When putting together a list of possible running mates for Donald Trump, it’s not hard to rattle off the names of assorted governors and members of Congress. But the Washington Post threw the political world a curve-ball over the weekend, reporting that the presumptive Republican nominee is “slightly bored” with the usual suspects and is “increasingly intrigued by the idea of tapping retired Lt. Gen. Michael T. Flynn” for his ticket.
And while this article came as something of a surprise, it’s easy to see why the GOP candidate would be enamored with the retired general. Remember, the one person in the world who most impresses Donald J. Trump is, of course, Donald J. Trump. Mike Flynn has a record of military service the presumptive nominee can’t match, but Flynn is also a political amateur with literally no experience in elected office, a prominent anti-Muslim voice, a fierce critic of President Obama, and someone who’s a little too cozy with Vladimir Putin.
In other words, of all the various vice presidential possibilities, it’s hardly surprising that Trump would be drawn to someone who most reminds him of himself.
But before anyone starts making Trump/Flynn posters, it’s important to note that the retired general is a registered Democrat, and as ABC News found yesterday, pro-choice.
In an interview on ABC’s “This Week,” the former chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency shared his views on some key social issues, including his pro-choice stance.“I think women have to be able to choose … sort of, the right of choice.” said Flynn, adding, “They are the ones that have to make the decision because they’re the ones that are going to decide to bring up that child or not.”
When asked about marriage equality, Flynn didn’t answer directly, though he said, “What people do in their private lives, these are not big issues that our country’s dealing with” – an answer that will not satisfy far-right social conservatives who make up much of the Republican base.
Many on the right have said repeatedly in recent weeks they’re looking for a vice presidential nominee who can bolster Trump’s conservative bona fides. Flynn would do the opposite.
Indeed, at a convention where there will be considerable skepticism about the likely presidential nominee, it’s easy to imagine Republican delegates rejecting a pro-choice New England Democrat out of hand, whether Trump wants him or not.
It’s all a bit reminiscent of 1968, when George Wallace – in many ways, the Donald Trump of his day – had settled on former Kentucky Gov. Happy Chandler as his vice presidential nominee. Wallace backers heard about Wallace’s preference and told the candidate to forget it: as the former commissioner of Major League Baseball, Chandler had helped integrate the game, which was a deal-breaker for the Alabama governor’s supporters.
After Wallace’s Southern base vetoed the candidate’s choice, retired Gen. Curtis LeMay joined Wallace’s ticket.
Nearly a half-century later, don’t be too surprised if a similar dynamic unfolds in GOP politics. How many conservative leaders and lawmakers do you suppose called Trump and his team yesterday, explaining that a pro-choice Dem is simply out of the question?
Postscript: I saw some suggestions over the weekend that George H.W. Bush was fairly moderate on social issues in 1980, and that didn’t stop Ronald Reagan from tapping him for the GOP ticket. The comparison is flawed: not only was Bush a lifelong Republican with significant support and credibility throughout the party, but in 1980, the GOP still had a sizable moderate wing. When it comes to reproductive rights, Republicans are vastly more conservative now.