GOP Deserves to Go Down With Trump | USA Today

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Many Republican politicians are suddenly pressuring Donald Trump to step aside and cede the presidential nomination to his running mate,Mike Pence. They fantasize that his disappearance would save the GOP from an overwhelming rout and — if the legal thicket entailed in choosing a replacement can be cleared — possibly even give the party a slim chance of defeating Hillary Clinton on Nov. 8.

As a #NeverTrumper from the beginning, I disagree. Hypocrisy has to be punished. It is my hope that the real estate magnate sticks it out to the bitter end and brings the GOP with him to the most humiliating defeat in U.S. history.

Moved by the revolting video of Trump making explicit comments about groping women, Republicans who endorsed him after the primaries are now rushing to withdraw their endorsements. Trump’s performance in the town hall debate, punctuated by the full range of by now familiar Trumpisms — staccato interruptions, elaborate and not so elaborate fabrications, dips into the gutter — will not stop the downward spiral of his campaign. Trump’s ignorant whining and angry sputtering on the stage were just a prolongation of its death rattle.

Every one of the late-breaking Republican jumpers from the Trump train knew full well what kind of ticket they had bought. Their eyes were open when they got on board.

They knew that for years, Trump had led the racially charged birther campaign against America’s first black president. They had seen him launch his campaign with a diatribe against Mexican immigrants, calling them rapists and murderers. They had seen him mock a disabled reporter. They had seen him slander Sen. John McCain, America’s most celebrated POW, saying he’s not a war hero because he was captured. They had seen him call for a religious test for entry to the United States and attack a Gold Star mother, among many other outlandish and disqualifying incidents.

Standing out in this parade of horribles, they saw Trump encourage violence at his rallies. They also saw him, together with his henchman Roger Stone, threaten violence at the Republican National Convention if the delegates did not cast their ballots his way. If there ever was cause to boot Trump from the GOP, his threats against the convention — a blow to the heart of democratic deliberation — was the moment to act. But cowering in fear of Trump’s zealous followers, the Republican leadership never even contemplated expulsion. Instead, one after another, herded by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, congressmen and senators lined up in Trump Tower to kiss The Donald’s ring.

In light of this record, calls now from leading Republicans for Trump to step down are the rankest hypocrisy imaginable. “Donald Trump should withdraw, and Mike Pence should be our nominee effective immediately,” says No. 3 Senate Republican. John Thune of South Dakota, formerly a Trump endorser. “I cannot and will not support a candidate for president who brags about degrading and assaulting women,” says Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire, who only days earlier had said Trump was arole model for children. And, finally standing up from his humiliating posture of backing the man who had maligned him, McCain now explains that the lewd video makes it “impossible to continue to offer even conditional support” for Trump.

This is all well and good, but can anyone doubt that if right now, instead of sagging in the polls, Trump were leading in the presidential race, the same Republicans who are rushing to the lifeboats would be reacting quite differently to the video  scolding Trump for his “locker-room banter,” perhaps severely, while continuing to back him to the hilt?

The suggestion that Pence now be moved to the presidential slot is only further evidence of their monumental disingenuousness. It is not a sign of health that even #NeverTrump activists are looking to Pence for salvation. This is the same Pence who, in his folksy way, has been touring the country calling Trump “this good man” and talking about his “broad shouldered leadership,” while simultaneously covering up every one of Trump’s disqualifying flaws — often by spewing lies.

Trump has tied himself to the mast. When the GOP ship goes down, Pence deserves to go down with it, and not as its captain.
Without absolving Trump of responsibility for the crisis he has created, a strong case can be made that in all aspects of his life he is driven by dark impulses and inexorable cravings to fill a void in his soul. But Trump’s Republican supporters do not have that excuse at their disposal. They are rational calculators who have knowingly backed a borderline personality when it suited their interests. Now that their interests are endangered, they are performing a new calculation. To put it more plainly, they sold themselves to the devil and have decided to ask for a refund.

But they neglected to read the fine print of that bargain. There can be no refund from the devil. The #NeverTrumpers were right from the start. We warned them repeatedly about who Donald Trump was. They declined to listen. Now they have to suffer the full measure of consequences for their folly. It will come in the form of electoral disaster on Nov 8.

Gabriel Schoenfeld, a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors, is the author of A Bad Day on the Romney Campaign: An Insider’s Account. Follow him on Twitter @gabeschoenfeld.

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