David Brooks has thoughtfully just published a piece in which he lays down the case that Ted Cruz is just as bad as Donald Trump for the GOP. It’s a thin case summed up in these two paragraphs:
Ted Cruz would be a terrible general election candidate, at least as unelectable as Donald Trump and maybe more so. He is the single most conservative Republican in Congress, far adrift from the American mainstream. He’s been doing well in primaries because of the support of “extremely conservative” voters in very conservative states, and he really hasn’t broken out of that lane. His political profile is a slightly enlarged Rick Santorum but without the heart.
On policy grounds, he would be unacceptable to a large majority in this country. But his policy disadvantages are overshadowed by his public image ones. His rhetorical style will come across to young and independent voters as smarmy and oleaginous. In Congress, he had two accomplishments: the disastrous government shutdown and persuading all his colleagues to dislike him.
These might be very good reasons for preferring and urging a different candidate than Cruz. But given the repeatedly stated idea that Trump would be a disaster for the country, and destroy the GOP, its a poor excuse for refusing to coalesce around the one candidate who has emerged as the non-Trump in this race.
Mitt Romney and his cohorts do not seem to understand that you cannot beat a horse unless you have another horse. Two thirds of Republicans so far have voted for someone other than Trump, but if their vote continues to be divided among several candidates, Trump will win.
And yet the establishment conservatives appear to be willing to bet the future of the Party and of the country on their continuing fantasies (long prolonged in the case of Marco Rubio) that there is an alternative to supporting Cruz.
This view from Manhattan raises again the unsolved mystery of this campaign cycle: why is the GOP so determined not to coalesce around the guy the voters have nominated as the alternative to Trump?
It can’t be about winning in November. The specter of a divided party battling it out with Trump front and center through July 18 — with a nominee handpicked by the party establishment and not the voters — is as clear a recipe for losing an election as anyone can imagine.
Watching Lindsey Graham in television interviews over the last few days has been instructive. Graham knows that there is no alternative to endorsing Cruz at this point. He rejects the idea that a contested convention might choose a nominee not in the race. He states clearly that Cruz really irritated and insulted him the past but that Cruz is a conservative who won’t order the army to commit war crimes, who will repeal and replace Obamacare, and who will defund Planned Parenthood. Graham knows politics is a team sport, and he’s trying to pull the team together at this point to fight Trump. Graham does everything but endorse Cruz.
And yet Graham does not yet endorse Cruz, because the anti-Trump establishmentarians won’t let him.
Could it be because of Paul Singer, the GOP megadonor who funded gay marriage in New York, and who is probably responsible for Rubio’s extremely measured response to the Supreme Court decision imposing gay marriage?
Singer has joined a group of Republican high-rollers to fund an anti-Trump effort, according to Politico:
This person said Singer, who is worth close to $2 billion, is fully dedicated to making sure the group has all the funds it needs to inundate the airwaves in Florida and other states viewed as not entirely friendly to Trump, a group that includes Illinois, Missouri, Arizona, Wisconsin and other states in the Northeast and West. Ohio could join the list if Trump moves ahead of the state’s governor, John Kasich, in the polls.
‘The money is not going to be a problem. We will raise what we need to do what we need to do,’ the person close to the new anti-Trump PAC said. ‘Yes, there are people who are skeptical, but there are just as many ready to write big checks. The question is only whether Trump truly is really Teflon.’
And yet Ted Cruz is the guy who showed Trump can be beaten — surging in Louisiana (as well as trouncing Trump in Kansas and Maine) as late deciders broke against Trump and for Cruz.
In a separate story, Politico reports on the reluctance of donors to fund a campaign that benefits Cruz:
What’s more, Ted Cruz’s emergence as the best-placed alternative has complicated the anti-Trump movement’s push to find financiers. Many top Republicans, especially those in Washington, see Cruz as just as objectionable as Trump.
‘It is why it has been so difficult to get an anti-Trump campaign together,’ confided one top Republican strategist, who opposes both men. ‘If the ultimate beneficiary of anti-Trump efforts is Ted Cruz, the effort itself is probably not worthwhile.’
If Trump wins, it will be because the GOP business elites hate their base more than they fear the Democrats, apparently.
If so, the lessons of 2016 are going to be hard to unlearn.
Maggie Gallagher is a senior fellow at the American Principles Project.