The depth of Republicans’ despair

The National Republican leadership should have listened to GOP political consultant Alex Castellanos, who was among the first to sound the alarm bell about Donald Trump and come up with an early plan to stop him. But they didn’t.

They should have listened to Trump rivals Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal, and later Jeb Bush, all former GOP governors who read a Trump candidacy for what it was: a potential electoral disaster. But they rolled their eyes.

They could have listened to ABC News political pundit and former Bush campaign chief strategist Matthew Dowd, who continually pushed back on the state of denial and challenged anybody to explain to him how they imagined Trump would stumble. Some openly scoffed at him in ways that could only be described as abusive.

dead gopPotential funders of an anti-Trump campaign probably assumed that various Presidential rivals’ superpacs would be effective in attacking Trump, but instead, Jeb Bush’s superpac attacked Marco Rubio, and Rubio’s super pac attacked Jeb, and Ted Cruz’s superpac attacked Rubio. 

Then they placed their faith in Cruz’s appeal to evangelicals to save them from Trump, but after South Carolina they discovered that Southern evangelicals hate minorities more than they love Jesus. This in no way should have been a surprise, since these same voters didn’t hesitate to abandon the Democratic Party in a rage in the 1960s in the wake of Democrats’ support of the Voting Rights Act empowering minorities – why Republicans thought they’d follow along now is beyond comprehension. 

Few wanted to confront the notion that Trump was the logical end of what they themselves had built – a mountain of rage, xenophobia, misogyny, and racism, which Trump had tapped into with perfect pitch. They built that mountain through thousands of local races across America over the past eight years, backing candidates in GOP primary elections from sheriffs to mayors and state legislators, where actual policy differences were microscopic; the only real differences between their backed Tea Party challengers and the defeated Republican incumbents is that the incumbents didn’t hate the President enough, weren’t pissed off enough, and wouldn’t bow to their Tea Party masters fast enough. 

It all came to a head yesterday, when the bombshell hit that Governor Chris Christie had endorsed Trump. There aren’t many true game-changing events in politics, but this event certainly was one. It was such a strong symbol of the unconditional surrender of the so-called “establishment” that deniers could no longer deny. One could no longer ignore Trump’s evil genius, with the endorsement coming on the heels of Trump’s miserable debate performance the night before, and the emergence of what Trump deniers imagined might be “Marco-mentum.” In only 12 hours, Trump once again dramatically dominated the news cycle. Gone was the newfound buzz in Rubio’s candidacy, gone was the notion that Trump was on the ropes, and gone was any notion that Trump’s march to the nomination would be interruptible this Tuesday as GOP voters go to the polls to allocate hundreds and hundreds more delegates, most of them to Trump.

Unless something happens that they cannot even imagine yet, Trump’s nomination is all-but-done. If it’s still possible to stop him, the people with the means to fund it can’t imagine what it is, and are too divided to coalesce around a single plan to get it done. They try to imagine a brokered convention, but can’t figure out who the brokers might be.

The Republican leadership stands today in open despair and grief, some sensing for the first time that they’ve waited too late to stop a Trump nomination, many still in denial that they helped build Frankenstein’s monster in the first place. They’ll soon put their game face on and pretend to follow along, but they’ve already seen their future, and it’s bleak.

The New York Times has an excellent must-read piece on where all this leaves them: planning for a Democratic White House and trying to save what’s left.