#NeverTrump,  Politics

The Ruination of GOP Statesmen

Michael Gerson’s column in The Washington Post today is a burst of moral clarity. Gerson argues that Republican politicians endorsing Donald Trump have sullied themselves, and that includes Indiana Governor Mike Pence, who is the GOP vice-presidential nominee:

Pence did his part at the convention. He displayed considerable political and rhetorical skill. And he brought great shame on himself and the Republican Party in the process…

Every serious Republican who crosses the event horizon of endorsing Trump is sucked into a black hole of compromise and self-deception. And many of us — still loyal to a humane conservatism — will never be able to think about such leaders in the same way again…

The reputation of any politician close to Trump will eventually be ruined. But it is particularly sad when good and decent people vouch for Trump’s character, knowing almost nothing about him… The only politician who will be proud of what he did on Wednesday evening is Ted Cruz, who refused to endorse. He may have been booed on the floor, but I imagine he slept well. And he won’t be ashamed to recount that night to his children and grandchildren.

This is a hard-hitting column. I recommend that you read the whole thing. It really sums up the malaise I’ve felt while watching the GOP convention this week. How can these serious statesmen line-up to endorse a constitutional menace? Ryan, Walker, Rubio, Perry, and others. How could they?

I am with Gerson. I will never be able to think about these leaders in the same way again. Trump has exposed the limits of their judgment and principle. When they should have stood up, they stood down. It is as sad a spectacle as I have ever seen in politics.


  • John Frazer

    Might as well get prepared Denny, Trump is going to win this election. The question is, will you keep up your never Trump campaign for the next 4-8 years on this site? Or will it rollback around during the next election cycle?

    You’ve been consistent in your opinions towards Trump; both in language and frequency. I’m just curious if a professor from Southern will move towards more gospel-centered admonitions so as to provide biblical counsel and guidance during the next 4-8 years? The idea being that at some point there is a need to move towards providing guidance vs more anti-trump language.

  • Christiane Smith

    I wonder if Trump has confused NATO with the UN? For some time, the United Nations has been a target of right wing extremists in the USA, who want us to be out of it.
    But the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is NOT a part of the UN, nor does it have the same goals . . .

    since Trump is so ‘out of it’ regarding foreign policy, could he have confused the two organizations, and that is why now he is threatening to compromise our support of NATO and possibly bring several countries into harms way ?

    Russia will be all over the Baltic states if we fail to honor our pledge to NATO.

  • Scott McCauley

    Gerson imagines that Cruz will be sleeping well having not endorsed Trump. I would think Cruz is tossing and turning in bed racked with guilt for having broken his pledge to support the Republican nominee.

    • Jim Harrison

      Cruz’ first pledge was to his wife. Whatever one thinks of Cruz as a politician, I would think that a christian would at least affirm a man who puts his wife above his political future.

  • Dan Phillips

    Rubio’s eventually cave, and Cruz’ non-cave, in both cases illustrate (and bear out) why I supported Cruz and not Rubio from early early days.

    Rubio, for all his positives, had already shown a weak spine. These are not times for the weak of spine.

      • Barry Woodward

        I’m not sure why we would speak of Rubio’s endorsement as a “cave” or a demonstration of his “weak spine”. To what end would he do otherwise? Why can it not be that he sees that there are two choices and it is time to back the less bad one? That’s what I still don’t get. Other than a political (mis)calculation towards his own 2020 ambitions, why did Cruz do what he did? What good will it do?

        All a non-endorsement of Trump does at this point is make a Hillary presidency more likely. All that I can gather from reading these posts and from listening to others in the Never Trump camp is that there’s a hint of “Well, Hillary won’t be ALL that bad”. For instance, David French said on Hugh Hewitt’s show that he actually thinks that Hillary may actually be slightly better than Trump when it comes to foreign policy/national defense. I disagree. The Iran deal that Obama confidently made, to the horror of American conservatives and Netanyahu, is a major threat. And Obama apparently made a secret side deal with Iran, which he withheld from Congress, that is even worse. Which candidate is more likely to undo that?

        I think that might be what it ultimately comes down to. Those, like me, who will hold our noses and vote for Trump have a lower view of Hillary than those of us who will not, out of principle, vote for Trump.

        Look at it this way. Think of history’s horribles. Hitler. Stalin. Mao. Mussolini. Etc. If it was Trump vs. one of those, would you still sit out out of “principle”? If not, then you’re with me on “principle” – you just don’t think Hillary is as bad as I think she is.

      • Barry Woodward

        Just realized my last post made it sound like I am saying Hillary is as bad as Hitler or Stalin. I am not saying that but I am saying that I think she is much worse than many others who oppose her think. I think the Left has a totalitarian instinct, and every victory emboldens them to take over more and more of our lives. Curtailing religious liberty is a major part of what they ultimately want.

  • Gus Nelson

    Mr. Gerson is inextricably linked to the Bushes. So his “lament” is hollow and sounds like sour grapes. Isn’t it possible, even if only slightly, that many of these folks who endorsed Trump have some insight that those of us on the outside don’t have? What happens to the Never Trump crowd if he’s elected and actually does a really great job as president? What then? Will apologies be in order?

  • Christopher J Ray

    Hi, Dr. Burk. Chris Ray here. I couldn’t agree with you more on this. Those ‘conservatives’ who have endorsed Trump have sullied themselves beyond repair. That’s to say nothing of the evangelical leaders who are so afraid of a Clinton presidency that they have hitched their wagon to Trump’s unholy train. I am an active member of a rapidly growing group of conservatives coordinating a mass-exit from the GOP in order to save American Conservatism.

  • Ike Lentz

    Think of it this way: If you were given the choice of 4 more years of Obama or rolling the dice with a demagogue, wouldn’t it be prudent to choose the status quo? Sure, Clinton is pro-choice and might limit religious freedom, but Trump seems to agree with her on those issues. So why not just go with Clinton as a vote for temperament and competence?

  • buddyglass

    “How can these serious statesmen line-up to endorse a constitutional menace? Ryan, Walker, Rubio, Perry, and others.”

    The assumption that these men were/are “serious statesmen” may have been incorrect all along.

  • Barry Woodward

    I was never a Trump supporter in the primary but am among those who will vote for Trump. I actually thought he was a “novelty candidate” at first – I was shocked that anybody took him seriously. But today my position is very similar to what I’ve heard Dennis Prager and Eric Metaxas state. Yes, we have serious reservations about Trump, but we have absolute clarity about what a Hillary presidency would include, so on those grounds ALONE I’m going to vote for Trump. I am not excited about it. I may need to bring a vomit bag to the poll. He was a bad choice. I’m angry at those who voted for him in the primary. I have clarity about his shortcomings. But I will vote for Trump in the general because I would rather walk through the door that is marked “Danger” than the one that is marked “Certain Destruction”. It’s that simple, and I really have trouble understanding why it isn’t that simple for pretty much everybody who is conservative. I don’t understand what principle is served by continuing to bag on the only barrier to the Left that remains in this election.

    My question to conservatives that still oppose Trump is, “So what’s the plan?” Oppose Trump so that Hillary wins and hope that our religious liberty can survive 4 more years until we get another election? What guarantee do we have that we’ll come up with a better nomination next time? I see the nomination of Trump a reckless “anger vote” that came from people who were angry about how much and how fast we have declined in the last 8 years. How much angrier will they be after 4 more years of this stuff?

    In past elections I’ve always cautioned my friends who aren’t excited about the Republican nominee that it’s still important to vote for the candidate who is more likely to give us good Supreme Court justices. This year we KNOW that the next president is going to fill at least 1 open seat. I know the Never Trumpers are convinced that Trump would also give us a bad justice, but you don’t really know that. He has given a very good list of potential nominees. He would at least be under some political pressure to choose from that list. If that’s the only good thing he did in 4 years, it would alone be reason to vote for him. I’m 41 years old. Anthony Kennedy has been on the Supreme Court since I was in the 8th grade. Four of the 8 current justices have been on the Supreme Court since I was in college. This is going to be a VERY LONG TERM effect of this presidency. And we actually have a chance – a chance – of replacing Scalia with another Scalia if we elect Trump. We have no chance of that if we elect Hillary.

    Let’s say that Hillary wins this election and then in 2020 is defeated soundly by a very good, Cruz-like candidate. That president, and the conservative movement in general, will still be hamstrung by the fact that SCOTUS decisions will ALWAYS go the Left’s way. We will no longer have a court with 4 liberals and a swing vote. We’ll have 5 liberals and a swing vote. The kind of major decisions such as Obamacare and Burwell v. Hobby Lobby will be either 5-4 or 6-3 – always won by the Left wing of the court.

    So again, I don’t understand what principle is served by not voting for Trump. I’ve thought about the early Christians and Constantine. It may be true that Constantine wasn’t really one of them, but at least he was the one opposed to their persecution. That’s what we have now – maybe. That doesn’t excite us, but in my view we had better at least choose the less bad of the two bad options. I can already hear the responses: “He’s not less bad!” Yes, he is. His choosing Pence is an example of that. He is at least surrounding himself with people who will oppose him if he tries to be as bad as #NeverTrump says he is.

    • buddyglass

      IMO presidents nominate justices that reflect their own views. I don’t really think Trump cares about the issues that animate social conservatives. I think he cares about people liking and/or respecting him, and I expect that’s what would guide his choice of nominee.

      Let’s assume Clinton is a repeat of Obama’s presidency. That’s not a crazy assumption. I’d vastly prefer that to the risk of what I might get with a Trump presidency. Nuclear war, Russian running roughshod over Eastern Europe, a devastating trade war that brings about global recession, etc. Is it possible none of that happens? Sure. But I’m not sure I care to risk it.

      • Barry Woodward

        In his GOP acceptance speech Trump said “The replacement of our beloved Justice Scalia will be a person of similar views, principles, and judicial philosophy”. Note that there is currently an opening on the court, so nominating a Supreme Court justice is one of the very first things that the new President will do. It is quite hard for me to believe that Trump would do something so against what he promised right out of the gate.

        On the other hand, Clinton will owe it to her supporters to nominate the kind of justice that they will expect, which is the opposite of the kind we want.

        Regarding nuclear war, I’d say the biggest risk of that we have is if Iran gets nukes. The awful deal Obama made with Iran makes that a very real possibility. Which president is more likely to renegotiate that deal in a way that is in America’s interest? That, by itself, would also be reason alone to vote Trump.

        • buddyglass

          According to the logic of “lesser of two evils”, then, would you support Senate confirmation of Merrick Garland?

          He’s almost surely more moderate than whomever Clinton will nominate, and Clinton is (allegedly) a heavy favorite to win in November.

          If you think Clinton is not, in fact, the heavy favorite, then you’d want to oppose confirmation. If you believe she is the heavy favorite then you might be better served by Garland.

          “Regarding nuclear war, I’d say the biggest risk of that we have is if Iran gets nukes. The awful deal Obama made with Iran makes that a very real possibility.”

          The alternative to that deal is “no deal”. “No deal” without a preemptive strike renders Iran more likely to get nukes than the current status quo. So what is it you expect (hope) Trump will do? Break the treaty and launch a preemptive strike on Iran? Trump could, of course, dissolve the treaty and try to negotiate a new one. What if Iran won’t agree to any new concessions? We’re back at preemptive strike.

          • Barry Woodward

            If Hillary wins I suspect the Senate will quickly confirm Garland before the end of the year. But he’s only moderate according to the New York Times, et al. I would expect him to nearly always go with the liberal wing.

            I’m not sure what to do about the Iran deal but certainly trust a Republican administration more than a Democrat one to deal with it.

            One thing to remember that calms my fears a little – the administration is always more than just the president. Trump’s erratic behavior troubles me, but he’s a CEO who, from what I have heard, is good at delegating, and he credits his success in business partly with surrounding himself with good people and actually listens to what they tell him. He’s going to have advisers on nat’l security issues, and he’s probably going to take their advice.

            Hillary will surround herself with the same type of advisers that are currently advising Obama.

            • buddyglass

              “If Hillary wins I suspect the Senate will quickly confirm Garland”

              If Clinton wins he (or Obama) might withdraw his name from consideration.

              “But he’s only moderate according to the New York Times, et al.”

              Presumably more moderate than whomever Clinton would nominate.

              “I’m not sure what to do about the Iran deal but certainly trust a Republican administration more than a Democrat one to deal with it.”

              Thing is, a deal is already in place. Your options are “renege and renegotiate” or “live with it”. And if you renegotiate and don’t get anything more than you got the first time, then what? Iraq v2?

  • Jim Harrison

    I find it curious. Everyone is always complaining that politicians have no principles. Cruz demonstrates that he does, refusing to endorse a sleaze who has attacked both his wife and father, and all of a sudden, principle no longer matters.

    • Michael King

      So, we are left to vote for the “highly principled Hillary”? The point is the if Cruz wasn’t so egotistical himself, he would have chosen not to appear at all at the convention like the Bushes and several other politicos chose.

  • Barry Woodward

    I was a Rubio guy in the primary. I voted for him in the Texas primary. When it was down to Trump, Cruz, and Kasich I was very much rooting for Cruz, and was in favor of him doing whatever it took to keep Trump from getting 1237 so that it would go to an open convention. But I believe what Cruz did at the primary was not particularly principled. It was primarily a political calculation – likely a miscalculation – for his future ambitions. He did sign a loyalty pledge agreeing to endorse the eventual nominee, and he didn’t do that. If there was a candidate in the primary that he could not endorse, the principled thing would have been to not sign the pledge in the first place.

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