I'll make no secret about it, I'm not sympathetic to the #NeverTrump fever that is running through the ranks of the conservative movement. When I look at it, I can't tell a bit of difference between #NeverTrump and the way the GOP establishment reacted to Chris McDaniel in Mississippi or the way they reacted to any conservative who had the temerity to actually run for office.
Yesterday, both Rubio and Kasich hinted that they may not support Trump if he is the nominee, notwithstanding the pledge they voluntarily undertook, at the behest of Reince Priebus, back in August.
Today, on Meet the Press, Chuck Todd asked Ted Cruz that question:
TODD: You've said some tough things on Trump. Why are you comfortable supporting him as the nominee if he ends up the nominee.
CRUZ: Well, listen, I pledged at the outset I will support the Republican nominee, whoever it is...
TODD: Why are you making a pledge to the party and not to the voters?
CRUZ: Because Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders would be a manifest disaster. If Hillary is the president, we will lose the Supreme Court for a generation, the Second Amendment will be written out of the Bill of Rights, we'll lose our religious liberty, we'll be buried in debt and our will remain coming out of school without jobs, without opportunities. Hillary would be disastrous for this country. So the answer is not simply to resign yourself to Donald Trump, who would be a disaster as well, the answer is to beat Donald.
TODD: Given everything you've just said about him in this interview, you still will support him if that is what the Republican party does?
CRUZ: You know, Chuck, I'm a very simple man and when I give my word for something, I follow through and do what I said.
This was more of an exercise in gotcha than anything else, an effort to try to catch Cruz in a contradiction, and it was an exercise that failed, because Todd basically knew what Cruz was going to say:
A brief accounting of Senator Ted Cruz’s arguments against Donald J. Trump on Friday evening:
— He “affirmatively encourages violence.”
— He “disrespects the voters.”
— His campaign is “facing allegations of physical violence” against a reporter.
— He has created an environment that all but ensures future clashes.
And so, Mr. Cruz was asked on Saturday morning, can you still support Mr. Trump if he is the Republican nominee?
“My answer is the same: I committed at the outset,” Mr. Cruz told reporters, before a rally inside a high school gymnasium here. “I will support the Republican nominee, whoever it is.”
I think Cruz is exactly right on this. The real choice facing conservatives, in particular, is will they unite behind Ted Cruz? (And I see scant evidence of that because, by and large, Rubio supporters are amazingly similar in temperament to Trump supporters.) The third party silliness is ever out there, but it will never happen for a simple reason, the people pushing it lack a leader to focus on and they have no constituency outside the GOP. As Ben Domenech said some weeks ago:
Here’s the problem with this idea, though, even as I’m sympathetic to the motivations: http://vlt.tc/2apq It’s possible that today Donald Trump is going to take a significant step toward winning the GOP nomination fair and square. That is, Republican voters are going to affirmatively select him as their candidate for president. A Rick Perry Constitution Party run that takes 5-10 percent of the vote and hands the election to Hillary Clinton will be viewed for what it is: a spoiler.
The #neverTrumpers seem to think the country will thank them for saving the country from Trump and then choose from among our preferred candidates in 2020. But why would they think that? It’s not like Trump and Trumpism will die in November. And if Hillary appoints Eric Holder to the Supreme Court, imposes cap and trade by fiat, starts a war on bakers and religious colleges and such… Republicans will declare it all awful, and Trump will say, “Thank THEM! I would have put Ted Cruz on SCOTUS, undone the carbon rules, and passed a law [sic] to protecting bakers and nuns and schools. I would have made America GREAT! Sad.” The potential for post-Trump ruin is just as strong.
Does #neverTrump – however good it makes people feel – look like a remotely good idea in that context? It’s hard to see how. Regardless of whether Trump wins the nomination and loses or wins in November, his movement is not going away. The future of the party does not go back overnight to being the party of George W. Bush. Conservatives can absolutely say their principles prevent them from supporting Donald Trump as a personal matter, but they should not fall for the temptation to act like the establishment they loathe so deeply when it comes to a nominee they dislike, or pretend that all of this will go away when he does. Giving up on the Republican Party is one thing – I have no quarrel with that. But whatever party you form next will need Trump supporters too in order to win – and that’s a fact.
Trump is merely distasteful. Hillary Clinton is a profound danger. Donald Trump is a self correcting problem. He will be a weak and isolated president who will either not run in 2020, he will be 73, or will be extremely vulnerable to a primary challenge. If Hillary is elected she is an eight year problem, she will lead a unified Democrat party and if she wins in 2016 she will bring a Democrat Senate in with her. Everyone has to make their own decision in these things, but Ted Cruz, I think, gets it and is completely correct. We need to do whatever we can to help Cruz win the nomination but, if that fails, we should support the eventual nominee.