.
And now Cruz is trying to stop him. Why? Because Cruz wants to do all the spouting off, and frankly, when it comes to spouting off — if that's what the contest is — Trump is just a better teapot. (How convenient.)
No one pretends the process is perfect, least of all those of us who had a hand in the compromises that the often inconsistent rules for selecting delegates reflect. But here's the thing: Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic nominee because she is the most popular Democrat running among Democrats. Donald Trump is going to be the Republican nominee because he's the candidate who most Republicans favor. Strange as it sounds, this is what we call democracy. It does not always produce the results that elites crave, which is actually one of its strong points.
But the results need to be taken seriously. I didn't think Donald Trump could be nominated. I was wrong. I didn't think he could be elected. I'm not saying that anymore. The anger is real. Trump is no joke. Sexism is alive and well, thank you, in both sexes. Democrats can learn a lesson from all those former GOP front-runners sitting on the sidelines while the candidate who could hardly be taken seriously continues his march to the nomination.
(Susan Estrich is a professor of Law and Political Science at the University of Southern California Law Center. A best-selling author, lawyer and politician, as well as a teacher, she first gained national prominence as national campaign manager for Dukakis for President in 1988.)
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