Here’s the latest from George Will on Donald Trump. Will describes the damage Trump will inflict on the Republican Party if he is the presidential nominee, and notes that the damage already inflicted is “extensive.”
I agree. However, it seems to me that the great columnist is badly misguided when it comes to prescribing how conservatives should respond if the GOP nominates Trump. In Will’s view:
Were [Trump] to be nominated, conservatives would have two tasks. One would be to help him lose 50 states — condign punishment for his comprehensive disdain for conservative essentials, including the manners and grace that should lubricate the nation’s civic life. Second, conservatives can try to save from the anti-Trump undertow as many senators, representatives, governors and state legislators as possible.
But these two tasks are at odds with one another. For as Will states earlier in this piece, “in losing disastrously, Trump probably would create down-ballot carnage sufficient to end even Republican control of the House.”
If conservatives push for that most disastrous of defeats — the loss of all 50 states — they will strengthen the “anti-Trump undertow,” thereby costing Republicans (and conservatives) down-ballot elections.
Pushing for a Trump defeat has other obvious drawbacks. To state the most obvious, it will assist Hillary Clinton. No conservative should want her to win a 50 state victory.
Will hopes that a rout of Trump in the general election will “purge him and his manner from public life.” This would indeed be the probable consequence of a rout under normal circumstances.
But if conservatives help bring about the rout of Trump by “helping him lose,” the likelihood of a purge will be reduced because conservatives can be blamed, with justification, for the rout. I discussed this scenario in a post arguing against a third party candidate.
Will’s approach would also reduce the likelihood of achieving his goal of nominating four years from now “Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, or someone else who has honorably recoiled from Trump.” If such figures and their supporters “help [Trump] lose 50 states,” both the remnants of the faction that nominated Trump and regular Republicans who didn’t enjoy the 2016 rout will likely favor a politician who straddled as best he could the gap between pro-Trump and anti-Trump forces.
I’m not saying that those of us who are strongly anti-Trump should support him in the Fall if he’s the nominee. I’m not even saying we should vote for him. Many will not, in good conscience, be able to vote for Trump, and that’s okay.
But helping to defeat Trump, and thereby elect Hillary Clinton, should not be an option for conservatives. And it won’t even advance Will’s goals of (1) saving Republicans running for other offices this and (2) paving the way for a solidly non-Trumpian alternative in four years.