The other day I wrote this about evangelicals endorsing Donald Trump.
“I cannot really fault any of them for coming out of a meeting with Donald Trump and concluding that he is better than Hillary and therefore they might vote for him. That is a personal opinion and each person is entitled to make up his own mind. But if these evangelical leaders come out of a meeting with Donald Trump and give tacit or explicit approval of the man as one of their own, they will be selling out the causes that they have long defended.”
It is one thing to decide Trump is better than Hillary. It is quite another for evangelicals to claim Trump is one of them in doing so. Many friends of mine have decided to embrace Trump as the lesser of two evils. Marco Rubio is the latest. He is doing what he thinks is best when confronted with difficult circumstances. If I disowned all my friends doing this, I’d have few friends. At least, unlike some evangelicals embracing Trump, Rubio is not trying to claim Trump is some conservative warrior.
I, and those like me, are decidedly in the minority when it comes to Trump.
The problem is not so much that Marco Rubio is embracing Trump, but rather it is with those who mistook Marco Rubio for a transcendental figure instead of a politician. Rubio, a good and decent man, is a Republican politician loyal to the party that has put him on the national stage. Confronted by two evils, he chose the one affiliated with his party, just as Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and so many others have. It is not that Trump is the lesser of two evils. It’s just his evil has an elephant for a mascot.
Part of the whole #NeverTrump phenomenon really was secretly #AlwaysRubio. When Rubio announced he was also #NeverTrump, that just built him up more with those who could stand no one else save Rubio. Now a lot of those people are heart broken while others, as much in a cult of personality with Rubio as some are with Trump, are finding ways to justify it. He is, they say, keeping his pledge.
For me, it does not really matter. Rubio is doing what he thinks he has to do or should do. I consider him a friend. I disagree with him. But he is no less a friend today than he was yesterday.
Of course this gets back to my piece from the other day on Republicans and Hitler. I have a harder and harder time being convinced the GOP would reject Hitler if Hitler were running against Hillary Clinton.
From Marco Rubio we know that he thinks Donald Trump is a con man. We know he thinks Republicans who support Trump will be called to account. We know he thinks Trump swindled people out of money, is unfit for office, lacks the character we should demand in our President, would be dangerous in office, etc., etc., etc.
But Trump is not Clinton.
My issue with Marco Rubio embracing Donald Trump really has little to do with Rubio personally and everything to do with the Republican Party. The party has given birth to the Trump phenomenon for campaigning that Barack Obama is a menace to the world, we must do everything to stop Obamacare, the President’s foreign policy is going to get us all killed, and Obama is anti-worker and hostile to capitalism. But then the party rolls over and refuses to fight.
Rubio’s embrace of Trump strikes me as that same pattern of behavior. He thinks all these terrible things about Trump, stands by them, but will embrace Trump because Trump is not Clinton. Not a single prominent Republican is willing to embrace Trump for who Trump is. They’ll only embrace him because he is not Clinton. That should tell them they have no real reason to embrace him.
In fact, given the tone and rhetoric of Marco Rubio, Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, and so many others, they should be joining Mitt Romney in leading a fight against both Clinton and Trump. Instead, they are surrendering to a reality their campaign rhetoric hoped to change toward a different ideal.
Earlier today, James Pethokoukis tweeted this passage from Thucydides.
Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries.
Marco Rubio did what he felt he had to do. I do not fault him or anyone else concluding Trump is the evil they can embrace and Clinton is not. It’s just that all the people doing this recognize Trump’s evil and won’t stand up to it. That’s unfortunate. But it is reflective of the age in which we live.