Prairie Lights: Marc Racicot takes the high road … for now

Ed Kemmick

By Ed Kemmick

Former Montana Gov. Marc Racicot, also the former chairman of the Republican National Committee, is making waves for his anti-Trump op-ed in the Washington Post.

The piece is interesting both for what it says and what it does not say. For starters, it is full of the kind of grandiloquent Hallmarkian sentiments Racicot was known for when he was governor.

In just the first two paragraphs we read of “our beloved country … a moment of great turmoil and testing as a nation … the wonders and blessings of our country … the grand experiment of our Founding Fathers … extraordinary threats to our freedom … by the grace of God,” and, so help me God, “good and courageous men and women of character and fortitude.”

He then turns to Abraham Lincoln, “the father of the Republican Party and, many would say, our most distinguished president.”

I would only add that, if there is an afterlife, which Lincoln seemed to doubt, he is probably sick and tired of finding his name, after all these years, still yoked to the Republican Party. Republicans alive now can say they support what Lincoln stood for, but based on their general outlook and beliefs, it is impossible to believe that many of them would have supported Lincoln in 1860 and 1864.

Racicot points out that Lincoln, for all the stature he has since attained, was an unremarkable candidate when he first stood for the presidency in 1860. Falling back into grandiloquency, Racicot wonders how, “in the darkest of times,” Americans chose Lincoln to lead them.

“There appears but one conclusion,” he continues—and you can almost hear the trumpets rolling in the background. “The collective whole of our citizenry, like a jury, has always had the capacity, if the evidence was before them, to discern those best qualified by virtue of their character and capacity, to lead us through perilous times.”

Or it may have been that his main opponent, Stephen Douglas, belonged to a Democratic Party that put up both a Southern and a Northern candidate, and that there was a fourth candidate, who belonged to the Constitutional Union Party and who won more than 12 percent of the vote.

Even then, Lincoln won with 40 percent of the vote only by dint of his extraordinary skills as a politician—skills that nowadays are looked down upon in favor of outsiders who pretend to put themselves above playing political games.

Racicot would appear to find such games disreputable, too. Because in his imaginary world, “every decision made by every leader reflects the character of the man or woman making the decision. Character is the lens through which a leader perceives the path to be followed. It conceives and shapes every thought and is inextricably interwoven into every word spoken, every policy envisioned and every action taken.”

After all this choir boy solemnity, one almost begins to understand the appeal of Donald Trump’s plainspokenness, his impatience with political correctness.

Anyway, after an onslaught of Parson Weems-like appeals to our brilliant shared past as the greatest blah, blah, blah in the blah, blah, blah, Racicot finally gets around to his point, though he acknowledges that he is “hesitant to judge others harshly.”

Those 13 million people who have already voted for Trump, he says, have “a right to be heard and their thoughts fairly and honestly considered.”

“But after long and careful consideration, I cannot endorse or support their decision to express their frustration, anger and disappointment by selecting Trump as the Republican nominee for president.”

After listing Trump’s disqualifiers—the lack of principled leadership qualities or policy proposals “consistent with historical Republican Party platform positions”—Racicot ends with this similarly vague statement:

“As a result, I cannot endorse or support Trump for president. And I offer my prayer for a second miracle in Cleveland.”

As an aside, I’m not entirely sure whether the first miracle he obliquely references has to do with basketball or those poor women who escaped from the house of horrors. Either way, the new miracle Racicot is looking for is clearly some kind of big upset at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland in a couple of weeks.

He apparently is hoping that party insiders will engineer some kind of insurgency that robs Trump of the nomination and puts it in the hands of a sainted individual who meets Racicot’s very high standards.

But if there is no second miracle? Racicot only says he cannot “endorse or support” Trump. If Trump is the candidate, will Racicot vote for him? Will he urge others not to vote for him?

I sincerely hope that Racicot writes a follow-up piece for the Washington Post after the Republican convention. That one will tells us how strong his own principles are.

This column originally appeared on Last Best News. Ed Kemmick is founding editor of Last Best News in Billings.