Politics & Policy

Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich — Now Is the Time for Patriotism

Cruz, Trump, and Rubio at the GOP debate in Greenville, S.C. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty)

The dictionary definition of patriotism is “a person who loves and strongly supports or fights for his or her country.” That’s true enough, but it feels inadequate to describe the love that causes a person to risk and sometimes sacrifice life and limb for his nation — to storm a beach under fire, to hold the line against overwhelming odds, or to charge through a door without knowing who or what is in the next room. The patriot doesn’t just love his country. He loves his country more than he loves himself.

Now, let us ask: Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and John Kasich — are you patriots? I’m not questioning whether you’re moved by the national anthem, support the troops, or are grateful for the blessings of American liberty, or even whether you genuinely believe that your own ideas, policies, and temperament make you the best candidate for president. Presumably every good-faith politician believes that he or she is the best person for the job. But let’s be honest — it is difficult to judge the extent of a man’s patriotism when his own record of public service also happens to coincide with self-interest and personal ambition.

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In fact, I grow weary of hearing that politicians are in “public service.” Public service is defined not by one’s position but by one’s actions. Yes, I know that each of you has worked tirelessly in office, and each of you has done some genuine good. You have much to be proud of, but let me ask this: Why is there such overwhelming consensus that it is utterly futile to ask you to put aside your personal ambition not just to save the conservative ideals you’ve held and advanced your entire careers but to save our nation from electing a truly despicable man?

#share#John Kasich, how you can look yourself in the mirror? You’ve won a grand total of 2 percent of the delegates and a whopping 6.6 percent of the popular vote. So far you’ve “succeeded” in allowing Donald Trump to scrape by with a win in Virginia on a night where a loss would have blunted his momentum. You and your camp have responded to calls to drop out of the race with a sneering condescension that is clearly at odds with your very public presentation of compassion and religiosity.

You have a responsibility to leave this race, and every day that you stay in, you are demonstrating your vanity and self-love. You are ending decades of public service with an act of national vandalism and sabotage. Change course or stain your legacy forever.

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As for Rubio and Cruz, I agree with my colleague Jonah Goldberg and many others who argue that the best hope for stopping Trump lies in a unity ticket on which two of the GOP’s most talented conservatives pledge to work together to win the primary and to defeat Hillary Clinton. But you both have the harder task. Kasich merely has to have the courage to face the fact that he has no hope of becoming president. He can only be a spoiler. But one of you will have to demonstrate the enormous — and perhaps unprecedented — integrity and patriotism to walk away from a plausible path to the presidency for the sake of providing the conservative movement and the nation with a probable path to defeating Trump.

#related#As the race moves inexorably to winner-take-all states, Trump can win 34 percent of the vote (his total so far) and still blow open the delegate count. At the very least, there has to be a unified attack on Trump. The fratricide has to end. Rubio and Cruz are both conservative. They are both men of integrity. The differences between their records and positions are minuscule compared with the vast gulf that separates the two of them from Trump. Each direct attack on the other is a failure — a deliberate decision to place ambition over nation.

There are nine contests between today and March 8. They include strong Cruz states and strong Rubio states. If we can’t reach unity before March 15 — before Trump can achieve a commanding delegate lead with a minority of Republican votes — we are lost. So I’ll ask you again. Do you love this country more than you love yourself?

And if you’re wondering whether I’m questioning your patriotism, I think the answer is clear. You’re damn right I am.

David French — David French is a senior writer for National Review, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

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