Friday, March 25, 2016

I can't decide who...

...should get my first-ever Optimist of the Day award, David Brooks or Jonathan Bernstein.

First Mr. Brooks, who writes in his New York Times column today, "The Post-Trump Era":

This is a wonderful moment to be a conservative.

Um, no it's not. Not only are we a long way from the "post-Trump era," but it's also a really terrible, horrible, no good, very bad time to be a conservative.

If Republicans somehow don't nominate Donald Trump in Cleveland this summer, Ted Cruz is next in line. I really don't know who would be worse for the GOP, but neither one could win as many states as Mitt Romney did in 2012. And Republicans will have to live with four, maybe eight, years of Bill and Hillary Clinton -- again -- in the White House. (Remember how that drove them absolutely crazy last time? They may even find themselves pining for the good 'ol days when the skinny black guy with the funny last name was in the Oval Office.)

Brooks concedes that Trump:

...will almost certainly go down to a devastating defeat, either in the general election or — God help us — as the worst president in American history.

Yep, great time to be a conservative.

Brooks doesn't put it quite this way, but the Republican Party is kind of like a raging alcoholic on the verge of hitting rock bottom. (I'd stand back if I were him.) If you've never been to an AA meeting, rock bottom is often associated with losing one's job, one's marriage or getting into a really bad car crash. (Sometimes all three.) And like an alcoholic finally embarking on the long journey up from rock bottom, it's often marked by backsliding, "slips" and other unforeseen obstacles. Oh, and it can take years.

Brooks concludes by saying:

Nobody knows what it will be, but it’s exciting to be present at the re-creation.

It'll be exciting, all right. Sounds like that old Chinese curse*, "May you live in interesting times."

My other contestant this morning is Jonathan Bernstein, who writes in Bloomberg, "It's Not Too Late for Trump to Lose the Nomination."


I guess -- strictly speaking -- Mr. Bernstein is right in that Trump's nomination won't be a done deal until the Republican convention this summer, but it's sure looking that way. Never mind all the red-faced pundits who are finally waving the white flag, let's consult the betting markets. Paddy Power has Trump at 3/10 odds of being the GOP standard-bearer. Think Mitt Romney is going to swoop in at the last minute and snatch the nomination away from the Donald? Then put your money where your mouth is -- the odds are 50/1! You could end up as rich as Mittens.

Bernstein reminds me a little of his colleague Megan McArdle, who continues to write after six years of passage and contrary to all evidence, that the Affordable Care Act is about to come crashing down any minute now. And Bernstein has been equally tenacious that the Trump bubble is just bound to burst. It makes me wonder, What's in the water cooler at Bloomberg?

Bernstein cites "three ways that Donald Trump still could be denied the Republican nomination":

1. He could lose the delegate lead. 

2. He could retain the delegate lead, but fail to reach the 1,237 needed to clinch the nomination. Or,

3. He could hit 1,237 and still lose at the convention.

But he forgot a fourth: Trump could announce on the eve of the convention that this was all a great big practical joke and he's endorsing Hillary Clinton for president after all. Gotcha!

In other words, Bernstein is right: anything can happen. But I'm afraid in the Five Stages of Grief he's still stuck in denial, while the rest of us have moved on to acceptance.

But don't worry Mr. Bernstein, Donald Trump may get the Republican nomination, but he'll never, ever be president of the United States.

How's that for optimism? Or is it denial?

* Apparently, this is neither Chinese nor a curse. Whatever.

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