The slow-motion self-destruction of the Republican Party presents its adherents with a tantalizing existential question: Would you rather win an election led by an awful candidate, or lose while hewing to principle?
For many, the answer comes back loud and clear: “Win, baby!”
The usually sensible Gov. Brian Sandoval said he’ll support the Republican Party’s eventual nominee, even if it’s businessman Donald Trump. So has Rep. Joe Heck, who is running for Senate, and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, who told the Washington Examiner he’d support any GOP nominee, “some more enthusiastically than others.”
One of Trump’s more insidious traits is his ability to sap the moral energy of others. He’s used his money to buy friendliness among the political elite. He dangled his endorsement before a delighted Mitt Romney in 2012, support Romney relished until this year, when he’s denounced Trump as a phony and a fraud. Trump has done it with New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who went from denouncing Trump as unfit for the presidency to endorsing him.
To be fair, Sandoval has said he doesn’t support Trump getting the nomination, saying there are better qualified candidates. And in the Washington Examiner, Sandoval said Trump has made “offensive” comments, especially about Latinos, and that “I disagree with him and I have said that publicly.”
While it’s gratifying to know that Sandoval doesn’t think Mexico is intentionally sending drug dealers and rapists, “disagreeing” is quite literally the least any sane person can do with respect to Trump’s mouth-hole droppings. The preternaturally level-headed Sandoval could be forgiven a much stronger denunciation.
Instead, we got this: “The contest for the nomination is not yet completed and many states have yet to be heard from. The governor has not endorsed in the primary but did cast his own vote for Senator [Marco] Rubio [R-Fla.] in the Nevada caucus. He does not agree with every position made by the candidates, but once an eventual nominee has been selected, he believes it’s in the best interest of the party to come together and win in November.”
Even if that person is offensive and disagreeable?
Heck’s statement was similarly stoic: “Dr. Heck will support the Republican nominee. His focus is and will be on his own race and demonstrating that the Republican Party stands for freedom, equality, and opportunity for all. The nominating process isn’t over yet and we will wait to see how it plays out.”
In other words, maybe the voters will save us from having to deal with the Trump question.
There are some Republicans who say they’ll never support Trump. That list includes Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, whose nightmares are filled with Republican candidates losing thanks to an obnoxious anchor at the top of the ticket.
Does it really need to be said that when even an obstructionist such as McConnell stands on the moral high ground, his Nevada colleagues desperately need to re-evaluate their positions?
Much preferred is the simple wisdom of state Sen. Patricia Farley, who said on VegasPBS’s “Ralston Live” after being asked the Trump Question: “Today, no. … One of the biggest issues with Donald Trump is how he is carrying himself now. I don’t teach my children to call other people names as a way of winning an argument. If he’s going to unify the party and be a leader, he needs to start acting like one.”
Amen, senator. A simple rubric all Republicans can follow: If a politician is doing something you’d give your kids a timeout for, he’s not somebody you can back for president of the United States.
Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and co-host of the show “PoliticsNOW,” airing at 5:30 p.m. Sundays on 8NewsNow. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or SSebelius@reviewjournal.com.