Republicans are deserting Donald Trump in droves. John McCain, Kelly Ayotte and Carly Fiorina are among the most prominent. Here in Minnesota, I think just about the entire Republican Party has disavowed him. Many people whose judgment I admire–Andy McCarthy, John Thune and Hugh Hewitt, to name just three–have called on Trump to step down. Are they right? I think the question needs to be examined from several angles.
First, the most recent revelation–Trump making crude comments on video in 2005–doesn’t materially change my evaluation of the candidates. I was never under any illusions as to Trump’s character, his competence or his conservatism. I think he is a horrible Republican nominee. But he is still better than Hillary Clinton. His character is no worse than Hillary’s, he is more conservative (or less liberal), and he would make a better president. So I have every intention of voting for him as the lesser of two evils. I strongly reject the idea that there is some kind of moral obligation to abandon Trump.
Second, it can be useful to ask, What would the Democrats do? Here there is no need to speculate: we saw what they did in the 1990s. They circled the wagons and defended their man to the hilt, using whatever smears and lies were helpful, even though he was credibly accused of rape and multiple instances of sexual harassment. Indeed, that is what the Democrats are doing now with Hillary Clinton, as revelations much more material to her performance in office than the Trump video have come out over the past year or two. See, generally, Clinton Cash. Republicans are always held to a higher standard than Democrats, but why? Maybe this is as good a time as any to reject the double standard and fight fire with fire. E.g., this Drudge headline: “KATHLEEN WILLEY CALLS FOR HILLARY TO RESIGN FROM CAMPAIGN…”
Finally, calling on Trump to resign signals, at best, an unprecedented and humiliating disarray within the GOP. It still may make sense if the party has an opportunity to substitute a better candidate with a greater chance of winning. But, as Paul noted earlier, it is not clear that such a switch is practical. If Mike Pence (not Mitt Romney) could be substituted on the ballot for Trump, it would be an improvement. But I doubt that any such smooth transition is possible.
If a switch to another candidate, with Trump’s consent, can be carried out quickly and smoothly, fine. But if that is not possible–I assume the party’s leaders, Reince Preibus et al., have scoped this out–then I think Republicans whose election chances are not imminently in jeopardy are better served to stand by their nominee, bad as he may be. It is easy to answer reporters’ questions by explaining why Trump, with all his faults, is superior to the incompetent, corrupt and left-wing Hillary Clinton. In fact, this may be one of the few chances that most Republicans get to attack Hillary on camera. Why not take advantage of the opportunity? Republicans everywhere should be prepared to tell reporters that even an inept, immoral, centrist rookie like Donald Trump is not as bad as Hillary Clinton.
Damn the torpedoes, in other words, and once the election is over–lost, in all likelihood–Republicans can sort out lessons learned in private. That is what the Democrats would do.