If Donald Trump runs the table tonight, you’re going to be hearing more talk about the possibility of mainstream conservatives and establishment Republicans wanting to bolt the GOP—maybe even as soon as this year.
Writing at the New York Daily News, for example, Juleanna Glover writes: “Intelligent #NeverTrump Republicans should begin forging a new conservative party now — and Tuesday night we’ll know whether that starts with rallying behind a principled true Republican to run on a third-party line this year.”
Count me among the conservatives who would find it untenable to align myself with the forces of Trump. But the problem is it is much easier for a columnist to be principled on this issue than for a politician. So who would be the brave soul willing to leave the GOP and start a new party?
I’m reminded of two-term New Hampshire Sen. Bob Smith—a great conservative—who left the Republican Party because the “elitists” in the GOP had “softened its position on abortion and gun control.” That didn’t end well for him.
Some are suggesting that [crscore]Marco Rubio[/crscore] might be the one to lead such an effort, but as HotAir’s Allah notes, it would be fraught with danger: “If Trump wins, Rubio will be on the outs as a traitor to the new GOP; if Trump loses, Rubio will be blamed for having helped cost the GOP the presidency.”
Historically speaking, it seems politicians are unlikely to be rewarded for having the moral courage to bolt the party—even for principled reasons. This is especially true if you assume a third party won’t take off, and the politician might later have to return to the fold.
It’s also true that if good people (advisers, staffers, etc.) abandon the GOP, the people left in control of the infrastructure will be bad people. And if good people refuse to serve in a Trump administration, the only people left will be bad people.
I’m not saying that anyone should stay in a party of Trump. But this is more morally complex and ethically nuanced than it might seem. As I argued to Bill Scher (who likes the idea of starting a new party) on Bloggingheads the other day, breaking up is hard to do.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Trump’s nomination is not a foregone conclusion. Republicans can avoid this messy affair by nominating someone else. That might not prevent a crack-up, but it would mean that if a third party is to be started, it will be Trump who starts it.
In the immortal words of [crscore]Al Green[/crscore], “Let’s stay together.”