Politics & Policy

The Rats Are Scurrying: Republican Officeholders Who Endorse Trump Are Sellouts

Trump and Christie campaign in Bentonville, Ark., February 27, 2016. (Benjamin Krain/Getty)

The arch-villain in Donald Trump’s storybook account of American politics is the Republican party. The malign forces of progressivism may have been on the march for the past several years. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi have been hovering like Nazgûls over the bucolic expanses of middle America. Barack Obama has wielded vengefully the One Pen to Rule Them All. But it’s Republicans who are the real problem. The Grand Old Party has aided and abetted the country’s leftward lurch, proving themselves quislings and cowards all the way down, from John Boehner to John McCain. Breitbart.com hath surveyed the nation, and, lo, there was not a conservative to be found among them!

It turns out that Trump fans were right all along — just not in the way they thought.

On Friday, New Jersey governor Chris Christie endorsed Donald Trump in what was surely the most transparent display of affection since Judas Iscariot’s Gethsemane smooch. Not only had Christie spent the last several months blasting his tri-state opponent on the campaign trail — for, among other things, his absurd promise to make Mexico pay for a wall on the United States’ southern border, his proposed ban on Muslims entering the country, and his refusal to address entitlement reform — he reportedly told the New Hampshire Union Leader’s publisher, Joe McQuaid, that he would “never” endorse Trump. Christie says McQuaid is misremembering.

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Presumably, Christie thinks an endorsement will increase the likelihood of his securing a position in a Trump administration (and given Trump’s financial history, that is a likelier prospect than his receiving 30 pieces of silver). But he has agreed to be, for the next several months, willingly at the end of Trump’s leash, evidence of which was Trump and Christie’s brief exchange after Christie’s speech in Arkansas: “Get on the plane and go home,” Trump said, caught on a hot mic. “It’s over. Go home.” There are pimps and prostitutes with more equitable relationships.

The Republican party is full of people who care more about power than about conservatism.

Speaking of prostitutes: On Sunday, Alabama senator Jeff Sessions offered Trump his own endorsement. Sessions is, of course, the Republican party’s famous immigration hawk — a fierce, and fiercely intelligent, opponent of unchecked immigration, of amnesty, and of the various abuses of visa programs that large businesses use to undermine American labor. So, naturally, he endorsed the candidate who has proposed a de facto amnesty in which the federal government would first expend astronomical quantities of money and labor to round up 11 million illegal immigrants residing in the country, escort them to their home countries — and then let them back in (provided, of course, that they’re sufficiently “terrific”); he endorsed the candidate who has abused the H-2B visa system to import foreign workers to do “jobs Americans won’t do” — like model fashion; and he endorsed the candidate who has employed illegal immigrants on his building projects as recently as July of last year. Perhaps the senator thinks that Donald Trump, having touted his promises so publicly, will be made to go through with them. If so, he should consult with Trump’s business associates, employees, and two ex-wives about the reliability of Mr. Trump’s promises.

One must add to this list Maine governor Paul LePage — apparently now taking his political advice from Smoothie and D-Money — congressmen Duncan Hunter (Calif.) and Chris Collins (N.Y.), former Arizona governor Jan Brewer, and Sarah Palin. And, of course, if Trump wins resoundingly on Super Tuesday, many more endorsements will follow.

#share#So, the Trump fans are right. The Republican party is full of people who care more about power than about conservatism. How do we know? Because many of them are choosing to support Donald J. Trump.

After all, there’s nothing conservative about Donald Trump. He’s a Dorito-tinted proto-fascist who admires Vladimir Putin and Saddam Hussein, a conspiracy theorist who accuses George W. Bush of deceiving the nation into war, and a cad who brags about bedding “top women.” He’s advocated relaxing libel laws so that, when he’s president, he can more easily sue his critics. He’s touted “the good parts” of Planned Parenthood. He’s praised single-payer health care.

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Dispense with the fantasy that Donald Trump would, at least, spare us the progressive radicalism of Hillary Clinton. He would be every bit as bad, and in many of the same ways.

Republicans should be able to say that. But it is apparent that members of the party are currently struggling to decide whether the party, or the things the party has historically stood for, are more important.

The virtue of the Republican party, recall, is that it has been the country’s conservative party — a counterweight to the liberalism of Democrats. And a vibrant conservatism has been a salubrious force in American politics. But a Republican party that backs Donald Trump would not be a conservative party any longer. It would be merely a second left-leaning party that from time to time makes adulatory noises about Ronald Reagan. What would be the raison d’être of such an organization?

#related#There are points of light in the Republican party, of course. Nebraska senator Ben Sasse has said that he will never vote for Donald Trump, and South Carolina governor Nikki Haley’s endorsement of Marco Rubio was accompanied by a vigorous rejection of Trump. The Republican party has members committed to conservative principles, not just party survival.

But the next weeks — and, if Donald Trump is the nominee, the next several months — portend a crisis of conscience. Are we defending the permanent things? Or are we defending the Republican party? Because without the former, the latter is utterly pointless.

Ian Tuttle — Ian Tuttle is the former Thomas L. Rhodes Journalism Fellow at the National Review Institute.

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