Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus. (Carolyn Kaster/Associated Press)
Opinion writer

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus, momentarily roused from his stupor, decided to defend the party he is supposed to be leading. Politico reports:

Priebus said that while most states have primaries or caucuses, a few states like Colorado have convention systems, “and that’s perfectly OK,” he told conservative radio host Mike Gallagher. . . .

“Whoever doesn’t win, you wanna make sure that it’s not because of some rules committee change or something like that, that happens,” Priebus said. “It has to be only because I didn’t get the votes I needed on the floor. If we can get this thing all about who has the votes to make this happen, either before Cleveland or at Cleveland, we’re gonna be in a much better place.”

He also maintained that whoever notches the necessary 1,237 delegates to win the GOP nomination will become the presumptive nominee.

“There won’t be any games in Cleveland,” he said. “If someone’s at 1,237, they’re going to be the presumptive nominee. No one can get talked out of it. Nobody can be promised something to make that not happen.”

Unfortunately, Priebus adopted the “You must have been misinformed” tone, rather than one that conveys how noxious is Donald Trump’s effort to delegitimize anyone other than himself who might win.

This follows Priebus’s remarks on Fox News last night when he said that Colorado has an “organizational process” candidates need to follow. “There is nothing mysterious,” Priebus said. He even brought along the rule book. How thoroughly . . .  inadequate.

What is missing here — as it has been for months now — is any principled defense against the man threatening to replace the conservative movement’s political apparatus with one that is nothing more than a cult of personality. In the latter, any outcome other than one favoring Trump is “crooked” or “rigged.” Acceptable rhetoric is defined as whatever he says; any efforts to present the party as inclusive go out the window.

Priebus continues to passively allow Trump’s torrent of deception, threats and out and out lies wash over the party, treating him as just another candidate. It was this attitude that sent Priebus scurrying to Trump Tower with the pledge, now shown to be entirely worthless. Priebus’s collapse into moral relativism led him to forgo speaking out against the vast majority of Trump’s outrageous comments, and to only cryptically frown on violence in the race, which Trump alone has instigated and condoned. Worse yet, without an operative moral compass, Priebus again and again praised the entire field and provided assurance that no matter who got to 1,237 delegates, the entire party would get behind him. In short, he offered Trump carte blanche and now stands accused of running a corrupt and undemocratic outfit. You would think he would show a smidgen of indignation.

The conservative movement and the GOP will have plenty of housecleaning no matter what the results of the nominating process and the general election. What has been tolerated and even encouraged, should be repudiated. Republicans need to stop revering nativist talk radio hosts — for goodness’ sake, at least stop inviting them to party functions, defending them in controversies — who stoked the phony narrative of party betrayal and carried Trump’s water. Republicans of good conscience should run in primaries against and ostracize elected Republicans who backed Trump and gave him the patina of credibility. And most important, the GOP (or whatever replaces it) needs to get a chairman who understands that the party stands for something and is deserving of a defense as an institution. Without defending its ideals and some standard of discourse, the party becomes an empty shell — into which someone as noxious as Trump can crawl and then convert into his personal political machine.

In other words, the conservative movement and the party would do well to purge itself of Trump apologists and enablers and to find leaders stalwart enough to recognize that a party in which winning is divorced from principle is not a party worth having.