Many people – including current and former Republicans – have decided not to vote for President Trump this year. In so doing, they are committing to a President Biden.
There are reasons not to vote for Biden, the most obvious of which are a disagreement with his policies, his personal history, or a combination thereof. Whatever the case, and whether people are intending to cast a vote for Biden, for one of the other parties, writing in a candidate or leaving the top of the ticket blank, the polling data and American history combine to provide a clear conclusion: absent a late surge for Trump, Biden will be the next President.
As a person who has railed against Trump’s offenses for four years, his removal will please me. This leads, however, to an obvious question: what about splitting the ticket?
I watched, twenty-five years ago, as the Democrats refused to remove a sitting President who had committed perjury, suborned perjury, committed serial sexual abuse, had been materially involved in a development scam designed to cheat the elderly out of their savings and was plausibly a rapist. They did so after many argued against even allowing evidence to be presented before the Senate during the impeachment hearings. I watched the same sort of thing happen over the course of the last Presidency, this time with the Republicans, instead of the Democrats, marching nearly in lockstep. Between those two poles, I saw the American health system overhauled, and in my opinion (due to issues of funding and, for a while, massive coverage mandates) not for the better.
All of these were possible because there was no adversarial relationship between the President and the Senate. It has been suggested, and I am open to the argument, that one way to restore that would be to shift the Senate back toward being appointed by state leadership. Until that idea is acted upon, it is moot. Absent that option, the easiest, readily available way to ensure an adversarial relationship is to split the ticket: Democrat for President, Republican for Senate.
This has an added bonus for people who have been historically Republican or conservative independents. Overwhelmingly, the Senators who have been supporting Trump for the last four years have argued on behalf of conservatism, not nationalist populism, for the duration of their careers. It is reasonable to believe that many of them have supported Trump not out of belief in his bluster and ignorance but out of expediency and fear of being voted out by an uninformed electorate. Removing Trump while maintaining a Republican Senate would afford them the opportunity to promote reasonable policy again.
This is unacceptable to many because it would allow them to escape punishment for their support of Trump… but the simple fact is that they are likely to do so anyway.
There are calls for a new party, but those calls are few and far between. I hope to hear them grow in the days following the election, but I’ve had similar hopes in the past. Typically, unless large money and professional organizers get involved, nothing happens beyond the development of small offshoot parties. Even when money and organizers do get involved, creating parties like Reform, Libertarian and Green, it’s exceedingly difficult to get people who are afraid of the R/D dichotomy – the “binary choice” – to give other parties a chance. The next election, whichever election it might be, is portrayed by both Republicans and Democrats as too important to risk via an alternative option.
Maybe this time will be different. I hope so. But I doubt it for one reason, and that is revenge. I am watching as large numbers of Republicans line up against Trump, while simultaneously large numbers of former Republicans line up against Trump. These two groups would seem to be natural allies… and they are, until a path forward is considered.
The Republicans against Trump want to flush the party of the hardcore Trumpists while maintaining a basic structure. They will give a pass to those who seemed to be mouthing the party line while trying to minimize actively supporting Trump. Meanwhile, the ex-Republicans want the entire party burned down. They will not support anyone who did not actively fight against Trump.
(The Democrats, for their part, love this. It helps them achieve success in perpetuity, provided those factions can both be maintained in strength. There’s no duplicity involved on their part, they’re simply watching their ideological opposition – not enemies, generally, unlike the Trumpists, but opposition nonetheless – eat themselves. Much popcorn will be consumed.)
In this battle, the reforming Republicans are likely to win… but it’s going to take them a long time to build back from the damage done by Trumpism, and most of that repair will only come through Democrat overreach. Until that time comes, Democrats will be able to push through many societal reforms and governmental modifications they wish.
Those of us who complained about Trump’s abandonment of allies and succor to our enemies are going to see that happen again, as it happened under Obama, Clinton and Carter… nothing to Trump’s level, thankfully, but we are unlikely to present a consistent strong front against international human rights violators when many Democrats do not feel we have authority to impose our views on other nations. Those of us who were concerned about Trump’s abuse of tariffs and demands from on high to company owners about their policy will likely see cap and trade enacted. Rather than reform toward catastrophic insurance and lowered rates with greater innovation – something promised and then completely forgotten under the Trumpists – we will likely see a national health care system. Massive spending will continue, although not the unchecked debt spending of the Trumpists but rather spending with some level of increased taxation to partially cover the costs.
Splitting the ticket could theoretically push back against all of this… while still getting rid of Trump. It would signal a reconciliation with the anti-Trump Republicans, and perhaps even clear the way for an effort, with them, of creating an offshoot growth from the Republicans.
It’s a nice idea. Having presented that case, let me break down why it doesn’t work. There are two obvious reasons, one ethical and one practical.
The ethical one is this: nearly every Republican Senator stood before the country and swore an oath to God that they would properly uphold the Constitution. They then abandoned that oath in favor of political gain. Even if helping them, subsequently, might be helpful to me, I cannot in good conscience support them after they have demonstrated, at their core, a lack of fealty to the country. (This, for the record, is one reason why Joe Biden, who faced a similar challenge in the 1999 Clinton impeachment and was found wanting, can never earn my vote… although if I’d been in a key swing state, for the sake of the country he would have received it.) None of the Congressmen – House or Senate – who voted against impeaching or removing Trump can possibly earn my vote again. Not in this election, and not twenty years from now.
The practical reason is this: if I assume the best, that none of these people believed in populist nationalism for a moment but that they were only going along until conservatism could resurge, then that demonstrates they are untrustworthy about their core policies. They have shown that they are willing to raise spending (even while revenue is dropping.) They’ve shown they will sign off on abandoning our allies on the battlefield. They’ve shown they will turn a blind eye to election security when our enemies are abusing our system. They’ve shown that they will line up behind any abuse – whether it’s letting 200,000 Americans die to protect the vanity of the President or ripping the children of refugees from the arms of their horrified mothers just to send a “message” – as long as they see a political gain to be made from it.
Under no circumstances can they be trusted… and that, alone, should end the very notion of splitting the ticket. No. It should not be done, not with any candidate who signed off on Trump when they had the opportunity to walk away.
One cannot make a deal with a dishonest partner.