It was another strong night for Donald Trump — he took 66 of 67 counties from Florida “favorite son” Mark Rubio, driving him out of the race — yet still not strong enough to put him on a path to a majority of GOP delegates and thus the nomination.
So let’s game this out: If Donald Trump falls short of the required majority and it comes down to a floor fight in Cleveland, as seems increasingly possible, what course do you take? I’d say that Republicans ought to fight Trump with everything they have, for the future of their party, their country and for their own sense of self-respect. Sure, they might lose, but even then it would be a fight worth fighting.
I mean, what’s their alternative?
Yes, I suppose they could concede their party’s leadership to Trump, who would then proceed to lose by a landslide to Hillary Clinton and in the process permanently damage the reputation of their party. You’ve seen what has happened so far. You’ve watched it and marveled at it. Think of all the crazy, insulting and crass things that Trump has yet to say and do in the eight months between now and the general election, all under the banner of the GOP. Think of the damage to the brand that is coming your way. Think of him at the convention, delivering his acceptance speech.
Trump will come to mean Republican; Republican will come to mean Trump. And after the election, he will go back to his billions and his golf courses and leave the party lying in a gutter, disgraced. The damage to Republican officeholders down-ticket would be enormous.
Now, I’m not saying the alternative is a path strewn with roses. Quite the contrary. If Trump arrives in Cleveland with a plurality but not the required majority, snatching the nomination from him would set off a truly nasty schism, driving Trump supporters out of the party in justified anger. Winning them back to the GOP would be all but impossible in this election cycle, and the honor of losing to Hillary would likely fall to Ted Cruz, himself a deeply flawed candidate. (Notably, House Speaker Paul Ryan wouldn’t totally rule out a run if the convention turned his way. “We’ll see,” he said. “Who knows.”)
As you no doubt noticed, both scenarios end in a Republican defeat this fall. Protest all you wish, that’s where we are. Absent some earthshaking event, the damage has been done. Trump will be the nominee and lose; or the political damage done in refusing Trump the nomination will cause his replacement to lose.
Some will disagree, not wanting to admit that reality. And if Republicans want to base their future actions on the belief that under Trump they could still somehow take the White House, well, have at it, boys. I’m merely suggesting that a sane and sober look at the environment would suggest otherwise.
If the party takes a stand against Trumpism and denies him the nomination, it will at least earn itself a degree of respect from the American people. They will have lanced the boil and ended the pain, and by doing so they would rescue the GOP brand and tradition and make its path back to competitive status considerably shorter.
If they embrace Trump, they embrace everything about him.