In the midst of a major battle, you do not abandon your post.
That is the message Republican voters, evangelical leaders and conservatives have for Republican establishment leaders in Washington, D.C. who were tripping over themselves to abandon Donald Trump in the wake of the embarrassing decade-old hot mic video of him bragging about his sexual exploits and coming on to married women.
A flash poll by Politico/Morning Consult found what anybody who remembers the failed Bill Clinton impeachment effort, wherein he lied under oath about having sexual relations with White House intern Monica Lewinsky, which is that nobody actually cares about the sexual exploits of rich and powerful men.
74 percent of Republican voters in the poll said they thought that party officials should stand by Trump despite the video revelations. Just 13 percent said they should abandon him. In the meantime, a coalition of prominent evangelical Christian leaders rallied behind Trump, including Tony Perkins, Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr., who appeared willing to look past Trump’s past indiscretions.
Perkins told BuzzFeed News in an email: “My personal support for Donald Trump has never been based upon shared values, it is based upon shared concerns about issues such as: justices on the Supreme Court that ignore the constitution, America’s continued vulnerability to Islamic terrorists and the systematic attack on religious liberty that we’ve seen in the last 7 1/2 years.”
Republicans and conservatives rallying around Trump came after a miasma of elected Republican leaders in Congress dumped support for Trump: Sen. John Thune (R-N.D.) called for Trump to withdraw from the race, along with Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) and many others. My own local Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) threw Trump under the bus.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) refused to support Trump. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) cancelled a scheduled event with Trump in Wisconsin.
Oh sure, they say they want Republican Indiana Governor Mike Pence to somehow step in, ignoring the fact that it’s basically impossible for anybody but Trump to appear on every state’s ballot, meaning, as noted by national radio host Mark Levin on Monday, that it would result in Republicans and Pence losing in a “massive landslide.”
Apparently, they’d rather lose the White House for four to eight years to Hillary Clinton — and all the consequences that come with that — than to keep fighting. Even as their own voters are rallying to Trump.
Apparently these “leaders” have no idea what animates their own followers. Ryan was booed by some at his event, with some Trump supporters chanting “shame, shame” after the event as he left the stage. Trump campaign manager Kelly Ann Conway chastised Ryan on CBS This Morning on Sunday, saying, “Speaker Ryan of course took to the stage in Wisconsin at his event and faced some boos from the crowd because those who were expecting to see Donald Trump tell us that many of us don’t want to support him and we’re going to take the case directly to their voter.”
Undeterred, Ryan took to a conference call to members of the House on Monday, telling his members he was done defending Trump, that Hillary Clinton was likely to win and would instead focus his efforts on retaining the House majority.
Which, how does he expect to do that, precisely? If Trump supporters become dispirited and don’t turn out to the polls, if they’re not fired up for the general election, Republican members of Congress could fare quite poorly. Ryan is taking the enormous risk of demoralizing the GOP base of voters he needs be out in full force in November with all this loser talk. And he expects to retain the majority?
Put simply, without highly motivated Trump voters showing up in November enthused, for example, by his strong performance in the second presidential debate where he took Hillary Clinton to task on a number of issues, Republicans simply cannot win the House and Senate.
Turnout is always higher in presidential election years precisely because of the White House contest. The Republican National Committee (RNC) even appeared to temporarily suspended mail operations that would assist Trump over the weeken. Who ever heard of a national party abandoning its own nominee in October even for a short time? The committee’s most important job is winning the White House. It’s unseemly. By Monday, RNC Chairman Reince Priebus was denouncing the coup, saying on a conference call with party members, “Nothing has changed in regard with our relationship. We are in full coordination with the Trump campaign. We have a great relationship with them. And we are going to continue to work together to make sure he wins in November.”
But only after Trump delivered a strong second debate performance against Hillary Clinton, Robert Costa reported, tweeting, “In calls this morning, many Rs privately want to defect from Trump. But they say the debate gave them pause since he roused their base.”
Still, Ryan and House Republicans remain out on a limb, pushing a so-called strategy for “winning” the House and Senate that seems to include dispiriting Republicans and doesn’t include presidential ballot voters. That’s not leadership; it’s a mass political suicide cult. It’s surrender. If Republicans retain the House and Senate, it will be in spite of Ryan’s capitulation — because enough Trump supporters showed up at the polls.
Democrats would never do this. And their candidate kept a trove of classified information on a private email server out of personal convenience in violation of the law, obstructed justice by destroying evidence under Congressional subpoena, bragged in an interview about getting a child rapist she knew was guilty off the hook when she was a defense attorney — and laughed about it.
Trump’s campaign manager Conway is right. If Republicans want to win any races in November, they must focus their energy at the top of the ticket. Republicans will excel or fall based on how effective Trump is at getting folks to the polls by going directly to their voters. As Ronald Reagan sagely advised in 1976 after losing the Republican nomination to Gerald Ford, “There is no substitute for victory.”
And there is nothing more cowardly than abandoning your post in the midst of battle, while your comrades risk everything. These people never belong on the front lines again. George Patton would slap them. If Trump loses, one day, your children will ask, where were you when Hillary Clinton was taking over the country and changing everything? The latest revealed remnants of #NeverTrump will have to say they were cowering in the caves, hoping for a few crumbs in the new order. In the meantime, the American people will never forget.
Robert Romano is the senior editor of Americans for Limited Government.