As Steve noted a little while ago, lots of conservative leaders (I resist referring to any Republicans as an “establishment,” since the real establishment is overwhelmingly Democratic) are not reacting well to the fact that Donald Trump has won the Republican nomination. Some appear to consider Trump’s victory the end of the conservative movement, or the Republican Party, or both.
Today Andy McCarthy wrote “in support of an independent presidential bid,” although his support was heavily qualified. He cited luminaries including Bill Kristol and Thomas Sowell who have called for an independent Republican to run, around whom conservatives could rally. The idea is that an independent candidate might actually win: if no one gets to 270 electoral college votes, the election is thrown into the House of Representatives, which might select the independent Republican over Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
I have great respect for these three men, and many others who are gnashing their teeth over Trump’s victory. But the idea of a successful independent run by a candidate as yet unknown is, I think, a fantasy. Realistically, our next president will be either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. The probable effect of another Republican entering the race would be to throw the election to Clinton.
I am not happy with Trump as the Republican nominee. I have expressed my concerns about him, beginning with the fact that he is not a conservative, repeatedly. I think it would have been far better if Republican primary voters and caucus goers had selected someone else. But they didn’t. My preferred candidates lost. In the past, supporters of winning candidates like Mitt Romney and John McCain have expected the party to unify behind the nominee. However much I dislike Trump as the nominee, I don’t think it is unreasonable for his supporters to expect the same from us.
So I think talk of refusing to accept Trump as the Republican nominee and entering a third candidate in the race is unhelpful. I won’t work actively for Trump, but I will vote for him, because the alternative is Hillary Clinton.
And I don’t think Trump’s victory means that the sky is falling for either conservatives or Republicans. Conservatives of various stripes are doing very well at the state and local levels, and, for the most part, in Congressional races. 2016 may turn out to be a setback, but if so, I see no reason to expect it to be a permanent one.
The fact that there won’t be a conservative in the presidential race reflects the reality that America is no longer a center-right country, at least at the national level. But I think this has been apparent for some time. If the fact is now starkly clear to everyone, maybe that is a good thing. Maybe it will spur conservatives to do a better job of convincing voters that our policies are best for America.