As a liberal website, we’re not in the habit of giving advice to Republicans, but because we agree with the National Review (for very different reasons) that Donald Trump is a menace to America, we’ll make an exception. Here’s our best counsel to the loyal opposition:
We keep hearing that establishment Republicans are having conniptions over the possibility of Trump winning the party’s nomination. Yet you haven’t made any concerted effort to stop him. In fact, establishment candidates have strangely spent most of their time attacking one another instead of Trump.
Now that you’ve dithered so long, if you’re serious about stopping Trump’s Big Mo’, there’s only one way to do it: Prominent, establishment Republicans must unite and declare publicly and unequivocally that you will not support Trump if he wins the nomination.
Is this a drastic and dangerous strategy? Yes it is. Is it absolutely necessary? Yes it is. You don’t really have a choice. Your Plan A—waiting for Trump to self-destruct—didn’t happen. Plan B—hoping a clear establishment candidate would emerge early—also hasn’t happened. Yes, it’s Rubio now, but by the time he manages to put Cruz away—if he does—it will be too late. (And many of Cruz’s supporters will be flocking to Trump anyway.) According to this report, polls show Trump leading in 10 of the next 14 states. And according to the Washington Post, he already has a plausible path to a delegate majority. No single candidate is strong enough to challenge Trump, and time is getting desperate.
If you want to take down Caesar, you’re going to need a conspiracy. That means Plan C: a collective declaration by name-brand Republicans—candidates, former candidates, elected officials, donors, celebrities—that Trump is unacceptable as the nominee, and you will not campaign or vote for him under any circumstances.
A press conference of distinguished VIPs would be a nice start. We bet Jeb Bush, Chris Christie*, Lindsey Graham, Carly Fiorina, and John McCain would answer your call. Scrounge up as many Congress members as you can, and maybe even get Arnold Schwarzenegger. The announcements must be in unison, or at least close together. And the attack must be large enough, and sustained over a long enough period of time, to create a bandwagon effect.
You’re also going to have to borrow a few tactics from Trump himself:
Be bold. Trump has shown that if you want to suffocate your opponent, you suck the air out of the room with a big, bold pronouncement. Keep the media attention focused on you. A massive, public, and prolonged repudiation of Trump by well-known Republicans should do the trick.
Attack your opponent’s weakness. It’s been said more than once that Trump has a bully’s instinct for an opponent’s most sensitive weakness. In Trump’s case, his most exploitable weaknesses are his utter lack of experience in governance and the perception that he is rash, thin-skinned, and temperamentally unstable—all of which would make him dangerous as a president. Your message is:
- We are gathering here to announce we will not support Donald Trump as the Republican Party’s nominee.
- He is grossly unqualified to be president—in experience, temperament, judgment, and character.
- His words and policies are an affront to conservative and American values.
- Trump is not just wrong for America, he would actually be dangerous for America and the world.
- Our opposition is not about politics. It’s about patriotism.
(If you need more ammunition, see this post on why Trump terrifies us.)
Exploit your leverage: Until now you haven’t attacked Trump because a) at first you didn’t think you needed to, and b) when you did need to, you were afraid he would bolt, run as an independent, and destroy the party’s chances in November. He won’t do that now that he thinks he can win. You finally have some leverage; there’s no reason except cowardice not to use it.
Will this strategy work? Maybe. It obviously won’t sway the diehard Trumplings, but they aren’t your target. Your audience is the millions of undecideds and bandwagoneers. You need to sow the seeds of doubt in their minds, jolt them from their me-tooism, and make them think long and hard about the consequences of supporting Trump.
Luckily, Lindsey Graham has already started the ball rolling by declaring he is “re-evaluating” his support after Trump’s 9/11 apostasy in South Carolina. And Trump himself broached the issue when he suggested the RNC, by not intervening in his spat with Cruz, was in “default” of the agreement candidates signed to support the nominee.
Make no mistake: It will take something this powerful to undo Trump. Every win in every primary now adds to his snowball effect—gathering more and more undecideds and joiners in downhill primaries who just want to ride a winner.
The only way to stop a nearly irresistible force is with an immovable object—in this case a wall of stalwart Republicans who will firmly (and finally!) reject him. Nothing else will work. Your only other option is Plan D—a brutal convention cage match that will leave the victor bloody and broken only three months before the general election.
That’s not really a plan, because even that won’t work if 1) Trump has already wrapped up his delegate majority by then, or 2) he’s the best dealmaker in the room.
And Plan C is infinitely better than your current strategy, which apparently is to stand around scratching your ass, hoping that Caesar accidentally steps in front of a speeding chariot.
No. It’s time to be brave. It’s time to say out loud what you already know in your heart: That in the privacy of the voting booth, you cannot vote for Donald Trump.
Face it: Your party is going to be eviscerated no matter what. The only question is: Do you want to wield the knife, or do you want Trump to do it for you?
You’d better decide, and you’d better do it quick. If Trump cleans up on Super Tuesday, your decision could be made for you. And if you don’t act by the winner-take-all primaries on March 15, all will be lost, and political life as you know it will be over.
Republicans: The Ides of March approach. Time to sharpen your knives.
* Well, maybe not Christie. –Ed. (2/26/16)