The party is deciding

March 3, 2016, 11:59 p.m.

In 2008 and 2012, the establishment favorites, John McCain and Mitt Romney, each won the Republican party’s nomination. They were both economically and socially conservative (which I am not), but I would, in a heartbeat, take either of them as our next president over Donald Trump or Ted Cruz.

Now, in 2016, it seems almost inevitable that Donald Trump will win the Republican nomination. The only other viable candidate at this time is the equally loathsome Ted Cruz, but even he has a lot of catching up to do. Many commentators have suggested that Trump’s rise challenges the notion of “the party decides,” but it doesn’t.

The Republican Party has always had the capacity to decide this election. When Donald Trump announced his candidacy last summer with racist remarks about Mexicans, Reince Priebus could have repudiated him as a bigot and forbidden him a spot in the debates or at their convention. The party could have collectively agreed to declare that a racist, misogynistic asshole like Donald Trump will never have a place in the Republican Party. But they didn’t. They couldn’t.

Certainly the GOP elites did not want Trump to be their party’s standard-bearer … but they did want the White House, and they were willing to take it any way they could.

The reality is that the Republican Party is the party of Donald Trump. As Harry Reid said, “Republicans have spent the last eight years stoking the fires of resentment and hatred, building Trump piece by piece.” Their voter base cares more about nativism and nationalism than about conservatism, and their leaders care more about winning than about principle.

As I wrote in January, it would be foolish for the GOP elites to not nominate Donald Trump if he goes into the convention with a sizeable vote share. They could save face and nominate Marco Rubio or Mitt Romney, but Donald Trump would simply run as an independent if they did that, and losing to Clinton would only validate the Tea Party and Trump’s supporters. So let’s spare ourselves the wait and assume that Donald Trump will be the nominee.

After Trump’s successful Super Tuesday, Marco Rubio warned, “The nomination of Donald Trump means the end of the modern conservative movement and the end of the modern Republican Party in a very devastating way.”

He’s wrong. The end of the modern Republican Party would not be devastating.

The nomination of Donald Trump could be the beginning of the modern conservative movement. If Donald Trump loses the general election to Hillary Clinton, which he almost certainly will, Paul Ryan will have a mandate to reform the party to be more tolerant, more compassionate, and more Jack-Kemp-conservative.

Neoconservative foreign policy strategist Max Boot said in an interview with Vox, “I would hope that the party would fracture if the nominee were a fascist demagogue like Donald Trump.”

It may be too late to stop the fascist demagogue Donald Trump from winning the nomination, but now marks a time for the country to see which Republicans care more about principle, and which care more about winning.


Contact Ruairi Arrieta-Kenna at [email protected]


Ruairí Alfredo Arrieta-Kenna (BA Political Science '18) was a columnist for the Stanford Daily.

Login or create an account