Last fall, the question on the minds of Repubicans was: When Donald Trump inevitably loses out on getting the Republican nomination, will he support the party’s nominee, or will he spoil it all and run a third-party campaign?
Fast-forward to now. Trump has all the pledged delegates he needs to get the nomination, and most (not all) Republican officeholders and notables have, in the name of party unity, and with varying degrees of pretending to like it, announced their support for Trump as the party’s nominee. It’s only natural, after all: supporting the party’s nominee is simply what’s done. Now of course Trump is, by all reasonable standards, a bit of a special case, but the party regulars seemed confident that they could tame him: that they could coax and coach him to behave like a serious candidate, not run off at the mouth quite so much, et cetera et cetera. And for a little while it seemed to be working: he did, after all, say a couple of weeks ago that his plans for discriminating against Muslims represented “just an idea,” not necessarily what he would do.
Well, the illusion that Trump can be tamed is down the drain with a vengeance, with his blatantly racist remarks about the judge in his Trump U case, Gonzalo Curiel, being biased because he’s “a Mexican.” (Quick review/refresher: Trump is facing a pair of civil class action suits in connection with deceptive and manipulative practices in his failed Trump University venture, set to start trial a few weeks after the election.) Now, one thing to be clear on: his lawyers have not formally petitioned for this judge to recuse himself from the case, and there is a good reason why they haven’t–they know better. They can be subject to disciplinary action for making a frivolous accusation of judicial bias, and they can plainly see that it’s frivolous. So we’re not talking about a formal petition; we’re talking about Trump running off at the mouth about it.
Obviously, saying that a judge is unqualified to sit on a case because of his ancestral heritage is blatantly racist. That’s not even the only problem with it. It also shows a strange sort of illiterate contempt for judicial proceedings which is blatantly unbecoming for a serious candidate for the nation’s highest office. As if it didn’t already speak for itself, some legal experts have weighed in on what precedents his way of thinking (if you even call it that) could have if carried to their logical conclusions. (Example: Should all five Supreme Court justices who are Catholic recuse themselves every time there’s a case that in any way connects with Catholicism?)
My point is this: There is simply no way that Republicans like House Speaker Paul Ryan and National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus are failing to suffer extreme embarrassment and alarm right about now. It goes without saying that, if he loses, he will bring some part of the party down with him. But what if he wins? What sort of victory will these Republicans be sharing in?
The Republican Party, where the presidential nominating process is concerned, is a mess.
By the way, so is the Democratic Party. This is the strangest year in politics I have ever seen in my lifetime, and it shows no sign of getting any less bizarre from here.
NPR story in the legal implications
Politico story on the sorrows of the Republicans
Another Politico story on the Republicans and their dilemma