Against Too-Little-Too-Late–ism

by Charles C. W. Cooke

I want to push back a little against the cynicism and defeatism that I’m seeing this morning in some quarters of the Right. As far as I can tell, it is broadly accepted that Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz did what they had to do at last night’s debate, and, moreover, that Trump was rattled by their having done so. And yet, seemingly everywhere, conservatives are whining that it was probably “too little too late.”

I can understand this attitude when it is exhibited by dispassionate news outlets that must, in the name of objective auguring, cover themselves in caveats; frankly, it would be dishonest to imply that Trump doesn’t have an excellent shot at the nomination. I can also understand that those of us who dislike Trump might be tempted to accept defeat now so that, if the anti-Trump campaign should fail, it will hurt less later. But for movement conservatives to play the cynic at this critical juncture is counterproductive in the extreme. Trump cannot win unless we let him win. To give in to fear is to let him win.

Whether the push that started yesterday evening has come “too late” remains to be seen. Perhaps it has. But what alternative do we have other than to try? We learned last night that Trump is not invulnerable — not even close — and, moreover, that both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are entirely capable of making him look stupid. We learned, too, that Trump has a host of Achilles’ heels, and that mockery, as ever, is a more effective weapon than outrage. We should be treating these lessons as the welcome overture to a sustained, unrelenting, brutal three-week barrage — from now up until at least the 15th of March. Nothing should get in the way of this attempt: not depressing polls; not Trump’s likely wins on Super Tuesday; not the seeming immovability of his online fan club. Nothing. There are plenty of paths still to be trodden. If we fail, we fail. But we will not succeed by giving up.

On the contrary: This is fight-them-on-the beaches time. This is Agincourt. This is the moment at which the champions of liberty and limited government must pick up the kitchen sinks and cast them over and over and over again at the charlatan in the hairpiece. The alternative is to rebuild our movement from scratch, after a con artist has dismantled it with our permission. The alternative is to watch in horror as the slow rebuilding of the last seven years is exploded in a puff of vanity. The alternative is to spend another four years in opposition, this time under a shallow crook. Should the other Republican candidates have taken Trump on earlier? Yes, they should. But they didn’t. Now, they are. It would be an act of vandalism to leave them without a sail just as they began to right the ship. Too-little-too-late-ism is for post-mortems, not for battleplans. Time to gird those loins.

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