Trump’s sack­ing of the GOP

Cecil Whig - - OPINION - Eu­gene Robin­son

— The Repub­li­can Party this week is like fifth-cen­tury Rome must have been af­ter the Visig­oths stormed the city’s gates. An­ar­chy and con­fu­sion reign, there is the sound of an­guished wail­ing, and po­lit­i­cal lead­ers are mak­ing an ur­gent cal­cu­la­tion: Re­sis­tance or col­lab­o­ra­tion?

The sud­den­ness of Don­ald Trump’s fi­nal vic­tory over the GOP es­tab­lish­ment was shocking. On Mon­day, Pollyan­nas were still con­vinc­ing them­selves that Trump could be thwarted at a con­tested con­ven­tion. Within 48 hours, he had won the In­di­ana pri­mary in a land­slide and his last two op­po­nents, Ted Cruz and John Ka­sich, had sur­ren­dered. Even Trump couldn’t have ex­pected it to hap­pen so fast.

But no one should be sur­prised, at this point, that the re­sult of the Repub­li­can pri­mary process is Don­ald J. Trump as the party’s pre­sump­tive nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent. He has been the clear front-run­ner for the better part of a year. Too many ob­servers, both inside and out­side the party, saw the race as they thought it should be, not as it ac­tu­ally was. They ig­nored the ob­vi­ous fact that Trump was gain­ing mo­men­tum as the pri­maries went on. They be­lieved it was un­think­able that he would win, so they gave too lit­tle weight to clear ev­i­dence that he was do­ing just that.

I men­tion these is­sues of per­cep­tion only be­cause I’m now see­ing a lot of anal­y­sis pre­dict­ing how easy-peasy it will be for likely Demo­cratic nom­i­nee Hil­lary Clin­ton to wipe the floor with Trump in the fall. Any­one buy­ing into this story line should first try to as­cer­tain whether it’s based on re­al­ity or wish­ful think­ing. As for me, I’ll con­tinue not to take any­thing for granted.

Repub­li­can elected of­fi­cials and party lead­ers do not have time for such ret­ro­spec­tive con­tem­pla­tion. They have a de­ci­sion to make. The party be­longs to Trump now, just as Rome be­longed to the bar­bar­ians, and GOP politi­cians have to de­cide whether to fall in line or take up arms against the new or­der.

So far, GOP lu­mi­nar­ies are mostly choos­ing col­lab­o­ra­tion over re­sis­tance — al­though many have so far de­clined com­ment and seem to be still pon­der­ing.

The big­gest blows to Trump’s le­git­i­macy as the stan­dard-bearer of the Party of Lin­coln were struck by the two most re­cent Repub­li­can pres­i­dents. Spokes­men for Ge­orge H.W. Bush and Ge­orge W. Bush an­nounced that 41 and 43 have no plans to en­dorse Trump — an ex­tra­or­di­nary re­buke from the fam­ily that has de­fined the party since the era of Ron­ald Rea­gan.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, asked if he was ready to en­dorse Trump, said that “I’m not there right now.” Gov. Char­lie Baker of Mas­sachusetts said he will not vote for Trump — or for Clin­ton, a spokes­woman added. Sen. Ben Sasse of Ne­braska, who has ve­he­mently op­posed Trump, was unbowed in a lengthy Face­book post that called for a third-party can­di­date to emerge.

Most of the rest of the party, how­ever, seems to be board­ing the Trump train, even if it might be head­ing over a cliff.

Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee Chair­man Reince Priebus set the tone Tues­day night just min­utes af­ter Cruz’s with­drawal with a tweet an­nounc­ing that Trump was the pre­sump­tive nom­i­nee and that the party should unite be­hind him.

The most com­monly stated po­si­tion of prom­i­nent Re­pub­li­cans who have spo­ken thus far is that they will sup­port “the nom­i­nee of the party.” For ex­am­ple, this is the view of Sen. John McCain of Ari­zona, whom Trump cru­elly ridiculed for be­ing shot down and cap­tured dur­ing the Viet­nam War. Ac­cord­ing to Politico, McCain said at a fundraiser last month that his re­elec­tion bid “may be the race of my life” be­cause of Trump’s vi­cious rhetoric about Latino im­mi­grants.

Some other sen­a­tors fac­ing tough bat­tles to hold on to their seats seemed to dis­ap­pear into wit­ness pro­tec­tion. One who emerged, but prob­a­bly shouldn’t have, was Sen. Kelly Ay­otte of New Hamp­shire, who tried to stake out the im­pos­si­ble po­si­tion that she would “sup­port” Trump but not “en­dorse” him. Sorry, Sen­a­tor, but that’s not even a dis­tinc­tion, much less a dif­fer­ence. You’re on board.

South Carolina Gov. Nikki Ha­ley also said she “will sup­port the Repub­li­can nom­i­nee for pres­i­dent,” treat­ing Trump’s name like that of Lord Volde­mort. Then she has­tened to add her name to the grow­ing list of ris­ing GOP stars who say they are not in­ter­ested in be­ing con­sid­ered as you-know-who’s run­ning mate.

What does “I sup­port the nom­i­nee” buy you? Trump’s al­le­ga­tion that Mex­i­can im­mi­grants are “rapists.” His prom­ise to de­port 11 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing here with­out papers. His pledge to ban Mus­lims from en­ter­ing the coun­try. His misog­yny. His big­otry. His will­ful ig­no­rance of for­eign and do­mes­tic pol­icy. And much, much more.

The emerg­ing Repub­li­can mes­sage: We’re all Visig­oths now.

Eu­gene Robin­son is a syn­di­cated colum­nist. Con­tact him at eu­gen­er­obin­son@wash­post.com.

WASH­ING­TON

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