It was a heck of a weekend, sports fans, and no doubt about it. While I’d love to have some other scintillating news to discuss which didn’t focus on the Trump induced GOP civil war, it’s really overshadowing most other stories at the moment. I’ve been watching (and frequently gotten engulfed by) the cavalcade of cannon fire from both sides on social media which has only ramped up in both intensity and volume as we approach Super Tuesday. The past 48 hours saw two competing stories soar to the top of the stack, as a pair of well known Republicans stepped up to weigh in on the question of To Trump or Not To Trump.
The first was Alabama’s Jeff Sessions endorsing the real estate Tycoon. (Washington Post)
Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.), whose hard-line conservative stances on immigration and trade have made him a favorite of the party’s base, endorsed Donald Trump’s White House bid during a joint appearance here in his home state Sunday.
“Politicians have promised for 30 years to fix illegal immigration. Have they done it? Donald Trump will do it,” Sessions said at the Madison City Schools Stadium, where thousands gathered to hear Trump speak. “I’ve told Donald Trump this isn’t a campaign, this is a movement.”
This has widely been viewed as a bit of a slap in the face to Ted Cruz, who was commonly seen as being likely to nab the Sessions endorsement. Whether Sessions felt that Trump was taking a harder line on illegals or simply figured that the Trump Train was leaving the station for Nomination City and wanted to make sure he had a seat on board will likely never be known, but it served as yet another media distraction for a while.
There was an equally loud non-endorsement which came out during the same period, however. Ben Sasse of Nebraska took to his Facebook page to let everyone know that he was definitely not siding with The Donald.
The Trump coalition is broad and complicated, but I believe many Trump fans are well-meaning. I have spoken at length with many of you, both inside and outside Nebraska. You are rightly worried about our national direction. You ache about a crony-capitalist leadership class that is not urgent about tackling our crises. You are right to be angry.
I’m as frustrated and saddened as you are about what’s happening to our country. But I cannot support Donald Trump.
Please understand: I’m not an establishment Republican, and I will never support Hillary Clinton. I’m a movement conservative who was elected over the objections of the GOP establishment. My current answer for who I would support in a hypothetical matchup between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton is: Neither of them. I sincerely hope we select one of the other GOP candidates, but if Donald Trump ends up as the GOP nominee, conservatives will need to find a third option.
In case it somehow didn’t need to be said, this primary, much like everything else that revolves around the Trump solar system, has headed into previously uncharted waters. This month seems unlike past seasons, where the supporters of various GOP candidates would battle with each other in high spirits only to later largely unite behind one candidate (if grudgingly in some cases) when we moved into the general election phase. But will that happen this year? Philip Rucker at the WaPo thinks we may finally be at the breaking point.
The implosion over Donald Trump’s candidacy that Republicans had hoped to avoid arrived so virulently this weekend that many party leaders vowed never to back the billionaire and openly questioned whether the GOP could come together this election year.
At a moment when Republicans had hoped to begin taking on Hillary Clinton — who is seemingly on her way to wrapping up the Democratic nomination — the GOP has instead become consumed by a crisis over its identity and core values that is almost certain to last through the July party convention, if not the rest of the year.
Personally, I think that’s still a bit overly dramatic, but addressing the issue purely anecdotally I have to admit that there’s a worrying grain of truth to it. What’s not in question is that there is one cohort out there who are eating these stories up and begging for more. That would be Hillary Clinton and her supporters. Secretary Clinton was faced with yet another election cycle where her path to the nomination initially seemed threatened by an upstart. Repeated, dismal turnout numbers are the rule and enthusiasm among her base is lagging. She’s making her pitch to a nation which identifies her with the word “liar” more than any other and constantly feels the looming threat of someone showing up at her door with a shiny set of steel bracelets for her to try on. At a time like this, the current meltdown among the Republican party has to be the best news since the invention of the wheel for Ms. Clinton.
As I alluded to above, I’ve been experiencing some of the GOP civil war first hand. Personally, I haven’t endorsed anyone “officially” here yet, largely because New York doesn’t go to the polls until April and there seemed to be no rush. But having looked the entire field over, I will tell you here and now that I’m backing Ted Cruz as the best hope for the party. (I may do a full column on that at some point, similar to my infamous RINO friend Ed, but this isn’t the time.) But at the same time, I’ve also tried to make it clear that if Donald Trump is the party’s nominee this fall, you may rest assured that I will be out there pushing for him to win. He may not have been my first choice and he obviously has held past positions which are more than a little troubling. Some of his recent statements are absolutely alarming, assuming you believe he’s fulling embracing every seemingly random thing that comes out of his mouth at times. And yet, he’ll get my vote and my support here if it comes to that. The same goes for Marco Rubio. I will further say the same for John Kasich, Ben Carson and Bob the Republican Unicorn. (All three of whom I judge as having roughly the same chance at the nomination.)
I think Hugh Hewitt summarized many of my feelings on the subject quite well this weekend in a piece at the Washington Examiner which I hope you’ll take a look at with an open mind. Six reasons Trump is still better than Clinton.
And if Trump is the nominee I will support him for six reasons.
The first three are the existing and probable two additional Supreme Court nominations he will get to make. Judges Diane Sykes and Bill Pryor are two fine judges that Trump has mentioned as possible nominees and he made the right commitment on religious liberty to me on stage Thursday night. He won’t screw these up. More precisely, it is a lock that Clinton would screw them up and at least a fighting chance he wouldn’t.
Fourth, Trump’s an honest-to-God builder and he will rebuild the Navy, which must be done. Soon.
Fifth, Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping will at least think twice before crossing him.
And, finally, sixth: Donald’s daughter and Svengali Ivanka is a smart, smart, smart lady with an extraordinary intellect and influence on her father. We get the GOP’s own Valerie Jarrett, only this one with a sense of America’s role in the world and the same resolve to succeed as Jarrett possesses.
I was chatting on Twitter with Hugh about this column yesterday and I was attacked fairly mercilessly by the #NeverTrump crowd. That’s nothing new, of course. While I’ve mostly been cheering for Cruz, the fact that I have failed to “sufficiently condemn” Donald Trump and treated him as a serious candidate has been viewed as de facto proof of my hatred of America, conservatism and puppies… or something. By the same token, when I do point out some of Cruz’s more favorable qualities and better moments on the trail, I’ve had Trump supporters dumping all over me, informing me that I need to “get my head out of the past” and realize that Trump is the future. The truly sad part is that there are numerous members of both these groups who I consider good friends and boon companions.
What’s amazed me most of all, particularly in light of Hugh’s column, is something which now seems to have gelled in new conservative media circles: Stating that I have no intention of voting for Hillary Clinton nor encouraging anyone else to do so is now being viewed by some of our most prominent conservative authors as a betrayal to conservatism.
This, my friends, is the defining aspect of exactly how far we seem to have fallen. I maintain hope that for at least some of the people on each side, this is a heated, enthusiastic, but not permanent dilemma. Trump may yet lose, and if he does I hope it’s Cruz who carries the day. But if not, there is no Republican currently under consideration who won’t be miles better for the country than Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. I’ve heard the arguments to the contrary about abandoning our conservative values or “sending the wrong message” to the rest of the country, but it’s not enough to carry the day for me. I don’t know how good or bad of a President Donald Trump would be, but there’s at least a chance he’ll do some good. The same can not be said for Hillary Clinton.
But when this is all over and done with, the thing I hope for most of all is that we can all still remain friends and live to fight the next battle together.