A strange line of thought has emerged in the midst of Donald Trump’s latest and most broad-spectrum meltdown: that Hillary should offer Republicans a kind of buyout in exchange for their one-time support this November.
“She’s happy to make right-leaning voters feel a little better about fleeing Trump,” complained New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, “but she isn’t offering them substantive concessions, or seeking a grand centrist coalition.” He suggests she consider a more moderate reproductive rights, immigration, and fiscal policy agenda.
This thinking isn’t limited to conservatives with a rooting interest in seeing Hillary Clinton move right.
It’s in some ways reminiscent of the way John Boehner and Mitch McConnell would try to mind-trick Barack Obama into weakening his own hand, by warning him that sticking to his guns was tantamount to provoking a wild animal. Conservatives will stick with this manifestly dangerous candidate, and might even get him elected, unless Clinton volunteers a ransom of some kind.
I can think of three reasons why this is ridiculous.
1. Abandoning Trump is its own reward. Have you seen that guy? He’s crazy. Helping to defeat him is its own reward, when the alternative is being leashed to his candidacy for life.
2. The terms are asymmetric. Clinton should make lasting policy concessions for a one-time alliance of necessity? This is playing Clinton for a sucker. The very next time Republicans nominate a non-madman for the presidency, nearly all of these anti-Trump conservatives will flock back to their party, but the setbacks to, say, Medicare will be fixed in law. The conservative justice on the Supreme Court will be there for life. The terms Clinton is offering are more symmetrical: you make peace with freezing your priorities for four years, and in return we’ll distinguish between you and the Trump loyalists in our rhetoric.
3. This would be the greatest moral hazard created by man since Fox News paid Roger Ailes tens of millions of dollars for being a serial sexual harasser. It creates awful incentives to tell Republicans they can cater to the worst elements of their party for as long as its useful, because when things spin out of control, Democrats will enact their policies for them.
The right offer is nothing.