With the notable exceptions of Paul Ryan and Ben Sasse, most Republicans are either lining up behind Trump or staying mum for now. The stated reason is usually “He’s better than Hillary,” a remarkably silly (and false) argument that Erick nicely detonated earlier this morning.
Still, even if you grant that Trump is better than Hillary, that’s not exactly a persuasive argument for endorsing him, especially for anyone who is going to face the voters of their home state ever again. Jonathan Last pointed out that the Republicans who have endorsed Trump seem to be of the mistaken belief that they are as bulletproof as he is:
One of the oddities of politics is that its practitioners can be destroyed by a single moment. Think of Marco Rubio’s New Hampshire debate flub. Or Rick Perry’s 2012 mishap. Or Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comment. Or Howard Dean’s scream. Or Al Gore’s sighing. Yet some politicians can survive anything short of a full-scale nuclear first strike.
Both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump have survived facts and statements that would have destroyed most politicians. It isn’t fair, but fair’s got nothing to do with it. Most people running for office do not have electorally the resilience of a cockroach.
Republicans considering whether to endorse Trump should ask themselves, honestly, whether they possess the same imperviousness as Trump. Because they’re going to need it. Over the next six months, any Republican running for election who is supporting Trump is going to be importuned to defend every insane utterance, every lie, every dangerous idea that emanates from the man.
Now here comes the important part. Remember Todd Akin? Akin made a comment about abortion and rape that would not crack the top 100 list of obnoxious things Donald Trump has said in the last year. This exact principle caused almost every Republican in the country – even some who weren’t asked directly about the comments – to publicly distance themselves from Akin faster than rats from a sinking ship.
As Last notes, every argument that you could make for supporting Trump applied with equal force to Akin, who was facing a Democrat who he was without question better than:
Republicans in the past have proved clear-eyed about such things. Remember Todd Akin’s 2012 Missouri Senate campaign? Akin was one of those everyday politicians—the kind who can end their career with a single, stupid remark. He chose to dilate on the subject of “legitimate rape” during an interview with a local TV station.
Akin’s remarks became a national sensation. Did Republicans rally behind him in “unity”? Akin, after all, had won his party’s nomination fair and square. The people of Missouri had spoken! And Akin was an actual Republican: He served in the House of Representatives for more than a decade. He had opposed abortion and supported the Second Amendment and was even in favor of building a wall—or at least a fence—along the Mexican border.
Yet Republicans ran from Akin as if he had the plague. Mitt Romney and Roy Blunt abandoned him. So did Scott Brown in his Massachusetts race and Ron Johnson in Wisconsin. The National Republican Senatorial Committee not only stopped spending in Akin’s race, but went so far as to issue a press release highlighting calls for Akin to drop out.
The Republicans who are lining up behind Trump are showing everyone what their true colors are. Akin had been a loyal, conservative, life long Republican in good standing before a single ill-advised remark. He was tossed overboard with hardly a second thought. Trump is a lifelong repeat donor to Democrats and ally of the Clintons. Every single day he says something worse than what Todd Akin said. But most Republicans are clinging to him – if grudgingly.
If you’re an actual conservative – and a social conservative in particular – you ought to draw some important inferences from the disparate treatment Trump and Akin have been afforded by the GOP, and whether you want to buy into “unity” at the price that’s being offered.