As my distress mounts in the face of a likely Trump GOP candidacy, I have begun to cast about for ways that Democrats like myself might meaningfully influence the outcome of the Republican nominating process. I am an unapologetic left-wing partisan. I have voted for every Democratic presidential candidate since Michael Dukakis, and until now there have been no circumstances under which I would have imagined voting Republican. Moreover, I greatly admire the two potential Democratic nominees in this race. I have had an "I'm with Hillary" sticker on my car for many months now; I think she would make an excellent president. Though I prefer Hillary to Bernie Sanders, if he prevailed I would, under normal circumstances, swiftly jump aboard his bandwagon in the general election, as I deem his policies far superior to that of any of his potential Republican rivals.
The stakes in this election, however, have risen catastrophically high. A Trump candidacy, even if he should lose, will do so much damage to the fabric of our Republic, that all conscientious citizens are called upon to do what they can to prevent it. Why is this the case? The first and most obvious reason is that if Trump is nominated, there is a chance he will become president. Democrats who are thrilled at the prospects of an "easy win" should take a moment to reflect that anything can happen between now and November. I personally think that a Trump nomination is most likely to result in a Democratic win (for either Sanders or Clinton), perhaps even a landslide that radically redistributes power to the detriment of the GOP more generally. The prospects of such a partisan windfall should not be enough to make anyone welcome a Trump candidacy, however. Because Trump himself is so unqualified, because he has demonstrated so little respect for the political process, and because he has built an electoral coalition on a foundation of racism and xenophobia, a Trump presidency would be disastrous in a way that no prior presidency in the history of this country could rival (even those of James Buchanan, Richard Nixon, or George W. Bush).
But this is only the worst case scenario. In point of fact, the best case scenario, in which Trump runs as the GOP nominee but loses, is still catastrophically detrimental to our nation. As David Brooks notes in a recent column, for many decades we have been living through an era of increasing disaffection with the political system and disenchantment with our fundamental institutions. The various organs of the government have progressively lost dignity and legitimacy in the eyes of both the citizenry and the elected officials who inhabit them. We do not have to guess where the end of that process leads, it is foretold in the fate of other systems where similar forces were at work: the early Chinese Republic, Weimar Germany, and Spain on the eve of that nation's civil war.
The United States is of course a very robust and resilient Republic, and the self-correcting mechanisms built into our Constitution have seen us through many crises in the past. But there is a limit to the regenerative elasticity of any system. Donald Trump is the proverbial canary in the coal mine. His candidacy could so profane our politics and debase our national discourse as to irreparably drain our institutions of the capacity to govern. This, moreover, discounts the horrific damage he will do (has already done) to the reputation of the United States abroad. In an age when the struggle against Al Qaeda and ISIS requires intense and strategic political acumen, our national security can not afford a presidential candidate who casts us as the caricature demonized in jihadi propaganda.
As much as I cherish the prospect of a Clinton (or a Sanders) presidency, and as much as I fear the potential fallout of GOP control of the White House (new attacks on Obamacare, a return to policies that favor the super rich, a neglect of the environment, etc.), I am forced to admit that it would be better in the long-run interests of the country for the Democrats to lose against John Kasich than for them to win against Donald Trump. In an effort to sway my Republican compatriots, I thus make this pledge: if you nominate John Kasich, I will vote for him in the November election, no matter who is the Democratic nominee. Needless to say, this pledge entails a resolve to use not only my vote but also my time, effort, and money, to oppose Donald Trump should he be the nominee.
I can envision many objections on the part of both Republicans and Democrats, but I will refrain from laying out my arguments against them here. This may well be deemed an empty gesture, but I would urge my fellow Democrats to follow me in making this pledge. If nothing else, it would signal a willingness to rise above partisanship and forge a new electoral coalition for the greater good of the nation. I hope that my dire forebodings are wrong, and that we will either not be saddled with a Trump candidacy or that its occurrence will not be as damaging as I foresee. In any case, I do not want to feel later on that I sat idly by while the storm gathered.