Michael Gerson writes:
The GOP is not facing a debate over policy, but rather a hostile takeover by a pernicious force. . .A significant group of Republicans — look at #NeverTrump on Twitter — cannot support Trump. This is not, as in 1964 or 1980, a clash over ideology. It is a moral objection to the return of nativism, religious prejudice and misogyny to the center stage of American politics.
Agree or disagree, this sounds high-minded.
But a few paragraphs later, Gerson shows us what’s really behind his lofty rhetoric. Considering the alternatives available to those of the #NeverTrump persuasion, he describes, and then dismisses, this option:
Support the candidate in second place in the hope of beating Trump’s plurality with more votes and delegates. “We may be in a position,” says Sen. Lindsey Graham, “where we have to rally around Ted Cruz as the only way to stop Donald Trump.” Marco Rubio, in this argument, simply hasn’t risen to the moment. And at least Cruz is a legitimate Republican.
But anyone concerned about Trump’s nativism will find it very difficult to support Cruz, who has criticized Trump for being too soft on illegal immigration. Cruz would be a weak candidate against Hillary Clinton. His 100-proof conservatism is not to everyone’s taste. And, as one South Carolina Republican told me, he seems “covered in a thick layer of people repellant (sic).”
Thus, for Gerson this actually is “a debate over policy” — immigration policy. He is trying to exploit widespread revulsion over Trump (most of which has little to do with immigration policy) for the purpose of demonizing those who disagree with Gerson about how to treat illegal immigrants.
Gerson’s vehicle is the word “nativism,” which he employs with abandon in place of argument. To hurl it at Ted Cruz — son of an immigrant — is a tactic worthy of Trump.
The dictionary defines nativism as “a policy of favoring native inhabitants as opposed to immigrants.” Cruz doesn’t support disfavoring immigrants. He simply wants to enforce our immigration laws which, naturally, disfavor illegal immigrants.
One can agree or disagree with Cruz about this. But to rule him out as an option to stopping Trump because of his stance on immigration is to exalt a single issue at the expense of efforts to halt a menace, while claiming, in Gerson’s case, to be doing something more high-minded. (Gerson’s other objections to Cruz as an alternative to Trump are neither lofty nor substantial; polls show the Texas man to be competitive against Clinton, and whose ideology is “to everyone’s taste”?).
Trump’s menace doesn’t reside in his proposal to deport all illegal immigrants — a policy that, although impractical and arguably too harsh, would be consistent with the law. Trump’s menace to the GOP lies in his center-leftism; his menace to both party nation is in his vulgar authoritarianism.
For Gerson, one suspects, soft treatment of illegal immigrants is a moral imperative. This is the only way I can make sense of his column.
If that’s how he feels, fine. But for those of us who feel differently, it’s impossible to take seriously Gerson’s analysis of how best to stop Donald Trump.