In recent polls of Republicans, nearly half of those surveyed consistently support Donald Trump or Ben Carson, and both nationally and in a variety of early primary states, their dominance is increasing. I used to tell anyone who would listen that Hillary Clinton was going to win the Democratic nomination and then, thankfully, any of a variety of Republicans I supported (in the following order) would win the presidential election: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Ohio Governor John Kasich or former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

I no longer believe that is by any means certain, and, as a conservative in good standing, I am amazed at the bad judgment of the Republican electorate.


I don't need to recite my conservative bona fides for those who know me, but for those who don't, I have been a moderate Howard Baker-type on the right at least since I was 25.

On fiscal and foreign policy matters I support traditional Republican views. I am a friend of former Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., and Gov. Larry Hogan was scheduled to speak to my class when the Baltimore riots interfered. I gave the University Lecture at conservative Hillsdale College in November, 2013, following by one month columnist George F. Will. I was a regular guest on the late Ron Smith's show, and I am have been a semi-regular with Jimmy Mathis and Clarence Mitchell IV and have provided much commentary for local and regional Fox news.

That said, I have these questions regarding each current Republican candidate for president: Can he or she be presidential, govern responsibly, and win?

It is no exaggeration that the Republican race has left me in near-despair (if I were a Democrat, I would describe myself as apoplectic).

It is difficult to exaggerate my chagrin. If President Ronald Reagan is the exemplar in temperament and governing as president, how do all those Republican poll respondents justify their supporting the unseasoned, gentle-but-irresponsible Ben Carson and the equally unseasoned, utterly inconsistent and bullying Donald Trump?

I much like Dr. Carson personally. I was on a Fox panel with him last year. He is sincere, likable, brilliant, well-read — and utterly unprepared to be president. He is completely inexperienced in the art of governing. He has no rhetorical filter, describing Obamacare not as irresponsible, untoward public policy but as "the worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery." He is tone deaf on settled policies and cultural statuses: he supports a flat tax, and he likened homosexuality to bestiality. He is historically knowledgeable, but, again, his judgment is awry, to say the least. He openly opines the gratuitously absurd hypothesis that if German Jewish community had had guns, it would have lessened the likelihood of Nazi annihilation.

Mr. Trump also provides no evidence he could govern. He has no background in political office and proffers wildly incoherent policy contradictions. He has been pro-life, and he has been pro-choice. He has supported and opposed a flat tax. He supported a left-wing single-payer health care plan.

These are not evolutionary changes in positions; they are changes representing different ideologies — an ad hoc approach to policy recommendations.

His style of rhetorical discourse is utterly anti-conservative, attacking women, including Fox's excellent commentator Megyn Kelly, who asked him some tough questions regarding his nasty behavior toward women. In a prototypical Trump backlash, he said, "You could see there was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever." Of course, this may be an unfair example, since he averred that he was referring to, uh, Ms. Kelly's nose.

That these rhetorical excesses are but a small sampling portends even worse such offenses moving forward.

If politics is the art of the possible, what budgetary stability could Mr. Trump forge with Republicans who have no historical link to him and Democrats who detest him? What do his supporters make of his politics, which once only could be inferred from his Democratic affiliation and now seem to be policies without philosophical moorings, delivered through unsophisticated bullying?

Do Mr. Trump's and Dr. Carson's Republican supporters think either of these two can win a presidential election? (And why are there few polls of likely voters of both parties and independents?)

I remain incredulous that so many Republicans support two unelectable, inexperienced and irresponsible candidates.

If the purpose is to communicate dissatisfaction with establishment politics and politicians, then some Republicans would rather lose than have a candidate they find flawed. To make a play on an old expression, "if you want to send a message, write a blog," don't concede the presidency.


Ronald Reagan would be appalled at the state of the Republican party's growing consensus.

Richard Vatz teaches political rhetoric at Towson University and is the author of The Only Authentic Book of Persuasion (Kendall Hunt, 2013). His email is rvatz@towson.edu.