It wasn’t by choice or his own revelation, but you’ve probably heard the story that recently circulated about President George H.W. Bush. At a “private” event for his charitable foundation, 41 was taking photos in a meet-and-greet line. One his foundation members snapped a picture and posted it with a caption that rocked the news cycle: “The President told me he’s voting for Hillary!”
The Points of Light Board Member who outed the Republican stalwart? Kathleen Kennedy Townsend– the daughter of Robert F. Kennedy. This led to two days worth of eye-rolling, dynastic headlines about a Kennedy revealing that a Bush was voting for Clinton. [Insert my exasperated chuckle here]
While Ms. Townsend may have been disrespectful in telling about a private conversation with the former president, the spokesperson for Mr. Bush issued a generic non-denial of the story which created an even bigger story. The following day, sources surfaced stating that the assertion was true and that Ms. Townsend was not the first person that President Bush had shared this news with.
Let’s accept this notion about his vote as fact, because this article isn’t about George H.W. Bush personally– it’s about the possibility that he has become a keeper of the floodgates (albeit an unwilling one) for other high-profile Republicans who may have been considering doing the same thing. I don’t believe the former president wanted to be put in this position but he, nor his spokesperson, have gone out-of-the-way to squash the story. This raises the question that I’ve been wondering for some time now: is there more where that came from?
There has been a steady, slow drip of Republicans who have either come out publicly or issued statements in support of Hillary Clinton. So far, they have been fairly mid-level names (not to diminish their service or character, but none loom as large as the former president). No one has been as high-profile as George H.W. Bush, but they are not to be discounted: Carlos Gutierrez, Hank Paulson, Richard Armitage, Brent Scowcroft, John Negroponte, Max Boot, Sally Bradshaw, Chris Shays, Richard Hanna, Rosario Martin, James Clad, Fred Goldberg. Others, while not actively supporting Ms. Clinton, have also sworn off Mr. Trump: Jeb Bush, Ben Sasse, Mitt Romney, Rick Wilson, Ana Navarro, Tara Setmayer, Barbara Bush, Norm Coleman, Jeff Flake, and George W. Bush. These names aren’t minimal. They have decades of experience in Republican campaigns and governance.
I often see folks scoff and criticize them as if to say that this is somehow not surprising. Do not be misled: this is not something to take lightly. Will these folks sway large hordes of voters? Probably not. Could they make a collective public impact? Absolutely. This is where my question comes into play. What if, with less than 50 days to go before Election Day, there was an explosion of pro-Clinton endorsements, or anti-Trump non-endorsements, to flood the news cycles? What if the race remains as close as it has gotten (and that’s no guarantee when you factor in Mr. Trump’s mouth)? We could find ourselves in a situation where some (*gasp*) establishment Republicans are so appalled by the prospect of Mr. Trump’s name-calling and temper tantrums being front-and-center on an international stage that they feel compelled by conscience to speak out.
Just picture it: It’s mid-to-late October, and we’re still in a 1 or 2 point race. The swing states are still split, and it looks like the Electoral College could come down to less than 10 or 15 votes in Colorado, Iowa, New Hampshire, North Carolina, or Nevada. The whispering has gotten louder, all about the trillions of dollars of new debt from a Trump presidency, a job-killing/price-inflating 45-percent tariff, and a blustery-yet-hollow foreign policy from an inexperienced television host. He cannot be allowed to see the inside of the Oval Office. Sometime in the afternoon, breaking news comes across the screen. It includes a group of Republicans willing to go public to stop a Trump presidency. A statement comes out that reads something similar to this:
Many of us have attempted to stay above the fray in this election, as we see no conservative option to carry America into a prosperous 21st Century. However, we cannot stay silent any longer. We understand public frustration with the failure of the system; too many people feel unrepresented, disrespected, and left-behind. The tone-deafness that often comes from Washington, D.C. has made much of the country willing to take a risk on an outsider in hopes of shaking up the system. The prospect of Donald Trump in the Oval Office, however, is not a risk worth taking. Mr. Trump is not stable. He is not qualified. He is not prepared. We fully acknowledge Ms. Clinton’s shortcomings, but she at least meets the basic standards of a Commander-in-Chief. This was not an easy decision, and not one we have taken lightly. Many of us have never opposed a Republican presidential nominee before, but there is a first time for everything. This is that time. We are standing together, for the safety and success of our country, putting our nation above party loyalty. America can survive four years of a Clinton presidency with a Republican congress to keep her in-check. She may not survive another four years of an apprentice guiding the ship. Even, if you cannot vote for Ms. Clinton, we strongly advise not voting for Mr. Trump. God Bless you, and God Bless the United States of America.
Signed: Ben Sasse, Mike Lee, Hank Paulson, Carlos Gutierrez, Richard Hanna, Norm Coleman, Larry Pressler, Jeff Flake, Susan Collins, Lindsey Graham, Pat Toomey, Dean Heller, Adam Kinzinger, Susana Martinez, John Kasich, Brian Sandoval, Brent Scowcroft, Richard Armitage, Richard Hanna, Chris Shays, John Negroponte, Tom DeLay, Michael Chertoff, Michael Hayden, Tom Ridge, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush, Barbara Bush, Laura Bush, President George H.W. Bush, President George W. Bush
As I stated earlier, would that one statement move large chunks of voters? No. Would it be enough to move a news cycle, and catch the attention of undecideds and independent voters? Without a doubt. George H.W. Bush did not plan this; but he may have been holding the keys to a floodgate just waiting for one last reason to burst.