Never forget that the GOP establishment preferred Trump to Cruz

The article as yet another reminder of what a lost opportunity 2016 represents for the GOP, facing the weakest Democratic candidate since (at least) Walter Mondale. From the day after Super Tuesday it was abundantly clear that only Ted Cruz could stop Donald Trump from being the GOP nominee. And yet, in a fit of staggering immaturity and political idiocy, GOP elected officials, with some honorable exceptions, did little to nothing to stop Trump. In making that statement, I’m not making a value judgment on Trump as a candidate. I’m no Trump fan, to say the least, but I’m not a #NeverTrump partisan like many of my fellow National Review contributors. I’m simply estimating GOP elected officials’ political acuity by their own thoroughly amoral standards of what strategy was best to save their own hides.

Does anyone really think that if Ted Cruz were the GOP nominee we would have 20 GOP representatives and senators who have explicitly refused to vote for the nominee and another sixty or so representatives and senators who have refused to say who they would endorse—against Hillary Clinton, the most polarizing and unpopular Democratic nominee in history? Do any of the GOP’s do-nothing caucus claim that Cruz would be trailing Hillary as badly as Trump as trailing now? Do any think that Trump would be better at winning among non-white voters that will increasingly be a part of any winning national coalition? Do any of them think that on the day when Hillary Clinton’s non-indictment should have been dominating the news cycle, we’d instead be discussing whether or not the presumptive GOP nominee was tweeting anti-Semitic material?

When I’ve made this case to more establishment-minded friends they usually come up with an excuse along the lines that, with the electorate in an anti-incumbent mood, their endorsements wouldn’t have helped. But these arguments are as self-serving as they are silly. A full-throated Cruz endorsement from GOP leaders and elected officials in March would have been a signal for the media to stop with the narrative of Cruz as the hated outsider and begun treating Cruz as the party’s clear choice for those hoping to stop Trump. It would have provided access to funder networks would have been valuable for a campaign that, while well-funded, lacked the full resources to compete everywhere late in the game. Similarly the establishment put no real pressure on Kasich to get out of the race even when it was clear that his presence in the race was helping Trump enormously. (Trump correctly and publicly identified Cruz’s public deal with Kasich as a desperate tactic that was the final nail in the coffin for his candidacy).