Now that everyone has had some time to digest the results of Not Quite So Super Tuesday’s GOP contests we seem to be quickly approaching a turning point. The reality is that the various efforts to undermine Donald Trump’s popularity with primary voters may have had some effect, but it thus far hasn’t been enough to fully hit the brakes on that train. And if the most recent poll numbers looking ahead to next Tuesday somehow hold up, many of my friends are going to need to come to grips with some unpleasant realities. Trump is still holding on to a lead in Florida and Ohio and if he takes both of those along with a majority of the other states up for grabs, it’s probably too late for those who are bound and determined to stop him.
Mind you, I’m not saying it’s a certainty, but the hour is late and I don’t hear the cavalry coming over the ridge yet. Just for the record, I endorsed Ted Cruz in this race. Some of my friends went with Rubio and I even know a few Kasich fans. It’s all good. As I said when I threw my lot in with Cruz, I would happily support any one of them if they wound up getting the nomination. I still hope that there will be a sudden turn of events and Cruz will wind up getting 1,237 delegates in a madcap string of wins coming down to the finish line, but we don’t always get what we want in this life, particularly in politics.
But when I endorsed Ted, I also pointed out at the same time that I would be backing Trump if he were the nominee. That’s where the break occurs in our happy band of campers. Now before you break out the pitchforks and torches, I’ve heard all of the passionate (and sometimes well beyond passionate) arguments from my friends in the #NeverTrump camp. Oh boy have I heard them. I’m on Twitter pretty much all day long while I work and if the entire world were judged by my #tcot friends who dominate my timeline you’d think that there wasn’t a living soul in America who would do so much as spit on Donald Trump if his unusual hair were to catch fire. Many of these complaints are completely valid and I agree with the arguments being made. I considered the same things when choosing to go with Cruz. But as the results roll in from one state after another, it may be time to concede that you may be in the minority and all the righteous indignation in the world won’t wind up being enough to stem the tide.
This rude awakening I mentioned above does seem to be taking hold in some corners, at least to a limited extent. In today’s Morning Jolt newsletter, my friend Jim Geraghty of National Review seems to have finally arrived at the fifth stage of grieving without ever fully letting go of the second.
This morning, Ben Domenech declares, “Republicans, you can have a Ted Cruz party or a Donald Trump party. Choose.”
But they have chosen. More than 12.4 million people have voted in the Republican presidential primary so far. Donald Trump has won 4.3 million votes, or nearly 35 percent. Cruz won 3.6 million votes, or 29 percent. The arguments have been made, and the largest chunk of the Republican party has chosen to send the country to Trump University.
Sure, in the eyes of most conservatives who actually care about policy, Ted Cruz would be a much better nominee and president than Donald Trump. But a time when enormous numbers of Evangelical Christians and Catholics are convincing themselves to see what they want to see in Trump, other factions of the Republican party — businessmen, veterans, federalists, judicial strict-constructionists, gun owners, school choice advocates — are likely to see what they want to see, too.
A second, and probably more disturbing class of #NeverTrump analysts is almost perfectly exemplified by Hot Air alumnus Noah Rothman over at his new digs. I hope he gets a chance to read Jim’s comments above because there’s some wisdom there which will likely come in handy based on his most recent column. This one snippet encapsulates it completely.
What if both parties nominate an unelectable candidate? What if the judgment of America’s primary voters is indefensibly improper, and those Americans of character and conviction resolved never to legitimize or ratify it? What if the binary choice before American voters was abhorrent and the consequences of either choice so unthinkably terrible that neither is even remotely acceptable?
I like Noah and no doubt always will, but he’s just one of a significant group of conservative commentators who have allowed their utter revulsion at the thought of Donald Trump drive them to the point where they may be irreversibly alienating their own allies. Indefensibly improper? That’s followed by a declaration that those who disagree lack in character and conviction. For those expressing such condemnations of their own team, I hope the view is nice from that mountain top because it may become rather lonely up there. It’s worth remembering that, in the case of Noah’s piece, you have just categorized a broad swath of your own party (rising as high as half in some states like Mississippi most recently) as unacceptable, indefensibly improper dolts lacking in both character and conviction.
We seem to be forgetting that this game is played out every year at levels from the local to the national. The person we want doesn’t always win. A majority of Americans selected Barack Obama in two elections running. Personally I thought it was a disastrous mistake and the results have proven me right in multiple policy arenas, at least as I view the state of the world. But that was the choice that was made through the normal course of the democratic process and we all have to live with the results and resolve to fight harder next time. The voters who elected Obama are not troglodytes plotting the end of the world. They just see things differently than we do, and calling them troglodytes isn’t going to win them over to our side any time soon. These considerations should be viewed several orders of magnitude more seriously when we’re talking about the folks wearing the same uniform as us.
With all that said, let’s get to the life raft referenced in the title. I don’t need to list examples of all the aspects of Donald Trump’s candidacy which my #NeverTrump friends find execrable. (This column is far too long already and that effort would take us to the realm of a novel.) The fact is that there are many unknowns about what might happen in a Trump presidency were he to somehow win in November. Those who assign ulterior, Manchurian Candidate attributes to the Donald may suspect that he would purposely appoint pro-abortion justices to the Supreme Court, gleefully sign off on gun control legislation that guts the Second Amendment or jack up corporate taxes to 80%. He claims he’s reformed and that none of those things will happen, but you simply can’t be sure. I get it.
But there’s one thing I do know. There is no question of what you’ll get with Hillary Clinton. (Assuming she remains out of jail long enough to be sworn in.) For all the bad things I could say about Clinton, her one certain attribute is that she means what she says when she tells her multitudes of fans that she will do some version of all those sinister examples I just listed. Oh, she may flip flop back and forth a bit on the fine points in order to spar with Bernie Sanders, but her underlying principles are on full display and there’s not one of them that you’re going to enjoy.
With Donald Trump you at least have a chance that he’ll come through with some of the things he’s promising. And if he somehow wins there shouldn’t be much danger of extensive down ticket damage so there will still be a GOP majority in Congress to stop him from getting too crazy. And if he loses? Well, we lost the last two races and somehow survived this long. It goes back to that whole “all of America gets to pick” reality which I alluded to above. We will have lost again and will need to figure out how to do better next time. But I’m personally getting pretty tired of losing and would at least like a shot at a victory, be it with Cruz, Rubio, Kasich or… yes… Trump. And if it is Trump, no matter how much bile you have to swallow, at least there’s a chance, however slight, that something positive and conservative will get done.
With that said, keep on fighting right down to the wire. We may still wind up with Cruz or Rubio getting 1,237 and carrying the conservative banner into the fall. They might even beat Hillary. But if The Donald carries the day and we splinter the party by accepting this maxim that it’s better to lose it all than allow Trump to be the nominee, be it through some chicanery at the convention or voting for Hillary, then it’s over before it begins. It’s wonderful to stand on your principles and declare that you’d rather blow the hull out of the ship than sail with the wrong captain, but please do remember that you’re taking the rest of us down to Davy Jones’ locker with you.