Trump is the GOP Nominee Because We Allowed It

Phil Jensen


Trump_baseball_2By Calvin Freiburger

Now that we’re stuck with the ugly choice of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, we’re long overdue for a chat about just how easily this mess could have been avoided. Shocking though it may be that such a cartoonishly unqualified and un-conservative figure could sweep the Republican nomination, it was inevitable that the mistakes and blind spots that establishmentarians and conservatives allowed to fester for years would eventually blow up in our faces.

Most agree on the first cause: feckless Republican leaders, whose record of surrender has made their base desperate for someone to take a wrecking ball to Capitol Hill, and doubtful that anyone from within the party could suffice. So when Trump swept in sounding like that someone—and making immigration, the issue on which party and base are most divided, his centerpiece—of course he forged an emotional bond impervious to subsequent reviews of his record.

Rick Kriebel 2016


It’s not Trump’s fault nobody stepped in to fill that demand first—even Ted Cruz, who fought the establishment from day one, underestimated the stridency he needed to project, or how moves like his poison pill amendments to the Gang of 8 bill would backfire.

Second, anti-Trump forces wasted time on Trump’s most obvious deficiencies, without appreciating how many had already deemed them acceptable tradeoffs for finally securing the border. Instead, they should have focused most of their arguments on Trump’s pro-amnesty sympathies and how they indicated Trump disappoint his fans on their top priority.

Third, they gave the Trump-curious unnecessary reasons to disregard their warnings. Can we really blame anyone for dismissing National Review’s “Against Trump” symposium after seeing the same publication run pieces endorsing pro-amnesty moderates like John Kasich and Jeb Bush, or spinning meaningless show votes as “great conservative victory”? Pundits’ claims that opposing Trump is a matter of “custodial obligation” to conservatism ring hollow without taking responsibility for all the other ways they’ve been negligent stewards of conservative principles.

Woodrow Wilcox


Even more egregious was the pass most pundits gave Marco Rubio after he lied to the country about virtually ever aspect of the Gang of 8 bill in order to pass it. Between that and costing Cruz scores of delegates well after his own candidacy was dead, arguably no single man bears more responsibility for Trump’s victory.

And yet, even many who backed Cruz early treated Rubio as equally legitimate. Glenn Beck, for instance, cheered Rubio as “genuine,” “really impress[ive],” and a “strong number two” (forgetting he deemed Rubio a “piece of garbage” in 2013). Beck and others eventually came around, but the anti-Trump chorus would have carried much more weight as a call to disqualify all dishonorable contenders, with voters seeing the case that Trump and Rubio were equally untrustworthy on Trump’s signature issue.

That brings us to #NeverTrump’s final major blunder. It could have eliminated Trump by rallying early around Cruz (the only plausible anti-Trump); instead, conservatives divided themselves among a dozen mediocrities.

Rush Limbaugh treated Scott Walker like a conservative messiah, utterly unaware how moderately he really governed. Mark Levin deflected criticism of Rand Paul with nonsense about the establishment disliking Paul’s “constitutionalism” (rather than disliking Paul because he sympathizes with roadside bombers). Sean Hannity laying down for Trump was never specifically pro-Trump bias, but a manifestation of his unwillingness to alienate anyone with R’s after their names. Ben Carson’s general political incompetence was often ignored.

Imagine how much more momentum Cruz could have enjoyed starting out if movement leaders had actually led, pushing a united message from the beginning that he was clearly the strongest candidate and the others were wasting time, attention, and votes.

This is particularly galling because it’s the third consecutive presidential election in which conservative division enabled a moderate nominee. Mitt Romney was objectively 2008’s most conservative option (the alternatives being pro-abortion Rudy Giuliani or nanny statist Mike Huckabee), but conservatives refused to rally around him until it was too late to stop John McCain.

2012 was muddier—the supposed conservative alternative to Romney, Rick Perry, was drastically more moderate than advertised, and Newt Gingrich’s liberal heresies were infamous—but the most plausible alternative was arguably Rick Santorum. And while Santorum’s own missteps were ultimately his undoing, the fact remains that his and Gingrich’s combined votes beat Romney in nine major states, including Iowa and South Carolina, and got within a point in Florida. That alone should have left us with little patience for 17-man clown-car primaries.

All of the above failures have something in common: simply acting on principle would have prevented them. Governing as conservatives, listening to constituents, holding politicians accountable, disqualifying candidates for betraying our trust…more often than not, just doing the right thing also turns out to be the advantageous thing.

But a long train of shortsighted compromises has now saddled us with the most odious compromise vote of all. If this still hasn’t sunk in by the next election, God help us.

Calvin Freiburger is a Wisconsin-based conservative commentator. His work can primarily be found on Live Action News and his personal website, Conservative Standards. Follow him @CalFreiburger.  



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