We’re just a day away from the Indiana primary, and if recent polls are correct, things aren’t looking good for those of us on the right who don’t want Donald Trump to become the Republican Party’s new standard bearer. The general feeling is that if Trump wins the state, he’ll almost certainly be awarded the presidential nomination at the national convention in Cleveland.
If that ends up being the case, what will be next for the #NeverTrump movement — that unwavering group of disillusioned Republicans and conservatives who view Trump as an indecent, terminally dishonest man who makes a mockery of the principles and issues they deeply care about?
An estimated 20-40% of Republican voters fall into this category, and contrary to what many Trump surrogates (both official and unofficial) have been saying, these people have made it clear that they won’t simply “fall in line” behind Trump to defeat their supposed common enemy, Hillary Clinton. In fact, a recent Suffolk University poll suggests that half of these voters might actually throw their support behind Clinton, deeming her to be the lesser of the two evils.
I must admit that I have a hard time believing that Clinton would be able to garnish that level of Republican support come November. Most right-leaning voters who are adamantly opposed to Trump are equally opposed to Clinton. They believe both to be undignified, unprincipled individuals who aren’t worthy of the Oval Office.
While most political analysts recognize a dire importance in Trump bringing the Republican Party together, the person most disinterested in the effort appears to be Trump himself. Up until now, his unification strategy has been limited to excoriating his opponents and benefiting from the slow attrition of the GOP presidential field. He seems to believe that if he’s the last man standing, party unity will have somehow been achieved.
Thus, if Trump becomes the nominee, don’t expect him to waste a single breath trying to win over the Republicans he’s turned off. He’ll view them as a lost cause, and he’d probably be right.
After all, you can’t smear your opposition as “establishment types” for months and months, and then expect them to suddenly turn around and cast a partisan vote for you — the establishment’s new leader. Even if Trump’s advisers talked him into choosing a vice presidential candidate with impeccably conservative credentials, it wouldn’t work. As George Will wrote in a recent column, Trump’s running mate will be viewed as being “unqualified for high office because he or she will think Trump is qualified.”
No, the unification ship has sailed…or perhaps was never seaworthy in the first place. The #NeverTrump crowd will be searching for another option (whether it be a write-in or third-party candidate) — someone who they can vote for, and still look their children in the eye afterwards.
It won’t matter so much whether or not their candidate has a prayer of winning, because, quite frankly, that candidate won’t win — not in our country’s two-party political landscape. Still, #NeverTrump people will want their discontent heard loud and clear, and they’ll probably eventually rally around the individual who can make the most noise.
The biggest beneficiary of the hopelessly splintered Republican Party (other than Hillary Clinton) would have to be Libertarian presidential candidate, Gary Johnson. The former two-term governor of New Mexico is a strong and proven fiscal conservative, and a believer in free markets. He’s a longtime advocate of entitlement reform and tackling the national debt. These qualities alone would make him a surprisingly unique candidate in this election, should Trump and Clinton become the nominees of their respective parties.
Equally interesting might be some facts that Jim Geraghty of National Review pointed out in a short piece earlier today:
- The Libertarian Party has already secured a spot on the ballot in 31 states.
- A presidential candidate must be polling at 15 percent or above in order to participate in this fall’s debates.
Some recent polls have shown that somewhere between 15 and 20% of voters would vote for a third-party candidate if the major-party nominees were Clinton and Trump.
So, if anything, the general election debates could at least provide a good platform for the #NeverTrump people to have one last voice of opposition in this contest.
Johnson would by no means be an ideal candidate for conservatives who believe in a strong military, but much of his plank and qualifications for the job might just be a compromise that many of them are willing to make.
A few days ago, Johnson posted a video appealing directly to the #NeverTrump folks. It was a smart idea, and unsurprisingly, he put forth an attractive message. Unfortunately, his presentation could use some work. A bedhead appearance, an odd snicker, and Dixieland music don’t make for a particularly effective rallying cry.
Luckily, he has some time to work on his pitch. We’ll see if he makes the best of this opportunity.