“I want to get something really clear, because there’s been a lot of talk about this,” GOP Party Chairman Reince Priebus said last night, speaking to the crowd in Miami before what turned out to be an oddly calm presidential debate. “This party is going to support the nominee — whoever that is — 100 percent. There’s no question about that.”
That nominee, Priebus said, “is going to join the Republican National Committee, the Republican Party, all of you, the conservatives, the Tea Party, our entire wonderful group of people that are going to come together and unify in Cleveland and get behind that nominee. That’s what we do, as Republicans.”
Then he pleaded:
“Can you at least agree with me without question that any one of these four gentlemen would be a world better than Hillary Clinton or a socialist in Bernie Sanders?”
In other words, suck it up, Republicans. If Donald Trump is really going to take over your party and claim its nomination, as seems likely, you are obligated by party loyalty to support a man who brags on national TV about his penis size, a man who encourages staff and supporters to physically manhandle protesters and media, a man who insults both your intelligence and your religion by claiming fealty to a faith that you know is completely foreign to him, a man who thinks the nuclear triad is a really hot sex act, a man who tells you what you want to hear with all the sincerity and conviction of the con man that Marco Rubio says he is.
Welcome to your nightmare. Just don’t make it my nightmare as well.
At this point there are three plausible scenarios. The first and most likely is that Trump arrives in Cleveland on July 18 with the 1,237 delegates needed to claim the nomination outright. The second and also quite plausible scenario is that he arrives in Cleveland a little short of an absolute majority but party leaders defer to him nonetheless, to prevent him from stomping off in anger. The third, more far-fetched possibility is that he arrives in Cleveland with a strong plurality but party leaders conspire to deny him the top prize, after which he stomps off in anger.
I’m not seeing a scenario in which unity is the outcome or even ought to be the outcome. To the contrary, I foresee a profound moral and patriotic dilemma for millions of Americans who call themselves Republicans.
The Priebus question is the right question, the important question, so let me ask it again in paraphrase: “Do you believe that a President Trump would be a world better than a President Hillary Clinton? Do you believe that it is even a sane thing to contemplate?” Some will say yes enthusiastically, because they are eager to see what Trump will do when given the levers of power. Others, unable to set aside the hatred of all things Clinton that they have nurtured for roughly a quarter century, will say yes to Trump reluctantly and with fear in their hearts. And the opportunists such as Chris Christie and Ben Carson will say yes because they value personal ambition over the national interest.
But I have to believe — and hope — that many others will look into their hearts and conclude that party loyalty is not nearly sufficient cause for making the likes of Trump the most powerful person on the planet. The democratic system is founded not on a document like the Constitution, but instead on a faith that when the time of choosing comes, when it really matters, our fellow Americans will do the right thing for the country. I do still believe that, and I hope I still believe it after November.