In The Washington Post, Chris Cillizza tells us he has a ‘radical proposal for how Republicans could try to stop Donald Trump‘:
Eight senators, eight governors and 39 House members have endorsed one of the final three Republican candidates. That’s 15 percent of the 54 Republican senators, 26 percent of governors and 15 percent of the Republican members of the House.
That’s a stunningly small number.
Consider what it might look like if two dozen Republican senators, 150 House members and 15 Republican governors appeared together at a news conference Monday to announce that they were supporting Cruz. And not only that, but that they also decided to wade into the race as a group to send a clear signal to their party and the country that Trump is simply a) not a real conservative and b) could cost the GOP downballot in ways that could set them back for years to come.
I don’t know, Chris. Millions have been spent on ads attacking Trump for his lack of conservative credentials, but I think the people who support him believe he’s a hell of a lot more conservative than the current elected crowd. It doesn’t matter if every major Republican official—from senators to house members to governors—got together and collectively announced Trump wasn’t conservative. Trump’s supporters’ definition of conservatism is not the same as theirs. And as for costing the GOP the downballot? Again, Trump supporters want to burn the party to the ground and rebuild it in their image, so I doubt threatening them with exactly what they want is going to turn them off.
An endorsement here or there for Cruz or Kasich means absolutely nothing. Speaker Paul Ryan slapping down Trump for his talk of potential riots if he is not the nominee doesn’t have a whole heck of a lot of impact either. But the sheer throw-weight of almost 200 elected Republican officials appearing together to wrap their arms around Cruz (and say “no” to Trump) would be genuinely powerful.
The GOP embracing Cruz that way might get Kasich voters to switch camps, but if you’re an angry Trump supporter (or even Cruz supporter), a big part of the reason you’re attracted to him is because he’s so against those people. Lindsey Graham endorsing Cruz will help Cruz among people who would probably vote for any Republican nominee anyway (besides Trump), but I don’t see why a pitchfork-toting Tea Partier would jump on board with the candidate-of-choice from the party they think has betrayed them.
The biggest problem the GOP has had in combating Trumpism is that they keep going about it as though traditional attack methods will work. It doesn’t matter how many TV ads they run showing Trump’s unsavory past or his apparent un-conservatism; his supporters instantly understand that it’s coming from an established order they see as conspiring against them. Trump’s too good at deflecting those attacks, too. When someone mentions he’s donated to Clinton, he says ‘Yeah, sure. And she did what I wanted, just like all the other people I funded!’ When someone points out that he has his products made in China, he says ‘Of course. I don’t want to, but the way this government’s set up its trade laws, there’s no other way to do it!’ Hypocrisy or not, it’s ineffective because the attacks come from sources Trumpites inherently distrust, so continuous attacks from those sources only serve to reaffirm what Trumpites already believe.
But desperate times demand desperate measures. Trump’s place in the race is strong enough that to knock him off his spot requires significant risk-taking and, in the case of the scenario I outlined above, significant subsuming of egos.
You want to talk about desperate measures? Try this: Because the GOP wants so desperately to stop Trump, they should take a huge gamble and completely embrace him instead of Cruz as Cillizza suggests. Have people like Mitt Romney say what they find admirable about Trump. Have investors like the Koch brothers appear on Fox and say they can’t wait for general election season to really kick in so they can use their financial resources to aid Trump in defeating Clinton. I say this because perhaps the only thing that might kill some of Trump’s momentum is if the system he claims to be railing against claims him as their own, no amount of kicking and screaming is going to make it look otherwise. His supporters might get turned off by the notion of him fitting in alongside Paul Ryan and Sheldon Adelson. Or they might not. It’s a Hail Mary the GOP won’t try, not least because it’s too late and would certainly come off as completely insincere, but because they’re delusional enough to think they have an image to maintain.