The Hail Marco
How can Donald Trump be prevented from capturing the GOP nomination and destroying the party? True conservatives had better answer this or start packing for a new home in a van down by the Libertarians. Mr. Trump is a thin skinned buffoon, and what he would do once ensconced at 1600 Pennsylvania is one of Rumsfeld's known unknowns. All we can say for certain is we have no idea but none of it is likely to be Conservative.
Personally I think Trump and his movement are anti-intellectual nihilists at best and vicious bigots at worst. To be as kind as I can; if there ever was an American fascist party it would be run by someone very similar to Donald Trump. If the upside of accepting Trump is the elevation of “burn it down” to ideological dogma within the Conservative movement and the downside is proof of Godwin’s law, what is to be done?
I see one hope of derailing Trump and that lies in a brokered convention. If I was Marco Rubio I would be tempted to throw myself a Hail Mary that looked something like this;
- Compete hard in several Super Tuesday states with the goal of winning one of them.
- Use the victory speech to point out how dangerous Trump and his “philosophy” are to both the country and to the GOP. Point to the majority who still oppose Trump but who are split between Senators Cruz and Rubio.
- Suspend your campaign at a time that draws maximum attention, perhaps during an upcoming debate.
- Explain that for the good of the movement you will grant Senator Cruz the opportunity to take Trump on without splitting true Conservatives.
- Cruz and his organization one on one with Trump may be strong enough to take enough delegates to ensure no candidate wins outright.
- At the convention Rubio would be well positioned as a compromise candidate and his broad appeal should be a major asset.
Obviously no candidate for the presidency would willingly suspend a campaign just as it gained traction, I expect Mr. Rubio would be no different. You could argue that Marco’s chances of winning the nomination in the typical fashion are fairly similar to the odds of him successfully implementing this hail Mary strategy though, and it accomplishes some very important things for Mr. Rubio. First, Marco Rubio is young, well liked, and extremely talented he probably hasn't even reached his rhetorical ceiling yet so his future prospects remain bright…so long as Trump doesn't hijack or destroy the party in the meantime. The only clear and present danger to Rubio is the hostile takeover of the GOP before he gets another chance. Stopping Trump now therefore, even at the cost of his current bid for the presidency might be a price Rubio would be wise to pay.
Second this move would be almost unbelievably valuable to Mr. Rubio’s reputation both as a Conservative of conviction and as a bold leader willing to make sacrifices. In the future who could doubt his dedication to the cause? Who could blame him for the damage that Trump would inevitably do if he had lain on the tracks to stop him?
Finally, who besides Trump would object to this course of action? Ted Cruz gets to put up or shut up; his evangelical/Conservative majority either does or does not exist. Perhaps Cruz could even win outright, and that outcome wouldn't break my heart even if I do prefer Rubio. If Cruz fails to win but stops Trump from the same perhaps Rubio could make use of his ability to draw the party together, or perhaps not. The possibility that Trump would beat Cruz anyway would remain but this outcome is less likely in a two man race than in a three, four, or five man race.
The key to successfully implementing the Hail Marco maneuver is to drop out with enough delegates in play that Cruz has a chance to damage Trump but at a moment of strength that both preserves Rubio’s future prospects and compels both Carson and Kasich to follow suit. It’s a desperate gambit but I would argue that is exactly what is called for lest Conservatism be condemned for its worship of a graven image of an orange orangutan to wander the desert for another forty years.