Reince Priebus to #NeverTrumpers: We're going to unite behind the nominee, right?

Nice guy. Clearly doesn’t understand what the word “never” means, though.

Even so, I think #NeverTrump will remain the province of a small-ish group of grassroots conservatives, with near-zero representation among prominent Republicans. In fact, I’d bet none other than Ted Cruz ends up giving a speech at the convention urging unity behind our new nominee, Donald Trump. It’s a no-brainer for him: If he’s planning to run again for president, which he almost certainly is, he should be bank as much goodwill from Trumpers as he can. Then just sit back and wait for the Hillary landslide.


“It is essential to victory in November that we all support our candidate,” Priebus said at the RNC’s spring meeting in Hollywood, Fla.

“This goes for everyone, whether you’re a county party chairman, an RNC member, or a presidential candidate. Politics is a team sport, and we can’t win unless we rally around whoever becomes our nominee,” he added, drawing applause from the audience.

“They’re trying out for our team. No one is forcing them to wear our jersey. We expect our candidates to support our party and our eventual nominee.”

“Unity makes the impossible, possible. Division makes the possible, impossible,” Reince went on to say before citing Scripture. He said this (implicitly) about a nominee who’s down 11 points to Hillary in the latest national poll, whose favorable rating with women stands at 21/70, and who’s now looking at winning — no joke — 11 percent of the Latino vote in November. Unity’s not going to make the impossible possible this time, bro.

I realize Reince’s job requires him to shill for the party’s nominee — he’s the one guy who can never be #NeverTrump (unless he resigns as a matter of principle) — but we’re late in the game for the RNC to be delivering pep talks to Trump’s critics. The Republican establishment helped create Trump by ignoring its base on populist concerns like immigration, then did nothing after he jumped in the race to try to stop him, partly out of cowardice for fear of reprisal and partly out of antipathy towards Cruz. On the very day that Reince is urging Trump’s critics to suck it up, Politico’s out with a story about various Republican delegates being threatened with death by Trump’s nuttier supporters if The Leader doesn’t get the nomination in Cleveland. If Priebus and Team GOP want to bless this mess, that’s their prerogative. But why would any principled conservative have a strong preference between two centrist Democrats, one of whom is a criminal and the other of whom is a loose cannon who’s promised, onstage in front of cameras, that the military will obey his illegal orders? Reince’s answer to that is to give you pure mindless “team sport” rhetoric here. That’s the only argument in Trump’s favor: Pure red/blue tribalism.


Reading about Priebus’s cheerleading for unity, in fact, reminded me of Tim Carney’s piece last night speculating about how the establishment might rig the convention — not for Cruz but for Trump:

First off, Trump will throw a fit over any result other than his nomination. We know that his definition of fairness is, “I win.” But the closer he is to 1,237 bound delegates, the more that cry would resonate with voters and observers.

Throughout the general election, a spurned Trump would continue to get the billions of the free airtime that cable networks love to give him, and he would use it to trash the Republican nominee and the party as a whole. Some share of the 35 percent of the GOP electorate that backed Trump could turn against the GOP nominee. That could also create electoral blowout, also with downballot consequences for the GOP.

Just as abhorrent to many GOP elites, an effort to stop Trump at convention could require supporting Ted Cruz, who is loathed in such circles. The GOP’s K Street fundraising network would be more shattered by a Cruz nomination than nominating Trump, who is flexible and corporatist enough to play ball with K Street.

Worst of all, if the GOP “steals” the nomination from Donald Trump, he could run again in 2020.

That seems plausible for the simple reason that it’s the path of least resistance. Handing the nomination to Cruz will require lots of work — plenty more delegate-wrangling, a Cruz victory in Indiana, Trump underperforming in California, then a sustained messaging effort to convince voters that nominating the second-place finisher was the right choice. The RNC might find that worth doing if Cruz looked like a winner this fall, but he’d be a heavy underdog against Hillary too, just not as heavy as Trump. They also might find it worth doing if they had a strong political and moral preference for Cruz as a solid conservative and someone who, for all his faults, at least isn’t winking at the crowds at his rallies to get rough with protesters. But they don’t have a strong preference. They may have some preference, but evidently not enough to offset their institutional obligation to support whoever the voters choose. The least damaging outcome, they might conclude, is to appease Trump’s fans by nominating him, resign themselves to the fact that the outcome in November will be terrible no matter what, and hope that enough of Trump’s supporters are mollified to stick around as members of the party for years to come. What’s the worst that can happen? We end up with a thin-skinned identity-politics-loving celebrity narcissist who palpably doesn’t know policy but seems to really like the idea of federal executive power without legal limits? We’ve got that now with Obama, aside from the “doesn’t know policy” part. Yay, Team Red.


Here’s Scarborough celebrating Trump for the centrist Democrat that he is. Incidentally, I missed this national poll last month: Hillary 42, Trump 34, Gary Johnson 11. Maybe I’m wrong about how big #NeverTrump will be.

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David Strom 6:40 PM | April 18, 2024