I am, says Erick Erickson, and he’s not alone. One of the chief coping mechanisms from righties on social media this weekend upon surveying the destruction in South Carolina was to swear they’ll never be a Trumpist, even if the heavens fall. I believe Erickson, but I’d also bet cash money that 90 percent of the people saying “HELL NO NEVER HAPPEN” today will grudgingly come around over the next eight months upon being reminded, not on a daily but on an hourly basis, that Hillary Clinton is a pathological liar who’d be in prison if not for her status as the creme de la creme of Washington’s elites.
I’m not saying conservative revulsion at Trump isn’t real. It is, and I think when it all shakes out in November that Trump will have seen more Republicans stay home for him than stayed home for either Romney or McCain. But I don’t think there’ll be a third party and I also don’t think that some sliver of conservatives staying home will doom Trump’s candidacy. Given Hillary’s weakness and his own appeal to independents and Reagan Democrats, it’s possible that he’d find the votes he needs to win in the center. That would be the final indignity to the conservative movement after having its impotence laid bare for more than a year — staging a mass boycott of Trump on election day and discovering that Trump can win anyway.
If Trump were elected, portions of the conservative movement would compromise the movement to be one degree from Donald Trump. The intellectual institutions on which we have made our case for limited government and freedom would crumble.
And on top of it all, the oligarchs would be just fine. They would coddle and humor a President Trump, a man of mountainous ego, and get their way while the very people Donald Trump promises to help would get table scraps…
I have become convinced that Donald Trump’s pro-life conversion is a conversion of convenience. Life is the foremost cause in how I vote. Therefore I will not be voting for Donald Trump at all. Ever.
A lot of Republicans are going to start making claims that we must rally to the nominee, no matter who he is. I know for certain a large number of Trump supporters will not rally to a Cuban. I will not rally to Trump. Frankly, if Trump is able to get the nomination, the Republican Party will cease to be the party in which I served as an elected official. It will not deserve my support and will not get it if it chooses to nominate a pro-abortion liberal masquerading as a conservative, who preys on nationalistic, tribal tendencies and has an army of white supremacists online as his loudest cheerleaders.
If conservatives stay home and Trump wins, it’s proof positive that Trumpism is a winner for the new Republican Party — at least until Trump passes from the political scene and a less charismatic character who can’t get on television anytime he or she wants inherits the leadership. Conservatives would be left in the wilderness, roughly where Trump’s white working-class base has been for the past few decades. If conservatives stay home and Trump loses, what then? They’ll be blamed by Trumpists for his defeat, not unfairly. That rift will run very deep. And even if the rift heals, all sorts of Republican pols and aspiring pols are studying Trump’s playbook right now to see how his coalition might be reassembled in the next few elections. People like to joke that Trump’s success means we’re destined to see many more celebrities run for office in the future, which is probably true but does a disservice to Trump in suggesting that his victories are purely a function of his fame. (They aren’t.) What we’re certainly going to see more of, though, is Trump-style populist center-right candidacies — protectionist, nationalistic, Jacksonian on foreign policy. Maybe what we’ll find is that the Reagan revolution and the last few years of tea-party orthodoxy were just a phase in which the GOP was transitioning back to an ideologically broader party, a la the days when Nelson Rockefeller and Barry Goldwater were both contenders to land at the top of the ticket, except this new party may be even ideologically messier than the old one. Whatever happens, it’s hard to imagine Trumpists returning to their not-even-a-partner role in the GOP coalition. Why should they, after this year’s success?
We’ve got eight months to worry about that, though, and maybe eight days to worry about averting the nightmare scenario of Trump as nominee. Ross Douthat endorses Larry Sabato’s idea of Rubio offering John Kasich the VP slot if he’ll drop out and endorse him:
What would be in it for Kasich? Well, first off, being vice president has become a pretty important job in the last few administrations, so he would have a chance at gaining a prominence and influence that he’s simply not going to have as the erstwhile governor of Ohio. And if Rubio served two terms Kasich would still be younger than Joe Biden, whom many people wanted to run for president this year, so his presidential ambitions might still have a chance of being satisfied.
Clearly being Rubio’s Biden is not nearly as good a deal as being the actual Republican nominee this year; that goes without saying. But relative to just going home after being one of Trump’s enablers, it looks pretty good to me.
Then what’s in it for Rubio? Well, most obviously, Kasich stops being a rival for the not-Trump vote and becomes an instant ally. But then, maybe somewhat less obviously, Kasich is a pretty reasonable vice-presidential pick for Rubio no matter what. Yes, a lot of prominent Republicans were salivating over the idea of a Rubio-Haley ticket when the two shared a stage in South Carolina — so much youth and multiculturalism! But as the rise of Trump has made amply clear, prominent Republicans don’t necessarily understand their own party’s situation, and particularly the fact that the future of the G.O.P. still depends on a demographic that’s associated with the uncool past: Middle aged, working class white people in the Midwest and the Scots-Irish belt.
That’s the sort of pie-in-the-sky skullduggery that lazy bloggers like me cook up when they can’t think of anything better to write about — and Douthat acknowledges that. It’s crazy, he admits, but this whole election is crazy and the terrible fact remains that time is so short that a Hail Mary pass like this really might be the only way to whittle the field down rapidly. A new poll out of Massachusetts today has Trump leading Rubio … 50/16. There’s not a moment to spare. While we’re at it, Rubio should probably go ahead and promise Cruz that he’ll be his first nominee for the Supreme Court if Cruz backs out now and endorses him. That’s asking a lot of Cruz’s pride after winning Iowa, but Cruz is nothing if not calculating. If he’s no longer beating Trump among evangelicals and he’s staring at a long race with relatively few evangelical votes to be had after March 1st, then his path is all but gone. If he fights on and loses, he’ll be stuck in the Senate as an unpopular junior member whose party is drifting in the opposite direction from him ideologically, making a successful 2020 or 2024 run — especially having lost the primary once before — unlikely. If he gets out and backs Rubio now, he could be the next Scalia. As it is…
Rubio endorsements today:
South Florida congressional delegation
— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) February 22, 2016
I have just had conversation number 14 of the day with a Cruz supporter thinking of jumping to Rubio in order to stop Trump.
— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) February 22, 2016
I wish Cruz was the guy this year, don’t get me wrong. But it’s hard to see how he is after South Carolina. Next Tuesday is effectively his last stand.
Here’s a new classic “What If Obama Said It?” moment from the presumptive GOP nominee.