James Werrell

What if Democrats were in the same boat as Republicans?

Hooray to the growing list of Republicans who not only criticize Donald Trump, but also pledge they won’t vote for him or support his candidacy in any way!

Sadly, most prominent South Carolina Republicans can’t count themselves as members of that commendable group. Lt. Gov. Henry McMaster gave one of the nominating speeches for Trump at the GOP convention. Gov. Nikki Haley has been critical of some of the things Trump has said but still gives him her support.

Only Sen. Lindsey Graham has said – and said it early – that he wouldn’t vote for Trump under any circumstances, although he doesn’t plan to vote for Hillary Clinton either.

It is hard to come up with any other elected S.C. Republican who has fully denounced The Donald.

A number of other notable Republicans, however, have washed their hands of Trump. Fifty of the nation’s most senior Republican national security officials last week signed a letter saying Trump “would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”

Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” – a former GOP congressman from Florida – wrote in a Washington Post column this week that, after hinting that “Second Amendment people” could find a solution to the problem of a Clinton presidency, Trump needs to go.

“At long last, Donald Trump has left the Republican Party few options but to act decisively and get this political train wreck off the tracks before something terrible happens,” Scarborough wrote.

Democrats, meanwhile, are watching that train rumble down the tracks with glee and the hope that many other Republican candidates will be on board. They reason that, for now at least, the smart thing to do is stand by and watch while the wheels come off.

There is ample smugness in this point of view, but much of it is well earned. Democrats are entitled to say, “We didn’t make you nominate a lunatic to run for president.”

But it is interesting to contemplate, as a mental exercise, what Democrats – who are high-handedly chiding Republicans for their spineless refusal to condemn their candidate – would do if they were riding the same train. Is there any equivalent situation imaginable in which fringe Democrats might succeed in nominating a presidential candidate so loathsome that middle-of-the-road Democrats couldn’t stomach him?

To establish equivalency, this candidate would have to come from the far left and espouse the sort of simple-minded ideas you might have heard at the drum circle in a commune around 1972. And his personal life would be a template for rejecting anything that resembled traditional propriety.

He would openly admit to using recreational drugs, while maybe not the addictive ones. He would not have been divorced three times, but that is only because he has no interest in the institution of marriage.

He opposes capitalism, big banks, militaristic adventurism, fossil fuels, organized religion, the upper class, processed food, national borders, nukes, fascism and deodorant. He still uses the phrase, “far out.”

This candidate definitely would not emerge from the political class. For example, those who say that Bernie Sanders is the left-wing equivalent of Trump are mistaken.

Sanders, a longtime U.S. senator, also has been a mayor and a congressman. He is a disciplined, well-informed politician who ran a conventional campaign within the confines of a major party and who holds views, which, though left-leaning, are fully within the American mainstream.

And no one else within the current Democratic political establishment really is the equivalent of Trump either.

As the Republicans did, Democrats probably would have to turn to the field of entertainment to find the equivalent of Trump. Alec Baldwin? That would be close.

The question Democrats have to ask themselves is, if someone like Baldwin were their nominee and he seemed in danger of wrecking the country if elected, would they renounce him and allow someone such as Ted Cruz, someone they really can’t stand, to become president?

Maybe Democrats, in all their smugness, need to show some pity for the plight of their Republican friends. It’s not easy watching your party self-destruct.

James Werrell is editor of The Herald opinion page.

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