At The New Republic today, I question whether the Republican Party has the courage to stop Donald Trump on the convention floor. Assuming Trump ends up short of majority, the delegates will have the means to block his path. But they need the will to withstand the virulent charges of subverting democracy.
And after Speaker Paul Ryan said the convention should not turn to a new candidate who didn’t compete in the primaries, that leaves only existing candidates who performed worse than Trump in the primaries.
If the party actually resists Trump and his plurality support — 37 percent of the raw vote so far — the likeliest beneficiary is Ted Cruz, the runner-up with 28 percent of the vote. (Giving the nomination to John Kasich, who won one state, or a drop-out like Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, Rick Perry or Scott Walker strains too much credulity.)
In The New Republic, I expressed my skepticism that the Republican Party, which has failed to stand-up to various extremists inside its ranks for years, would suddenly find enough courage to take a stand when it can be explosively accused of disregarding the vote.
But let’s go beyond the numbers. Why shoulder those incendiary accusations on behalf of a such an awful candidate as Cruz?
He is almost as sure to lose the general election as Trump. Cruz is beat by Clinton in nearly every poll. And while the margins as not as wide as Trump’s, that can be chalked up to the lack of attention Cruz has received from Democrats to date. Nothing in Cruz’s rigidly right-wing, accomplishment-free record suggests an ability to outperform John McCain and Mitt Romney with swing voters.
And as a doctrinaire right-wing conservative, his loss does greater damage to the conservative philosophy than would the ideologically opportunistic Trump. No longer could die-hards claim Republicans only lose when they nominate “moderates.”
With such deep fault lines drawn between pro-Trump and anti-Trump forces, anybody who gets nominated will preside over a shattered party. Republicans essentially face an unpleasant question: how best to lose?
The argument for letting Cruz steer the Republican Titanic into the proverbial iceberg is that Trump would make the Republican Party look like a complete joke. Conversely, surrendering to Trump allows the Establishment to blame a faction of unhinged voters for the electoral disaster, absolving themselves of responsibility and allowing them to take the lead in putting the pieces back together.
It’s worth the risk of being (dubiously) charged with theft if you what you swipe is worth something. Is swiping a broken nomination on behalf of Cruz really worth anything?