As the inevitability of a Donald Trump nomination grows, many Republicans are moving to the acceptance stage of grief. Trump’s unfavorability ratings are historic for a presumptive nominee. Some reputable polls have him as high as 60 percent negative, many others have him losing by double digits to Hillary Clinton. Retention of the Senate, already an uphill climb in an election year swelling with vulnerable Republican incumbents, is an equally dim prospect.
Not all conservatives have given up the ship. The presumptive Democratic nominee is a hair away from federal indictment. The presumptive Republican nominee is a reality-TV lunatic who has run multiple business ventures into the ground. Never before has a third-party candidate looked so viable, even the odd duck 1992 election that saw Ross Perot earn a generous share of the popular vote.
This third-party option would need to thread a needle. The candidate would have to be conservative, enough so that non-Trump conservatives —keep in mind this is a strong majority of traditional Republican voters—have reason to show up and pull a lever for him and the party’s Senate candidates. The candidate would also need to be sensible, experienced, and respected—not a demagogue like those who have so excited Republican voters this cycle. The name would need to be recognizable, but not in the garish celebrity sense like Mr. Trump. The candidate would need to convey strength in a year teeming with voter concerns about ISIS, cybersecurity, a rising Russia, and Chinese shield-thumping in the Far East.
So who better than retired Marine General James Mattis?
Mattis is a battle hardened warrior, renowned for his humble leadership style and aggressive pursuit of America’s enemies. Nicknamed the “Warrior Monk,” Mattis is something of a cult figure in the Marines. One such tale had the general relieving a young Marine captain of sentry duty on Christmas Day, taking up the post himself so the young officer could be with his family. He’s known for his excellence in both the arts of combat and diplomacy alike. Mattis led the First Marine Division in an aggressive thrust into the Euphrates River Valley in 2003, but also skillfully managed the kaleidoscope of conflicting diplomatic relationships as Commander of U.S. Central Command.
Mattis is a student of both history and economics, known for quoting Greek sophists but unafraid to dabble in some occasional profanity—though his famous blunt talk, famously known as Mattisisms, would seem mild in a year laced with Trump’s vulgarities.
He neuters both party frontrunners’ perceived strengths. Trump’s faux-tough guy act would crumble when met with an actual warrior, and Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy chops would seem like an 100-level International Relations course next to Mattis’s experience and expertise.
Mattis is vehemently apolitical and would likely be repulsed by the mere suggestion that he run. But so was another former general turned president, Dwight Eisenhower.
Eisenhower, history buffs will recall, was a late draft in the 1952 election. He was initially mortified by his name being mixed up in politics. After thousands showed up to a “Draft Eisenhower” rally in New York City, Ike reportedly wrote a friend saying, “I’ve never been so upset in years.”
Eisenhower was in Paris during the early primaries, commanding NATO forces and helping oversee implementation of the Marshall Plan. He did not campaign or make political media appearances. Yet Ike comfortably won the New Hampshire primary on March 3. It wasn’t until June 4 that Eisenhower made his first political speech, only after retiring as Commander of NATO forces in Europe two days prior.
Why the swell of support? The Draft Eisenhower movement exploded during the 1951 “Winter of Discontent,” when Americans were frustrated by an unpopular president, a stalemated war, and a sluggish economy. All this may sound familiar.
Americans were hungry for an outsider then, and are hungry for an outsider now. In an election year with voters on both sides of the aisle thirsty for a non-politician, who better than the reluctant General Mattis, whose first and foremost love is duty to his country?
Like Ike, Mattis would need to be pressed into service. It’s a tough proposition given Mattis’s long and selfless commitment to his republic. But tough times call for tough measures. He’s a man who has always answered the trumpet’s blast of flag and freedom. He knows, as do many voters, the ugly prospect of a Trump presidency and what it would mean for the rule of law, the sacredness of the office, and the integrity of the Constitution. He also knows how tough things have grown oversees, with America’s special role in the world slipping away each day.
So, if General Mattis does decide to help save America, does he have a shot? Absolutely. Donald Trump’s ceiling of Republican voters hovers around 40 percent. Many state polls, particularly those west of the Mississippi, have suggested that over 40 percent of GOP voters would pull a lever for a third-party candidate. In a year when Democratic primary turnout is low —a reliable forecast for low enthusiasm common of an incumbent party— and vice versa on the Republican side, there is plenty of room for a no-kidding American hero and political outsider to hit 35 percent of the vote in key states. If Trump, Clinton, and Mattis are all denied an outright majority in the Electoral College, the decision goes to the House of Representatives. There, Mattis has a real shot of cobbling together enough state delegations to crowd out Clinton and Trump alike.
Americans are craving a strong leader, one who is upright, honest, and unstained by political blood sport. General Eisenhower was one of America’s finest presidents. General Mattis would undoubtedly continue in that great tradition. Even in this screwed up political era, service and integrity still count for something. They’ve always been the backbone of this republic, and we could use a little of both right now.So help us General Mattis, you’re our only hope.