Two Cheers for William Weld
President Trump will have a challenger in his own party in 2020: William Weld.
For the uninitiated, William Weld is a truly moderate Republican who was the governor of Massachusetts from 1991 to 1997. He’s is probably as out of step with the modern GOP as they come: he is pro-choice, was pro-gay rights before it was even cool. He is in many ways something out of the long ago past.
The reaction from the conservative punditocracy has been a shrug, even from NeverTrumpers. S.E. Cupp sees him as useless. Tom Nichols sees him as too establishment to take on Trump. Damon Linker is not a NeverTrumper, but he thinks only a Trumpist could take on Trump. Matthew Walther sees him as an annoying trend.
Weld is the product of a Republican Party that no longer exists, one that was a bit more heterogeneous when it came to ideology. He is a throwback, and he won’t send today’s more conservative/libertarians atwitter. He has no chance of winning. None. Zippo. Nada.
But I am glad he is running.
If you are wondering why all you have to do is read the Mueller Report or the various takes from the media. To say it doesn’t portray a flattering portrait of President Trump is a gross understatement. We’ve all known that the president is incredibly morally compromised, but the Mueller Report shows just how corrupt the president truly is. We see a man that operates less as the Commander in Chief and more like a mob boss. He is the man that wants, demands loyalty, but will not show loyalty to others. When John McCain died in August 2018, he delayed in putting the flag in the White House at half-mast. He sees the Attorney General as his personal lawyer instead of the chief law officer for the nation. I don’t think I need to mention that he lies consistently because he does it as often as breathing.
If the President were a Democrat, he would be attacked by Republicans for such a horrible moral character. But in this case, he is a Republican and the party has stood by him for the most part- a sign of our increasing political polarization. Republicans might think he is a son of a bitch, but he is their son of a bitch and they have to support him.
Over the last few decades, Americans started to see the role of the president as just another job. What mattered is what the president could do for our certain group. The first sign of this took place back in the 1990s when we learned about Bill Clinton’s indiscretions. But Trump has taken it to eleven. He acts like a cretin and conservatives shrug. In their minds, as long as he brings the judges, they will look the other way.
Trump is a strongman leader, no different than other strongmen like Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey or Victor Orban in Hungary. Trump has been hemmed in by some constitutional guardrails so far, but he is still one that seeks to rule ruthlessly. It doesn’t matter how he lives; what matters is making sure he rewards his followers and seeks to punish his enemies.
Even as people have started to see the presidency as less than a moral position and more of a job to rule, Americans have sought out the President in times of crisis. One can remember George W. Bush standing on the rubble of the World Trade Center days after the September 11 attacks telling the workers he could hear them, and that soon, the people who knocked down the towers would hear from America. Or Bill Clinton showing visible anger after the Oklahoma City bombing. Or Ronald Reagan visiting an African American family in Maryland after a cross was burned on their front lawn. All of these examples show the President as a moral leader, speaking for the nation. Being a moral leader doesn’t mean these people were perfect, but these Presidents knew they had to step up to the office. It is about realizing that they are not just a leader, but also a servant to the people of the United States.
Which leads us back to William Weld. Weld is not going to win, but we need someone who can pose a challenge to conservatives: does character matter in the office of President? Does it matter how they live? Does it matter how they see the office of President? As Kevin Williamson notes, there needs to be a place where Republicans can express their dissent about Trump, and it will also measure if there are still Republicans who care about character and honor.
Trump wants not to have to defend his record. He is going to press on state parties to pledge their support for Trump to fend off any challengers. He has muted any dissent from Republican politicians by making them fearful of a primary challenge from a Trumpist. Weld is going to remind voters of Trump’s record. Since he is not a current politician, he can feel free to criticize Trump – from within the party.
The thing is, Weld is the only one to challenge Trump. Never Trumpers talk a good game, but there has never been an effective defense against Trump. Never Trumpers could not stop him during the 2016 primaries to take on Trump. So, 2020 is the last chance to at least stand up to him, to at least make Trump a little uncomfortable.
So, I’m going to support Weld, because it just might be the last time for those on the center-right to stand athwart history and tell Trump “no.”