A Republican National Convention logo is seen though silhouetted production equipment on a huge video screen at Quicken Loans Arena for the Republican National Convention, Sunday, July 17, 2016, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Sadness For Friends Who Cannot Be Sad

“No one leaves the orbit of Trump with their integrity in tact. He is corrupting and corrupted all at the same time.”

I saw last night that Hugh Hewitt was praising the first night of the Trump Circus. I remember back when George W. Bush nominated Harriet Miers. Hugh was one of the first to sing her praises and first to attack any of us who were not loyalists on her nomination. The joke, based on Hugh giving Miers a “B+” as a pick, was that Hugh had argued “Sh*t Sandwich Tasty; I Give It A B+”. It’s a joke that surfaces still on the conservative web. In 2011, it was for backing Crist over Rubio and the hits have continued.

Some people are just natural born party men. It is not to blame. It is who they are and it is historic and pedigreed.

A friend of mine last night reminded me of the Blues and Greens. For those of you not familiar with them, after the fall of Rome, the remaining eastern half of the Roman Empire around Constantinople developed into factional mob rule. There was the church and there was sports. The sports teams were divided into blues, greens, reds, and whites. They controlled the city. Charity, food, jobs, even policing, etc. were arranged based on support for teams. Over time the reds and whites were absorbed into the blues and greens. In 532 AD, such was the strength of the fans of the blues and the fans of the greens, they united and nearly over through Emperor Justinian. That was also the beginning of their decline.

You’d like to think that the blues and greens stood for something. You’d like to think that they had public policy ideas or competing views on taxation or imperial rule or charitable distributions. But you’d be wrong. They were just loyalties to sports teams, nothing more and nothing less. It was tribalism without principle. Love for nation was trumped by love for either the blues or the greens, neither of which stood for anything more than players on a field. As my friend noted, men were willing to die for their teams and organize great spectacles to celebrate their teams. But they were just teams and nothing more.

Back after the GOP defeat in 2006, lots of conservatives declared they were no longer water carriers for the GOP. The party had betrayed them so much, but they had rationalized the water carrying because at least the GOP was better than the alternative. But after 2006, lots of us were openly saying that really the GOP agenda was just Democrat-lite and we needed to speak out more. So many of us did. The party, our party, stood for nothing and we wanted it to stand for something. It should be more than just the blues or the greens.

Fast forward to 2016. I just have to be sad for people I know and respect who can neither be sad nor show a sense of shame for joining the Trump bandwagon, which is just a blue or a green, standing really for nothing more now than one’s chosen team.

I saw Ari Fleischer on twitter last night cheerleading on the Trump train. Ari wrote the 2012 autopsy, which said the party needed to be more open to immigrants. There he is with the common refrain of “better than Clinton.”

Alex Castellanos, who cheer leaded Trump against Cruz, then publicly fessed up to not really liking Trump before helping Trump, is in defense mode too. He is, after all, “better than Clinton.”

The Schlapps, Matt and Mercedes, know Trump is a disaster for the future of the party. But onward Republican soldiers they go. Kellyanne Conway, who is one of the nicest people in politics, has gone over into Trump world from Cruz world and is doing her best to add flavor to the poop sandwich.

Jason Miller, who deleted all his tweets where he unleashed his true feelings on Trump, now works in communications for Trump.

Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, Paul Ryan, etc., etc., etc. — they’re all being good team players because “not Hillary.”

Even Mike Pence, soon to be made officially the vice presidential nominee, expressed horror and concern to friends about Trump in just the last few weeks.

Then there are Reince and Sean Spicer. Make no mistake about it. They are horrified by this train wreck. They do not want to be in the roles Trump has placed them. They are really good guys who now find themselves defending the indefensible because “not Hillary.”

On television, I see people I know and respect beclowning themselves. They parrot now the same talking points they used to defend Mitt Romney in 2012 against polls. They play up victimhood that the press and world are out to get us. On Fox, more than once I have been called a traitor merely for not embracing Donald Trump and the people saying it are good, decent people. To not embrace Trump is allegedly to embrace Hillary. They have descended to binary equations to justify their own compromises.

Like the Duke of Norfolk to Thomas More, they just want the rest of us to go along too so they themselves do not look so bad in selling out or justifying their embrace of what they know to be a losing campaign with far reaching consequences all of which are bad.

Several of these people have, even after Trump won Indiana, privately conceded there is no way he will beat Clinton. But for party loyalty they march on carrying the “not Hillary” banner in defense of Trump.

My heart aches for so many of them. They know Trump will not win. They know his campaign and subsequent loss will have far reaching consequences for the party. But by force of habit and position they do what they do. Some do it for loyalty and some do it for money and all for “not Clinton.”

I just cannot carry water for Trump. He is unfit for office, immoral, and shallow. I still believe in the Republican Party that believes character counts and the rule of law means something. It is just so sad to see so many good people believe those things too, but feel confined in positions where they can dare not say it lest they risk a job, a career, a donation, or a badge of disloyalty.

Beyond them, there are the people who are truly deluded. They truly think Trump is some transcendent person outside politics. They think he really can beat Hillary. When he does not, they will blame me or others. They will never blame themselves or recognize they were fooled. And all of us will have to suffer through four years of another Clinton administration and witness the destruction it brings.

They are in Cleveland now holding up signs and cheering on a man few of them voted for and even less believe in. Their signs are not blue and green, but red and blue. But it is just meaningless team sport in favor of their team. There is no substance, just sloganeering that means as much to each person and is taken as much differently by each person as “hope and change” was in 2008.

So much could have changed, but nothing will. And in four years, the very people who lamented Trump only to jump on his train cheerleading to the end will be back at it again because “not Clinton.” Only this time they will be doing it against the incumbent President because they were neither brave enough nor bold enough to stand till the end against what they know privately to be a loser.

And sure some of them will say I am always a party critic. I opposed McCain and I opposed Romney. But I could ultimately support their nomination because both were, despite my policy differences with them, good people with whom I disagreed. One served his country and refused release as a prisoner of war so that others might go free. The other shut his company down to organize a search and rescue of a missing child. Trump is different. No one leaves the orbit of Trump with their integrity in tact. He is corrupting and corrupted all at the same time. Trump’s Vietnam was avoiding STD’s.

I have met my bridge too far and I know so many of my friends have too. I have to be sad for them that still they felt they must cross it because “not Clinton.” I remain not either. And their only consolation is that the other team, filled with fans who feel exactly the same way about their team captain, will be doing the same soon in Philadelphia.

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Erick Erickson

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