On Monday, Weekly Standard editor-in-chief Bill Kristol tweeted out what the rest of the Republican establishment is thinking: better Hillary than Donald. Here’s the tweet:
Crowd-sourcing: Name of the new party we’ll have to start if Trump wins the GOP nomination? Suggestions welcome at email@example.com
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) December 20, 2015
Kristol isn’t alone. As I wrote at Daily Wire today, Politico’s Jeff Greenfield says, “If the operatives I talked with are right, Trump running as a Republican could well face a third-party run – from the Republicans themselves.” That follows last Thursday’s Politico column from former New Jersey governor Christine Todd Whitman, who compared Trump to Hitler and called him “evil,” and last Wednesday’s Politico column reporting that Jeb Bush’s aides “began looking into the possibility of making a clear break with Trump – potentially with the candidate stating that, if Trump were the nominee, Bush would not support him.”
Last week, MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough said that former Mississippi governor Haley Barbour “and a lot of the Republican leaders would much rather Hillary Clinton be President of the United States than have Donald Trump represent them as a Republican.” And in November, The Hill reported that “GOP establishment donors have confided to The Hill that for the first time in recent memory, they find themselves contemplating not supporting a Republican nominee for president.”
I’m old enough to remember when it was scandalous for Trump not to pledge his allegiance to the eventual Republican nominee. Now, day after day, reports from party leaders leak, stating that should Trump gain control over the party apparatus, they will simply smash the machinery.
This wouldn’t be the first time.
As Greenfield points out, when iconic conservative Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) won the nomination for president, many of his rivals refused to endorse him for the Oval Office, including Governor Nelson Rockefeller (R-NY) and Governor George Romney (R-MI). Romney ripped Goldwater’s “extremist” supporters” and would later support Gerald Ford over Ronald Reagan in 1976 and George H.W. Bush over Reagan in 1980.
These liberal Republicans, who believed in bigger government, didn’t appreciate Goldwater’s libertarianism and forcibly undercut his doomed bid. Greenfield cites the New York Herald-Tribune going so far as to endorse LBJ, the most leftist president until Barack Obama, for the White House over Goldwater.
And while the Republican establishment would like everyone to think that they were the reason for the rise of Ronald Reagan, they did everything they could to stop Reagan. Not only did establishment Republicans back George H.W. Bush over Reagan in the 1980 primaries – Bush infamously bragged about his support from liberal Republicans like Henry Cabot Lodge – but a few went so far as to support the independent candidacy of former liberal Republican Rep. John Anderson of Illinois, who dumped the Party after Reagan won the nomination. Anderson explained, “I would be more comfortable with Teddy Kennedy in the sense that I do believe that Ronald Reagan’s view of the problems of our day is so utterly inappropriate.”
Obviously, the establishment failed in stopping Reagan. But with the election of H.W. Bush, they grabbed control of the Party again, and they haven’t given it up since.
Today’s establishment Republican “saviors” of the Party like to think of themselves as fighting not Reagan or Goldwater, but David Duke – they color Trump a racist and a xenophobe. The truth, however, is that it wouldn’t matter at all whether Trump were the establishment’s enemy or whether it was Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), currently the second-place finisher in national polls. So long as the frontrunner remains an outsider, the establishment will use all of its power to stop them, including the threat of a third-party run.
Which shows, as always, that they care more about maintaining control of the party apparatus than about beating Hillary Clinton. After all, they said the same about Trump when he was threatening a third-party run.
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.