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Republicans: It Is What It Is

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Did Shakespeare say it first? Or the preacher of Ecclesiastes? Damon Runyon, even? My brother-in-law?

Whatever the case, "It is what it is."

The Republican Party is poised to nominate for president of the United States a candidate with a nearly unexampled capacity for dis-uniting the party, not to mention the very voters who must approve his job application. This Trump phenomenon, as people keep saying, is virtually without precedent. But it is what it is.

The chair declares a brief recess for stock-taking.

The latest polls show Donald John Trump trailing Hillary Clinton by 5 percentage points. The margin strikes me as sufficiently narrow to afford Trump a good chance for catching up to and passing -- oh, so narrowly -- his opponent. The volatility of this election year, and, correspondingly, of events abroad, would seem to leave the outcome in some doubt, never mind what the polls say.

What should be the attitude of voters who went into this election season with high hopes for the changes that might be effected by Scott Walker or Ted Cruz or Jeb Bush or Ben Carson, etc., etc.? That is what we are here to talk about.

Could Donald Trump serve the turn? Because if he doesn't, Clinton, our leading expert on secret email, will become automatically the voice of change, Hillary-style.

That dire possibility -- all the more dire now that she has co-opted 50 percent or more of Bernie Sanders' neo-socialist agenda -- is what sends chills up the spines of the #NeverTrump set. To which I have #Never belonged, in spite of watching one conventional contender after another fall miserably to the wayside, leaving just the uniquely unconventional candidate standing alone.

Well, it is what it is. And what stands out, among all the is-ness, is the inscrutability of Donald John Trump. To have watched Trump's tramps around the television networks over the years isn't to know how he would function as chief executive of the world's most powerful nation.

I think in this context we have given insufficient thought to the campaign eight years ago of Barack Obama, who won not just liberal, not just centrist, but also conservative votes with his promise to bring us together -- or something. I suggested at the time that the electorate was being asked to buy a pig in a poke, untested, unproved. "Whoopee!" said the voters. "Finally! Give us some of that bacon!" Which he did: starting with "resets," hardly thought through, of U.S. foreign policy relationships; and multibillion-dollar spending programs to aid an economic recovery that never quite arrived; and a behemoth of a government-enforced health insurance program whose costs, under-appraised, are starting to rise fast. And by the way, if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor -- if the government lets you.

Pigs in pokes may squeal attractively, but they tend to look different when freed to run around the place.

Would Trump, if elected, govern and reform constructively, with some sense of mission? I don't see how we could know such a thing. A man whose idea of reform is building a wall for which Mexico will pay has more of an ear for catchy phrases than an eye for the realities that surround every president before he (or she) leaves the inauguration. He asks for astronomical levels of trust. I mean, you can give it to him if you want. But...

But it is what it is, and Hillary Clinton is mere steps away from the Oval Office and the appointment of more supreme policy directors to the Supreme Court to join Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Sonia Sotomayor, who, having learned everything worth knowing, are sharing that knowledge with us -- gratis, until the bills for loss of liberty arrive in our mailboxes.

Take that point into consideration. Consider also the heartening choice of Mike Pence, a smart reform conservative, as Trump's running mate. The candidate, it seems, is capable of learning, but it's learning on the fly, and the hour is late. I think we now just have to watch. And to hope. Inasmuch as it is what is.

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