If Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination, some of the most prominent conservative voices in the country say they would find it difficult, if not impossible, to support him.
Trump has sparred with many of America’s most noted conservative opinion makers over the course of his campaign, calling them “losers” and “idiots” on Twitter when they criticize him in columns and on television for what they perceive as his “clown[ish]” behavior, history of supporting liberal positions and demagoguery. But as it becomes increasingly evident the real estate billionaire actually has a real shot of winning the nomination, some are outright declaring that they wouldn’t support Trump as the nominee, even against Hillary Clinton.
“Couldn’t vote for Trump, couldn’t vote for Hillary,” Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol told The Daily Caller in an email.
“Would have to find a good conservative to run as an independent whom I could vote for,” he added, before presumably joking: “Or will have to run myself!”
Conservative radio talk show host Michael Medved said he has begun to question whether he could support Trump as the Republican nominee.
“On the air, I’ve repeatedly promised to support the Republican nominee, whoever it happens to be,” he explained to TheDC in an email. “But Trump’s recent reconsideration of his own similar promise should perhaps lead to re-examination of that pledge for the sake of the survival of a credible conservative alternative in American political life.”
Medved said he finds both Trump’s personality and policies problematic.
“We’ve just experienced a seven-year tutorial on the disastrous impact of a chief executive who’s unable to work effectively with Congress and unwilling to seek consensus,” Medved said. “Unfortunately, Trump’s imperial ego makes Obama’s surly intransigence look as accommodating as Mr. Rogers’ neighborliness.”
Medved, who says he believes a “Trump candidacy would guarantee Republican losses in every swing state, as well as possible losses in Texas and Arizona,” added that just because he is questioning whether he could support Trump as the Republican nominee, it doesn’t mean he is considering supporting Clinton, who he was friends with when they both attended Yale Law School in the 1970s.
“Voting for Hillary over Trump would be unthinkable and idiotic — a wasted vote, since she would win in a landslide regardless of how broken-hearted conservatives cast our ballots,” he said.
Radio host Glenn Beck may have been the first notable conservative to declare his inability to support Trump as the nominee back in August.
Asked whether he would support Trump as the nominee on CNN, Beck said “no.”
“I’m not a Republican,” Beck went on. “I don’t care what happens to the Republican Party. I’m a Constitutionalist.”
Other conservative commentators TheDC reached out to expressed an unwillingness to take a stand on the question until they were absolutely forced to.
“I’ll wait and jump off that bridge when we get to it!” one columnist and regular television commentator who didn’t want to weigh in on the subject replied in an email to TheDC, before following up in another missive: “Emphasis on the ‘jump’! (sigh).”
It’s hard to tell whether the defections of such high profile conservatives foreshadow a revolt by a significant segment of the Republican base if Trump wins the nomination.
A Quinnipiac poll released in early November did reveal that 25 percent of Republicans could “definitely not support” Trump — the highest percentage received by any Republican candidate. Perhaps those holdouts will change their mind if Trump actually wins the nomination. Given a choice between Trump and Clinton, one suspects most Republicans would end up supporting Trump, if not enthusiastically, then at least while holding their noses.
Of course, Trump does have many conservative commentators who seem more than willing to back him. Columnist Ann Coulter, who has become something of an immigration absolutist, quipped on Twitter she couldn’t care if Trump “wants to perform abortions in White House” so long as he pursues his immigration plan.
While they haven’t endorsed any candidate in the race, radio powerhouses Rush Limbaugh and Laura Ingraham regularly praise Trump and seem at least willing to support him if he ends up being the nominee. Talk show host Michael Savage, who hails from a more conspiratorial-wing of the conservative movement, has even called Trump the “Winston Churchill of our time.”
“I shall vote for whomever the Republicans nominate,” R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr., founder and editor-in-chief of the conservative American Spectator, told TheDC. “If Donald Trump wins the nomination I shall vote for him, invest in the stock market, and bid adieu to ISIS and to illegal immigrants from our shores.”
But though Trump has support from some quarters of the conservative punditocracy, it’s equally as clear that there are many conservative commentators who see Trump as a destructive and wholly un-conservative force they would have trouble supporting as the Republican nominee. If Trump continues to reign atop the polls as we get closer to votes actually being cast in the Republican primary, it should not be surprising if a greater number of these conservative opinion makers declare they, too, would find it impossible to support Trump if he wins the nomination.