The five stages of Donald Trump grief have now set in amongst the Republican establishment.
As Trump continues to soar in the polls – and just as importantly, as establishment foe Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) continues to climb, while establishment favorites Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jeb Bush, John Kasich, and Chris Christie stagnate – the desperation is becoming increasingly clear.
Some of that is justified. Trump is not conservative. He has personally utilized crony capitalism. He vacillates wildly on foreign policy. He believes in big government with bigger taxes. Nearly as important, he says cringe-worthy things, from his knock on Senator John McCain’s (R-AZ) war service to his spokesperson telling CNN with regard to would-be Muslim immigrants, “So what? They’re Muslim.”
By the same token, much of the fervent establishment opposition to Trump overlaps with establishment opposition to Cruz — even though he’s the most conservative candidate in the field, doesn’t dabble with ‘politically correct’ pieties, and probably boasts of the highest IQ in the Republican field.
Herein lies the problem.
The establishment seems unwilling to throw over any of its candidates in favor of someone like Cruz, because they disagree with regard to policy and approach with Cruz. But then they complain that Donald Trump isn’t conservative enough.
Meanwhile, Trump wins by forcing himself to their right on issue after issue.
And so they mourn.
Denial and Isolation. It began with the entire Republican punditocracy pooh-poohing Trump’s massive national polling lead. They said that he would inevitably falter, that at some point the Republican electorate would turn to a more “serious” candidate. Then, as Trump maintained his lead, they began questioning the polls. Kasich as well as Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) have in recent days questioned the veracity of the polls that put Trump well ahead. The “Trump Will Fail” self-assurance that characterized so many commentators has now given way to something else: the next stage of grief.
Anger. To be fair, there were those who were angry with Republicans who backed Trump from the start. Now, they’re apoplectic. From Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to Bush, the grumpy comparisons between Trump and Hitler have begun. Members of Republican media are now attacking others in Republican media who don’t see Trump as the gravest threat to the Republican Party or the republic; they bash Rush Limbaugh and Mark Levin for focusing in on the left and the media, rather than on stopping Trump. They can’t understand why, with a smooth, handsome, sophisticated candidate like Rubio in the race, Trump continues to win admirers and dominate the media coverage.
Bargaining. A few Republican opponents of Trump have moved to this third stage of grief. They’ve begun dealing with the baseline reality: stopping Trump will happen not by waiting for him to keel over, but by consolidating around an alternative candidate. Those Republicans who like Rubio, for example, will have to push Christie, Bush, and Kasich out of the race, and redirect their resources to Rubio. They still refuse the ultimate victorious defeat-Trump strategy: endorsing Cruz, who is most likely to take votes away from Trump, and who has been picking up the bleeding from the Carson campaign. Were the Republican establishment to bite their tongues and turn to Cruz, Trump would be done. But they won’t. The bargaining hasn’t gone that far.
Depression. That means depression. Without a winning strategy against Trump, commentators are turning to Doomsday predictions. Like crazy people on street corners warning of the coming apocalypse, they preach inevitable defeat against Hillary Clinton and the destruction of the Republican Party should Trump win the nomination outright – and some even worry that Trump will win, and then destroy the world. They hope that this naysaying will somehow convince Republicans to turn aside from Trump. Instead, these hysterical fits simply prompt Trump supporters, who despise the Republican Party, into paroxysms of laughter: they’d love nothing better than to take control of the Party away from those who preach doom and gloom after bringing us John McCain and Mitt Romney.
Acceptance. Should Trump continue his winning streak, the establishment will eventually settle behind him. Forget the bloviation of John “My Father Was a Mailman” Kasich – nobody cares about him anyhow. Standing on the other side of the election is Hillary Clinton, the right’s worst nightmare for more than two decades. Truthfully, the establishment fears a Cruz candidacy more than a Trump candidacy – should Trump lose, they can blame the base, then say that Trump was a clownish representative of the Party anyway. They’ll get behind him.
The same will not be true if the worst should happen: a brokered convention after which Trump is pushed out of the nomination. If that happens, Trump’s supporters will see their man as the loser in a tug-of-war with the establishment, and they’ll bolt with him, given that one of the reasons for their support of Trump is his rip on the establishment as corrupt and self-dealing.
And so we are left with three possibilities: defeating Trump in the primaries; losing to Trump in the primaries; and a brokered convention preventing Trump from winning, after which the party collapses.
The establishment hopes for the first, prepares for the third, and has no plan whatsoever for the second.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News, Editor-in-Chief of DailyWire.com, and The New York Times bestselling author, most recently, of the book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.