Already this week, a letter from 50 respected Republican foreign-policy gurus announced that they would not support Donald Trump; Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) wrote an op-ed declaring that she would not vote for Trump; and Trump once again roiled the race when he told a packed rally: “By the way, and if [Hillary Clinton] gets to pick her judges, nothing you can do, folks. The Second Amendment people, maybe there is, I don’t know. But I’ll tell you what, that will be a horrible day.”
The Clinton team, not surprisingly, took this as an invitation to commit violence. Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency and the CIA, told CNN’s Jake Tapper, “Well, let me say if someone else said that outside of the hall, he’d be in the back of a police wagon now, with the Secret Service questioning him.”
Whatever Trump meant, it was confirmation that he has never “pivoted” to become a credible presidential candidate. Collectively it has been a horrible start to another week of agony for Trump apologists. Trump’s behavior is prompting some Republicans to conclude that he does not want to win or, in anticipation of a November loss, is suffering some sort of personal breakdown.
Big-name Republicans, smaller-name Republicans, conservative foreign-policy gurus, you name it — they are racing to the exits, no longer willing to maintain the fiction that Trump could be president.
The grass-roots group of Republicans who will be voting for Hillary Clinton, R4C16.org, has posted its endorsement. It is signed by a raft of Republicans who have served in GOP administrations, in the military and on GOP campaigns:
We are proud members of the party of Abraham Lincoln and Ronald Reagan, a party rooted in liberty and respect for the individual. We support policies of limited government, free-market economics, and a strong, global vision of foreign policy and national security.
Donald Trump betrays our values and beliefs. His campaign has been marked by isolationism, nationalism, vulgarity, and ignorance of serious policy matters. Supporting Mr. Trump forsakes Republican history, harms the Republican brand, and breaks the trust of millions of current and future Republican voters.
In the 2016 election, we will vote for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump for President of the United States. Secretary Clinton is a more qualified candidate and would make a better president. Voting for her is best for our country. It is also a necessary step to restore the Republican party to its core principles. We will not allow Trumpism to become the new Republican party.
Co-founder Ricardo Reyes explained in a press release, “Republicans recognize it’s a binary option, Trump or Clinton. But in supporting Sec. Clinton we aren’t interested in signing up for an R-to-D conversion program run by her campaign. We are Republicans who believe our party’s nominee is a disaster.”
This goes beyond a few op-eds. “Our grassroots are beyond what we ever expected,” he tells Right Turn. “There are 20,000 followers on Facebook, and we just released our first names today. It’s a great start.”
Snide media types might think that there is some ulterior motive for Republicans to come out against Trump or that this is an easy way for those who have stepped forward to showboat. This is nonsense.
In the vicious Trump campaign environment, it is not an easy thing to speak out against one’s party; those Republicans who speak their minds are bombarded with insults, threats and ridicule. There is nothing personally to be gained for those like the R4C16 co-founders who have left politics to re-engage at the expense of their private careers. Even if Trump loses — which seems likely — they will face accusations of disloyalty from the party regulars. (Conservative media types such as Erick Erickson or Quin Hillyer risk loss of their core readership/audience and of lifelong political friendships.) If it was so easy to revolt against Trump, or if it was such a winning move for their careers, more elected Republicans would be doing it; they aren’t.
Cynics who dismiss Trump opponents as careerists might want actually to talk to those who have spoken out. We have spent months talking to #NeverTrump activists, Free the Delegate members, foreign-policy figures, political operatives and others who refuse to join the Trump bandwagon. Virtually all have voted consistently for Republicans for president. Many have never voted for a Democrat for any national office. They are mostly foreign-policy hawks. They are sincerely concerned that the GOP as currently constituted is not a viable national party. They are personally affronted by Trump. There is no single ideological faction (e.g. libertarian, far right), but they look upon politics as a function of values and personal morality. That set of attributes is sufficiently broad to encompass millions of Republicans. And those Republicans are finding that they have common ground despite differences on a slew of issues.
That process of organizing Trump defectors is now underway. Reyes explains, “We will be releasing more names as Republicans come around to endorsing Clinton. We will be organizing and participating in swing district events.” The impact of these efforts will be hard to measure in November, but keeping the percent of GOP support for Trump in the low 80s means millions of Republicans will have stood up to Trump. If, as Reyes says, their “goal is to provide a voice for Republicans who aren’t with Trump but distinct and separate from the official campaign,” they may have already succeeded.