The day of reckoning is upon us. After winning three straight primaries and the majority of Super Tuesday states, the possibility that Donald Trump will be the GOP nominee now seems more likely than anyone ever imagined. Will prominent Republicans, like lemmings off the cliff, support Trump if he is the nominee, or will they put the interests of their party and more importantly, the country first?
On this front, history will not look kindly on Chris Christie. The wandering Governor's endorsement of the Donald was blatantly self-serving. Standing behind Trump Tuesday night, he looked like a man desperate for attention -- any attention. Apparently he's so allergic to doing his job in New Jersey, multiple NJ papers have called on him to resign. More importantly though, Christie's endorsement has highlighted a dire issue facing the Republican Party. Republicans must now ask themselves if they will sacrifice the future of the party, their majority in the Senate, the White House, and their credibility to support a party nominee no matter who it is -- or will they take a stand?
Chris Christie isn't the only one who has made a deal with the devil. A few days ago, Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions endorsed him. But more surprisingly, John Huntsman, former Ambassador to China and Presidential Candidate, indicated in an interview that he would support Trump if he were the nominee. The reasoning: "I'm a Republican, and I tend to gravitate to whoever is the nominee," he said. Huntsman's comments are depressing. Generally seen as a (relative) moderate, as a former Ambassador, one would hope Huntsman understands the devastating effect a Trump nomination would have on our standing around the world. Trump is a so xenophobic, racist, sexist and vindictive, even his success to date erodes our standing around the world. A party nomination would do irreparable harm. But for Huntsman apparently party loyalty matters more.
No matter your political affiliation, we can all agree that an effective and inclusive Republican party is good for our democracy. We need a meaningful, thoughtful competition of ideas and while some on the left paint the entire party with the Trump/ Cruz brush, it's simply untrue. There are many thoughtful, inclusive Republicans who believe in fiscal responsibility, smaller government and a strong defense yet actively reject the scorched earth, extremist views and tactics of those on the far right. Sadly, those voices have been drowned out in the current chaos.
Some prominent, respected Republicans, most importantly Speaker Paul Ryan, have rightly denounced Trump's most hateful rhetoric as out of step with party principles. But they will be forced, very soon, to go further and decide if they will support him if he is the party nominee. No one has more at stake, and more to loose than Ryan. Should the nominee be Trump, it would mean embracing the basest, most extreme, most self-destructive elements in the party. For leaders like Ryan who are trying to remake the GOP as inclusive, forward looking and effective, the prospect of Cruz isn't much better. If he and other partly leaders opt to line up behind an extreme nominee, just because they claim to represent the GOP, they are likely to loose the White House, the majority and party legitimacy for many, many years to come. It would be a Faustian bargain of the first order. Let's hope their better, smarter angels prevail.
Lauren Leader-Chivée is an author, expert, activist and advisor. She is the co-founder and CEO of the All In Together Campaign. Her forthcoming book Crossing the Thinnest Line argues for the importance of diversity to the future of the nation.