Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is seen at the RNC winter meeting in Washington on Jan. 24, 2014. (Susan Walsh/Associated Press)
Droves of high-profile Republicans — in business, in foreign policy circles and among conservative intelligentsia — along with ordinary Republicans have endorsed Hillary Clinton (or former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson or conservative independent Evan McMullin) because they find Donald Trump unfit. Moreover, from a partisan standpoint those Republicans who believe in a supercharged house cleaning, if not a new party, think it is necessary to resoundingly reject a nativist, misogynistic, fiscally irresponsible, Vladimir Putin-toadying lout who embodies every nasty caricature Democrats have painted of Republicans for the last half-century or so. Save the country and save the center-right as a viable political force.
The unfitness argument has only gotten more powerful with time. On Saturday Trump defiled Gettysburg, the closest thing to a national shrine for democracy, by going there to deliver bloodcurdling remarks. The Post reported:
This was at Gettysburg. To steal Hillary Clinton’s line from the debate, “I mean, who does that?”
He can make the most august setting seem grimy. He doesn’t think twice about taking over one of the most revered sites in all of U.S. history for bitter feuds and threaten retribution after the election — when he plans on being president. (He still hasn’t sued the New York Times as he had threatened for reporting on just two of the women accusing Trump of sexual assault.) This is how he’d spend his time as chief executive and commander in chief: litigating against a never-ending stream of women who claim he mistreated them. (Of course, Trump threatens lawsuits all the time but doesn’t carry through because he’d have to open himself up to discovery.)
Even aside from the complainants, a man with a history of misogyny, unable to put aside petty grievances, willing to defile U.S. democracy (its history and its elections by denying their legitimacy) and obsessed only with himself should not be president. Or hold any other office. So, yes, the arguments for concluding Trump is utterly unfit grow stronger by the day.
John Stubbs, co-founder of Republicans for Clinton in 2016, told me, “Trump is no longer even pretending to try to win more votes or not offend most Republicans. Rather, he is solidifying the 5%-10% of Americans who will run with a hyper-nationalist, white-supremacist agenda.” He added: “That is not enough for a viable political party in the U.S., but it is probably enough for a profitable website — loyal chums feeding at whatever click bait Trump wants to put on the line.”
And that leads us to the party itself. The need for an entirely new party grows in direct proportion to the strength of the argument that he is unfit. “The reality is that the vast majority of Republican leaders are putting party ahead of principle and putting power over the interests of their own country. And that’s the challenge that we have going forward,” said independent conservative candidate Evan McMullin on ABC’s “This Week.” “That’s the challenge that this country has. That’s the challenge that the Republican Party will have. And that’s the challenge that the conservative movement has, which is why Mindy and I are calling for a new conservative movement in this country.” Put differently, as Republicans show there is literally nothing Trump could do that would force them to disown him, they make the case again and again that the party stands only for its own survival, not for any ideals or policies. It makes it crystal clear that it is willing to insult and stereotype minorities if it means it gets the White House.
Declare a judge incapable of doing his job because he is “of Mexican heritage.” Boast about sexual assault. Attack POWs, a Gold Star family, a free press, etc. The GOP’s leaders are comfortable with a candidate who does all that and much more because, as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) so distastefully put it, they think a Republican should be in the White House. Just because. If that’s not putting party above country, I am not sure what would qualify.
Trump and the mind-set of slavish Republicans who follow him deserve repudiation. Some Republicans think the party can be disinfected after the Trump experience and some want to start all over. (“These are generational problems. So maybe over time, over a number of decades, these changes can be made, but the reality is the conservative movement doesn’t have time for that,” said McMullin in defense of the latter approach. “And if the Republican Party can’t make the changes, as wasn’t able to do after 2012, the conservative movement will need a new political vehicle.”)
Either way, McMullin and others who want wholesale change on the right are rooting for Trump’s annihilation and his flacks’ and bully boys’ humiliation. The bigger the margin by which he loses, the more preposterous Trump’s claim that the election is fixed. Indeed, it’s more important for Republicans — if they want to get back their party — to vote against Trump than it is for Democrats. “By taking the leap to Clinton, these Republicans have set an example for all Americans to shed the home-team culture and put country before party,” Stubbs said. Maybe if they can recover some self-respect and devotion to principle by repudiating Trump, they will be prepared to create something superior to replace the GOP.