Notwithstanding everyone’s desire to just go ahead and hand the keys to the Oval Office to Hillary Clinton, I have tried to urge a dose of reality with respect to her political and legal situation after yesterday’s hearing before the House Select Committee on Benghazi. In the spirit of highlighting her surge, though, now I offer up a notion that may seem unnecessarily preposterous. But bear with me.
Let us assume that Secretary Clinton becomes the Democratic nominee and that no legal consequences for her emerge from the FBI email investigation. It is conventional wisdom that Republicans despise Secretary Clinton and that they will stop at nothing to ensure her defeat in 2016. If the Republican nominee is anyone other than Donald Trump, that may well be true. But if the Republican nominee is Donald Trump (I am just now able to persuade myself that it really could happen, though I still believe it will not), then I think the conventional wisdom may be wrong. I can imagine a scenario next year in which moderate establishment Republicans – perhaps in comparatively small numbers, but still enough to make some difference – decide that Secretary Clinton is the lesser of two evils and throw their support to her. These are not, mind you, people that you would hear on the Sunday shows or read in the editorial pages. They would not have Clinton signs on their front lawns or Clinton bumper stickers on their cars. Rather, these Republicans would quietly fill in their ballots for Clinton on Election Day, telling no one and probably asking some degree of heavenly forgiveness while doing so. But they could turn a close election in her favor.
That would only happen, however, under two conditions: if Trump is the Republican nominee, and, more importantly, if Clinton starts to warm to Republicans a little. Secretary Clinton has made the entire Republican field, and the Party generally, an object of scorn and derision lately. That is lamentable but understandable, given that it is Primary season and she is facing a challenge from the far Left, not to mention her deep unpopularity with many Liberals who feel she is too moderate and too cozy with moneyed interests. But that is all the more reason why she may appeal to some Republicans who admire Trump’s capitalist bona fides but cannot abide his lack of seriousness and substance, and who fear his divisiveness will do more damage to the Republican Party than would a Clinton Presidency. In their minds, a vote against Trump would save, not harm, the Party.
Well, you say, those are not real Republicans anyway. RINOs, for sure, you say (are there very many more ridiculous concepts in politics than the label “RINO”? Isn’t every Republican a Republican in name only?). That’s hardly a fair description, though, as these are Republicans who would gladly vote for any of the other Republican candidates instead of Clinton. It’s not as if they call themselves Republicans but are secret Clinton admirers, just waiting for their chance to make her President. They still find her deeply troubling, and would vote for her only in the very narrow circumstances I describe. Call them names, if you like, but their vote still counts.
So, sure, she’s batting Lefty right now. But when Secretary Clinton inevitably moves to the center during the general election campaign (count on it), she needs to do so with an eye toward capturing some of that moderate establishment Republican block. But she will never achieve that if she insists on referring to Republicans, writ large, as enemies, or by rejecting all Republican ideas. Quite naturally, she shows disdain for Republicans now because that is what Democratic primary voters want to hear. And few people in politics today are as good at figuring out, and saying exactly, what people want to hear than Hillary Clinton. But she should also bear in mind that that kind of disdain will turn off Republicans who might otherwise be inclined to favor her over Trump.
Perhaps I’m wrong about this; it’s just a working theory right now. And that theory depends upon the confluence of many factors that may never come to pass; hopefully they will not. Even if Trump becomes the nominee, perhaps he will win over his skeptics in the Party. Maybe there really is a mind at work there. Maybe all of those people who say they will never vote for Trump will change their view. There are, after all, things about Trump that Republicans can find appealing. But the electoral math is already against him. And if he fails to demonstrate the kind of seriousness and substance that some Republicans want from their President, they just might find that in the Democratic nominee. So, one of three things has to happen: Trump needs to broaden his appeal within the Party; or perhaps the Republican field should be working harder to beat Trump; or perhaps Secretary Clinton should start being nicer to Republicans.