Yes, let’s keep calling balls and strikes

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Yes, let’s keep calling balls and strikes

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Emotions are high among Republicans and their supporters. Some portion of the party is fanatically dedicated to Donald Trump — whether out of the misguided belief Trump was robbed or just cult-like devotion to a narcissist who attracts such cult-like devotion. Another huge portion of the party is desperate to nominate almost anyone but Donald Trump, who is seen as a disaster for the party, especially after he instigated a ludicrous but deadly riot at the Capitol after failing to accept his 2020 loss.

The desperation of the anti-Trump crowd is understandable and just. It also could cause error.

TRUMP HAS NO RIGHT TO THE NOMINATION; BLACKLISTING DESANTIS’S STAFF IS PURE THUGGERY

It’s very tempting at this point to conclude that Ron DeSantis is the only man who can beat Donald Trump in a primary, and so therefore, every Republican and conservative needs to just get behind DeSantis and bite his tongue. I understand the impulse. It’s easy to assume that Trump benefits from a crowded primary. It’s natural to recall how Chris Christie and John Kasich in 2016 mostly played the role of taking down Trump’s more viable challengers.

But primaries are for airing debates. They are for training and prepping and testing the potential nominee. It’s certain that Ron DeSantis has unnoticed weaknesses that will be exposed and maybe patched up in a contested primary. It’s arrogant to believe that we already know for a fact that DeSantis is the best man to beat Trump and Biden. It’s also stupid to withhold criticism of bad ideas out of fear of helping Trump, because Trump will bash those bad ideas later — as will Biden.

In politics, there will always be someone asking you not to speak the truth (or worse, to speak an untruth!) because it could hurt some crucial cause.

Some media commentators, for instance, argued that “calling balls and strikes” was an error during Trump’s presidency. Other former Republican operatives used the “balls and strikes crowd” as a term of derision.

This wasn’t new to me. Throughout my 24 years in Washington, I have gotten calls from Republican operatives after I criticized some Republican — from Tommy Thompson to Donald Trump — asking, “How does this help?”

My knee-jerk reaction has always been, “It’s not my job to help you.”

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And that’s true, but I could give a fuller answer: A robust debate and pointing out the flaws in a given candidate make the cause of conservatism stronger and smarter. In some cases, maybe it even helps your party or your candidate, Mr. or Mrs. Republican operative.

Even conservatives who hate Trump and believe DeSantis is the best chance for beating Trump should point it out when DeSantis is wrong. A movement or a party that won’t call balls and strikes is one that cannot grow.

© 2023 Washington Examiner

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