Back when the Republican feedlot was full of wannabes for the next presidential nomination, this site published my little tongue-in-cheek pieces, “Looking for Mr. Republican” (Sept. 13, 2013) and “Don’t Look Any Further, Mr. Republican Has Been Found” (April 3, 2015), describing the ideal Republican candidate. First, he must be presentable and respectable—someone you would consider a good neighbor and who would never violate the standard of American Niceness. He should look presidential, like William McKinley and Warren G. Harding. He must be from north of the Ohio River. He must not have any taint of “extremism,” i.e., must never have resisted any leftist pressure. He must be lacking in any ideas or principles, able smoothly to deliver meaningless Republican boilerplate (“compassionate conservatism,” “No Child Left Behind,” etc.) He must be completely without any intellectual distinction or force of character, either of which might alarm the voters with lack of a moderate and responsible persona. The Republican Party has long specialized in the dumb but nice (Dan Quayle, Bush minor, ad infinitum).
Having established all these desirable characteristics, I declared in 2015 that I had found the perfect Mr. Republican: “Pence of Indiana,” the perfection of an Establishment Republican empty suit, who had declared himself boldly for “family values” and then run away at the first enemy probe.
Donald Trump has done his country great service by simply telling the truth, tearing a few holes in the great fabric of lies that makes up American public discourse. The American people have responded to his boldness and independence. I believe that I am not alone in fearing that he has now betrayed himself, his cause, and his country by giving in to his discredited Establishment enemies. It is not at all clear that Pence adds any strength to the ticket or to a future administration. He could well prove a bleeding ulcer to Trump. His selection confuses a clear and winning message. Trump should have, if true to himself, chosen a new man—someone young and dynamic and dedicated to destroying Establishment power and obfuscation.
I do not go so far as to think that Trump will be assassinated or impeached, as some have suggested, to make way for a more pliable President, although these things are not entirely beyond possibility. All I can do now is watch and hope.
Clyde N. Wilson is the Emeritus Distinguished Professor of History at the University of South Carolina and a Contributing Editor to Chronicles. Dr. Wilson is best known as the editor of the 28-volume documentary edition of The Papers of John C. Calhoun. He is the author or editor of a dozen other books—including Carolina Cavalier: The Life and Mind of James Johnston Pettigrew and Defending Dixie: Essays in Southern History and Culture—and has published over 700 articles, essays, and reviews. He is also the co-owner of Shotwell Publishing.