Another View -- John H. Sununu: Don't drink the Trump Kool-Aid
Most of us know “Drinking the Kool-Aid” refers to a commitment to an idea without comprehending the implications of that commitment. We remember that this phrase derives from the horrible tragedy of 1978 where 900 followers of Jim Jones died when he convinced them to drink a mixture of Kool-Aid and cyanide. What is often forgotten is that hundreds of others who did not want to drink the deadly cocktail were murdered by forcibly being given doses of cyanide.
Today Republicans find themselves in a similar position as many of our primary voters continue to support Donald Trump. Trump has even become the darling of some of our most influential conservative talk radio hosts despite support for issues that historically have been anathema to conservatives. In truth, Trump is cut from the same big government cloth as Barack Obama. He welcomed the Obama stimulus packages, supports government-funded universal health care, and is a fan and an exploiter of eminent domain for his real estate developments. Trump has said he is “very pro-choice” and remains committed to letting his “good friend” Vladimir Putin dominate strategic policy in the Middle East. Our radio hosts have drunk his Kool-Aid.
Even on his signature issue of immigration, he is nothing more than an opportunist. In 2012, Trump attacked Mitt Romney for suggesting that there should be deportations of illegal immigrants, accusing Romney of being “mean-spirited”, and scolding him for losing the Latino vote. Trump’s lack of ideology allows him to exploit our anger at our porous borders by advocating his new Trumped up policy of rounding up and deporting 11 million people. His candidacy is leveraged on that extreme reversal of stance and a rhetorical misrepresentation of his lifelong position.
Barack Obama has shown that on-the-job training for a President does not work, especially in the area of foreign policy. Donald Trump’s foreign policy statements would be considered ludicrous by his supporters if they could only allow themselves to ignore the cult of personality and simply think about what he says. Trump’s comfort with the resurgence of Russian leadership in the Mideast should be anathema to our conservative friends. His abject ignorance on the issue of our nuclear triad as displayed in the last debate should really worry them, and Trump’s claim that he understands foreign policy because he pays attention to the Sunday talk shows should gag even his most ardent followers.
Inconsistency over the long haul may represent a long-term learning curve, but Trump’s inconsistencies provide solid evidence of ignorance. Over just a couple of weeks, Trump flipped from “we should just let Russia fight ISIS” to “we need to bomb the — out of the Islamic State”. His most recent rant on wages shows he also knows nothing about economic policy. He went from using the line “wages are too high” in the November debate as the reason we are “losing to other countries” to now saying that “wages are too low” after Bernie Sanders tweaked him on the issue. Trump is clearly a man with no philosophy, no plan, no experience, and no understanding.
There is certainly justified anger among voters over the failure of our Washington leadership for not delivering on their promises that produced strong Republican results in the 2014 elections. The mistake of the leadership was their suggestion that control of the Senate would guarantee positive results instead of emphasizing that its only possible achievement would be to prevent more bad things from happening.
That anger at Republican leadership in Washington has enraged our base and overshadowed the fact that Republicans at the state level — Republican governors and Republican controlled legislatures — have delivered on their commitments. They cut taxes, reduced the size of government, and defended individual rights. All that was accomplished by a significant part of the “Republican establishment” that Trump continues to attack. It would be smart to select our presidential nominee from these Republicans who delivered on their promises. Politics is about governing. The purpose of banding together to produce a majority as a political party is to win elections, and then use those victories to change policy. One of the basic tactics of Trump has been to denigrate everyone including potential allies. That is a tactic not only of Trump himself but of the Trump trolls as they savage everyone in the social media. That approach will guarantee defeat in November.
One would be tempted to let our friends continue to kid themselves, but that would be disastrous. The stakes are too high in this election. Republicans must deny the Democrats a second eight-year cycle of control of the White House. As devastating as control of the executive branch has been under Barack Obama, it will be disproportionately more destructive if the Democrats are allowed to solidify their socialization of America with another eight years. Unless we nominate a Republican with a proven record of political success, we will hand the election to Hillary Clinton.
New Hampshire earned its “First in the Nation” primary status by effectively weighing, vetting, and narrowing the field of nominees for both parties. In February, we must give strong momentum to an experienced candidate with a proven ability to make things work. We need to build on the conservative achievements of our successful governors. We must not drink the Trump Kool-Aid.
John H. Sununu is the former governor of New Hampshire and former chairman of the NH Republican State Committee.