December 21, 2015

1130 words 6 mins read

It's Time to Choose

I am a mess.

I am a terrible father, a crappy husband (ask my ex-wives), and a difficult employee. I do a lot of things poorly. Most things, in fact. Especially the things I “have” to do. Authority irritates me.

While I’m terrible at following plans, I write a week’s worth of blogs on Saturday and Sunday mornings. The pattern keeps me sane. Or semi-sane. I supplement those when events warrant. Which isn’t very often.

And I’m irritated when it is.

I’m more irritated when I have to blog about being wrong. Or admitting I  pre-judged something. So I’m writing now with a lot of irritation coursing through my Irish veins, along with some whiskey. (Excuse the typos.)

An email received tonight threw me for a loop.

Phyllis Schlafly has been one of my heroes since . . . I can remember. I disagree with Mrs. Schlafly on exactly one issue, which will remain between us. Like William F. Buckley, Phyllis is a conservative touchstone to whom we can turn with confidence that she will point us in the right direction.

As someone who’s doubted Donald Trump’s conservative bonafides, I was shocked to read this:

Phyllis Schlafly, an icon of the conservative movement who has been active for half a century, is warning the nation: Donald Trump is the last hope for America.

Donald Trump donated lots of money to the Clintons. He said nice things about Barack Obama. He promoted socialized medicine. He built his real estate business with crony capitalism. And Phyllis Schlafly is endorsing him?

I can’t question Mrs. Schlafly’s judgment. So I have to ponder the message.

Trump is the “last hope for America.”

Last hope. Last hope. Last hope.

The phrase ricochets around my brain like a ping pong ball shot into a Pringles can. “Last hope.”

**How screwed are we? **

My first real political moment was 1974 when Nixon resigned. Nixon was a rotten president who used the power of his office to destroy political opponents, take America off the gold standard, back out of Bretton Woods, and impose wage and price controls. The anti-conservative.

Yet Richard Nixon campaigned for Barry Goldwater at least as enthusiastically as Ronald Reagan did. As Patrick J. Buchanan recently wrote (and PJ was there):

Nixon pivoted swiftly to repair the damage, offered to introduce Goldwater to the convention, did so in a brilliant speech, then campaigned harder for Mr. Conservative than did Barry himself.

As a Gen X conservative, I like to throw Nixon under the bus. But Nixon and I had a remarkable correspondence in the late 1980s. The Dickster even sent me an autographed copy of In The Arena. He wasn’t all bad.

The true story of Nixon comes to mind as I read Mrs. Schlafly’s interview. I’m reminded of the other hero of Goldwater’s campaign: Ronald Reagan.

Most Americans were shocked to learn Reagan was a Republican in 1964. The insiders knew it, but the general population did not. **Reagan was a lifelong union man and a Roosevelt fan. And a Hollywood actor. **

Even Republican insiders wondered whether Reagan’s Goldwater speech was sincere or theatrics. (I heard from a woman who was at the 1976 convention in Kansas City that Reagan lost the delegate fight to Gerald Ford because** people doubted his party allegiance**. He’d been a Democrat for so long.)

After four years of Jimmy Carter’s ineptitude, conservatives from three factions took a gamble. The foreign policy hawks, the fiscal conservatives, and the moral majority said, “Reagan is close enough.” The three factions pointed their spears at the Democrats, united behind Reagan, won 49-state landslides, defeated the Soviet Union, ended the Cold War, reduced the influence of government, and proved that one man could handle the job of Leader of the Free World.

Tonight we face another seminal moment in history. For all intents and purposes, the Republican primary is down to two men: Donald Trump and Ted Cruz.

Ted Cruz is the Robert Taft of 2015. Cruz’s ideology is pure. He makes Reagan look like a squish. Cruz is brilliant. He sold our philosophy to the Supreme Court nine times. (Ted Olsen envies Cruz.)

**If I alone chose the next president, I would choose Ted Cruz. **

But I don’t choose alone. I choose along with 320 million other Americans. I hope they choose Cruz–in their homes, in their congressional districts, in their states.

The Republican primary system is messy and difficult to measure. In some states, a primary winner gets all the state’s delegates. In other states, delegates are apportioned according to the relative distribution of votes. And in some states, like Missouri, delegates are awarded by US Congressional district results. If Ted Cruz wins the primary in MO CD2, he gets MO CD2’s delegates.

The point is, Bill Hennessy doesn’t choose the GOP nominee for president.  So I have to deal with the reality of politics.

And the reality is that Donald Trump connects with more voters than anyone alive right now. He does. Arguing otherwise is just stupid.

I have a lot of problems with Trump, not the least of which is that my wife and at least one of my sons hate him. Even writing this post risks a week  of sleeping on the couch. But I type on. I type on.

Phyllis Schlafly speaks for many millions of Americans when she says:

“He [Trump] does look like he’s the last hope [for America],” Schlafly said. “We don’t hear anybody saying what he’s saying. In fact, most of the people who ought to be lining up with him are attacking him. They’re probably jealous of the amount of press coverage he gets. But the reason he gets so much press coverage is the grassroots are fed up with people who are running things, and they do want a change. They do want people to stand up for America. It really resonates when he says he wants to ‘Make America Great Again.’”


I hate to think America is down to its last hope. I have two boys in the US Navy. I want them standing as guardians of freedom, not as warriors in a last battle for a dying republic. So this is personal.

I’m not quite ready to declare my allegiance to Donald Trump. I am totally prepared to declare my alienation from the Republican establishment. And if Trump is the only man who can destroy that tumor on American greatness, I will become a Trump man.

If Trump’s good enough for Phyllis Schlafly, well, maybe Trump is good enough for me.

I think we should reflect on the Reagan of 1976.

In America, there’s always a second chance.

**Unless we’re down to our last hope. **

Choose wisely, voters. Choose wisely.