Donald Trump’s hostile takeover of the Republican party is underway. The Trump Train has left the station, destination: the White House. The Donald has a head of steam and is headed toward the goal line, stiff-arming metaphors all the way.
Will anyone tackle him? Can the train be derailed? Will conservatives resist the takeover of their party by a clown who — as a Hillary supporter told me three days ago, cackling with delight — is a lifelong Democrat?
If Rubio or Cruz can’t lock horns with Donald Trump and best him Thursday night in the political gong show that we call a debate, then it’s not going to happen. If Marco Rubio can’t stand up to Donald Trump’s juvenile insults and turn the tables, then Rubio isn’t tough or ruthless enough to be president of the United States. If Ted Cruz can’t use his lawyerly skills to mercilessly shred Donald Trump’s equivocations and half-truths and flip-flops, then Cruz isn’t strong or canny enough to be president of the United States. If these guys can’t sense the urgency of the moment and rise to the challenge by bringing down Trump, they have no business asking for conservatives’ votes or leading America in a dark and dangerous moment on the world stage.
Tonight is the 3 a.m. phone call.
Tonight’s debate is the last chance to give the Trump steamroller a flat tire. If Trump leaves Houston unscathed, if he moves on to the Super Tuesday states and wins all or most of them — then the race is over.
It won’t. This is a time for choosing. A time for strength. A time for ruthlessness and killer instinct. A time for mettle and resolve and the will to go to war.
The Republican party is infected with a virus, and that virus can be expunged only by direct action. Donald Trump isn’t going to go away. He’s not going to say anything stupid enough to deter his legions. The magical unicorns of “political gravity” aren’t going to save the Republican party from nominating a man who is antithetical to everything the party has stood for since Barry Goldwater won the nomination in 1964. He has to be defeated. He has to be exposed. He has to be humiliated on national TV in front of 25 million people.
He has to be defeated. He has to be exposed. He has to be humiliated on national TV in front of 25 million people.
How should Cruz and Rubio go after Trump? They must depict Trump as a game-show host out of his depth. They must laugh at his kindergarten-level grasp of national-security policy. They should bait him into putting forth an opinion on Obamacare and then mock him for having held the opposite view that morning on Morning Joe. They should pound him on his four bankruptcies, ridicule his failed Trump University scam that stole tens of thousands of dollars from average Americans, call him on his support for Planned Parenthood, knock him for his bullying, vulgar self-righteousness, laugh at him for not knowing what the nuclear triad is, and guffaw at his inept attempt to revitalize Atlantic City. And when Trump loses his cool, they should do it again and again. And again. Cruz and Rubio must mock Trump until the audience views him as the deranged half-wit that he is.
Donald Trump must be shown to be a loser.
Politely pointing out that Donald Trump isn’t a conservative isn’t going to be enough. Trump has to be shown to be ridiculous.
And Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio (or both) has to be the one to do it.
If they don’t, then the Republican nomination process is over. And the two senators will have no one to blame but themselves.
— Mark Antonio Wright is an assistant editor at National Review.