At a nationally televised debate not yet two weeks ago, the leading candidate of a national political party boasted of his priapic endowments. And yet that wasn’t the most embarrassing display of the evening.
After dousing Donald Trump in a verbal acid bath for two hours, both Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz ended the debate with a torrent of capitulation, vowing once again to support Trump if he were the eventual GOP nominee. Even resident schoolmarm John Kasich, who is quick to peer down his long nose and scold others for unseemly debate theatrics, said he would back Trump if it came to it.
In doing so, each candidate unwound all the work they had done earlier in the debate to expose Trump as a fraud and a huckster. Rubio, Cruz, and Kasich all walked right into Trump’s trap: By pledging to support him, they reaffirmed Trump’s contention that they are effete sissy-men, chestless pushovers wilting in the presence of strength. At that point, Trump could have pulled out a golden trophy of himself — one presumes he has them on hand at all times — and presented it to himself on stage.
It’s understandable why Trump’s challengers sheepishly pledged their still-hypothetical support. And today it might look bad to renege on the campaign promise of support before half the delegates have even been awarded. Some voters could say, “If Ted Cruz flips on this, what’s next?” And perhaps they’d judge such a declaration as tantamount to turning one’s back on the Republican party.
But as the quote (tenuously attributed to John Maynard Keynes) goes, “when my information changes, I change my mind — and you?” And as actor Steve Buscemi growls in the movie Fargo, “circumstances have changed.”
#share#On Friday night, America watched as fights broke out at a Trump rally in Chicago, shutting the event down before even more violence took place. Of course, the well-organized protesters were wrong to block Trump supporters from hearing his speech. But such violence and demonstrations don’t take place at Rubio, Cruz, or Kasich rallies. They happen at Trump events at least in part because of the billionaire’s pugilistic calls to arms. Trump’s long-simmering stew of racial grievance is now being served.
The calls for violence are by now familiar. Last week, a Trump supporter cold-cocked an African-American protester in North Carolina; as of this writing, Trump has yet to condemn the act. Last month, after a protester disrupted an event in Nevada, Trump said he’d “like to punch him in the face.” In Kentucky, Trump told supporters ejecting a protester: “Get him out. Try not to hurt him. If you do, I’ll defend you in court. . . . Are Trump rallies the most fun? We’re having a good time.” And last week, overwhelming evidence mounted that Trump’s campaign manager assaulted a female reporter trying to ask Trump a question.
It is only the GOP’s pocket Chamberlains who will continue to appease this monstrous behavior. Attempting to ride a wave of George Wallace–style white-nationalist populism to the White House could cripple the Republican party for a decade or longer.
So while it’s unfortunate that Trump’s Chicago event couldn’t go on (as I said that night, one wonders why Trump didn’t simply make a “terrific deal” with the protesters), it is also easy to understand why demonstrators have such a vitriolic response to his toxic politics. And if this is a glimpse into what Trump’s America will look like, the other candidates should abandon their foolish consistency and revoke their support for Trump if he becomes the nominee.
After the Chicago debacle, Rubio — who wears the weight of the campaign trail more visibly than any of the other candidates — came close to reneging his pledge to support Trump if he were to become the nominee. When asked on Saturday morning whether he would back Trump, Rubio sighed and said, “I don’t know.”
#related#“I’ve already talked about the fact that I think Hillary Clinton would be terrible for this country,” Rubio continued. “I still at this moment still intend to support the Republican nominee but . . . [it’s] getting harder every day.”
On Monday morning, Cruz refused to withdraw his loyalty pledge, perhaps still heeding the siren song of those Trump voters he may yet draw. “Well, I can give you one example where I would no longer support Donald Trump,” Cruz said when asked if he would honor his vow. “If, for example, he were to go out on Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, I would not be willing to support Donald Trump.”
Cruz and the frequent fence-sitter Kasich need to take a joint X-ray and locate their spinal cords. When primary candidates pledge to have one another’s back in the general election, it’s supposed to unite the party, not abet its arson. Loyalty pledges are not a suicide pact. And in this election, the only trustworthy candidates may be the ones that break their word.