SAN DIEGO, July 6, 2016 — In an old Laurel and Hardy movie, the two lovable buffoons are ordering dessert in a restaurant.
“What kind of ice cream do you have?” asks Stanley, the slimmer, dopier one.
The waiter replies, “We have pistachio or vanilla.”
With a gleeful, child-like enthusiasm, Stanley says, “I’ll take chocolate.”
Life can be that way at times. As much as we’d like to believe we can have it all, as much as we think we’re entitled to unlimited choices, the list is not always as long as Ben and Jerry’s. Sometimes the choice is pistachio or vanilla.
I sympathize with Stanley; those are not my two favorite flavors, either. In fact, they are at the bottom of the list, unless I beautify the vanilla with chocolate fudge, butterscotch, whipped cream, nuts and a cherry on top.
But they might not offer all the extra fillings. It might just be pistachio or vanilla.
When the choices are undesirable we can accept it or live in denial. We can assume, as Stanley did, that because we like chocolate, they must have chocolate. Indeed, we can be in so much denial, that we do not even hear the waiter. But our strong opinions will not cause vanilla to morph into chocolate.
This observation is obvious when discussing dessert, but it isn’t clear to certain GOP elitists.
During the primaries, candidates came in many flavors, 17 to be exact. But the primaries are over. The choice has been reduced to one GOP candidate and one Democratic candidate.
Many in the GOP are in denial. Examples of this denial abound but the most glaring example is the response to Donald Trump’s recent, infamous comment about the heritage of U.S. District Court Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is set to preside over the lawsuit against Trump University. In an attempt to show the man’s bias and request that he recuse himself from the case, Trump used some inciting words about the judge’s Mexican identity.
When members of Trump’s own party join in the outcry they “protest too much.” There isn’t a thinking person in the country who does not understand what Trump meant to convey. The judge works for a legal organization with ties (some argue how close a tie) to La Raza. La Raza is an organization that believes Southwestern states like California and Arizona should be returned to Mexico.
Even if Curiel does not personally believe that, Trump was apparently suggesting that the judge’s view of our borders is incompatible with his own campaign talk about tougher immigration laws and the building of a wall. In usual Trump style, he spoke without a filter and simply said that the judge was “Mexican.”
Conservatives cringed when they heard the comment but they understood what Trump meant. They did not have to shoot their own wounded.
Paul Ryan could have described it as a poor choice of words. Or better yet, he could have said nothing at all. Instead, he called Trump’s remark “textbook racism.” This was a disingenuous response, motivated by Ryan’s desire to give himself cover and save his own political future. Ryan is entitled to dislike Trump. He is also entitled to wish the GOP had a different nominee. He is not entitled to call the man a racist, fulling knowing that that such a charge is nonsense.
Thanks to Ryan and other GOP elites, the Hillary Clinton campaign has some sound bites for their own ads. “Hey look, Republicans, even your own party fears a Trump presidency.”
One would think that a politician could stoop no lower. Unfortunately, this is nothing compared to the box of tricks that may be opened up at the Republican convention.
There is talk of blocking Trump by calling for a vote to change the convention rules. Under new rules, delegates would no longer be tied to Trump, not even on the first ballot. Although he endorsed Trump, Ryan seems to be signaling consent by reminding delegates to “follow their conscience.”
This maneuver would have nothing to do with conscience.
The hollow justification goes something like this: A political party is entitled to pass its own nomination rules and such rules have a tie to America’s past. After all, delegates were nominating candidates for many years in our country’s history before being tied to primaries. So what is wrong with going back to this procedure?
Plenty is wrong. Come next election the GOP can create any new rules they want. But those were not the rules this time. Voters were led to believe that their ballots mattered. So were candidates who put blood, sweat and tears into campaigning around the country.
These same candidates were asked to abide by the rules. This included a pledge—aimed at Trump, agreed to by all—promising that should a candidate lose the nomination, he would nevertheless support the GOP nominee. Trump might not have honored his promise in the face of defeat, but that’s a non-issue; he won. Now some of the other candidates, like Jeb Bush, are going back on their own pledge. This leaves a sour taste in the mouths of GOP voters.
Changing the rules at this stage of the game would be just about the stupidest thing the GOP ever did, and the bar for that is not high.
Conservatives are split over Trump. So are Evangelicals. This clever little maneuver would easily lose half the conservatives and half the Evangelicals. It would also drive away every single independent and conservative Democrat that Trump brought under the GOP umbrella.
The RINOS will remain, but the Republican Party will be finished. So will the Republic itself. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion will not be able to withstand one more liberal Supreme Court appointee. Our Republic is barely on life support as it is.
Trump is a loose cannon and it is understandable why politicians may wish to distance themselves. But this is a time for thinking less about political careers and more about the country they claim to be serving.
And so, let us state matters bluntly one more time: “Hey, GOP! Your choice is pistachio or vanilla.”
This is Bob Siegel, making the obvious obvious.
Bob Siegel is a weekend radio talk show host on KCBQ and a columnist. Details of his show can be found at www.bobsiegel.net