Rubio and Cruz are the real monsters: Liberals should be rooting for Trump — and he'll be easier to beat come November

Trump is despicable — but him winning the GOP nomination would be far better than either Rubio or Cruz

By Amanda Marcotte

Senior Writer

Published February 29, 2016 9:35PM (EST)

Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio   (Reuters/Chris Keane/Photo montage by Salon)
Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio (Reuters/Chris Keane/Photo montage by Salon)

Confession time: I'm rooting for Donald Trump to win the Republican nomination. And not in a casual, that-would-be-amusing way. When he won South Carolina, there was celebrating at my house. When he won Nevada, I did a happy dance. When pundits on TV say in shocked, repulsed tones that his nomination is starting to look inevitable, I say, "Damn skippy."

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying I like Trump — I hate him with the passion of a thousand burning suns — or that I want him to be president. But yes, I think he should win the Republican nomination. He's run the best campaign, one that speaks to what Republican voters want to hear, and, by that measure, he deserves to win the nomination, so that Hillary Clinton can wipe the floor with him in November.

This is not a popular opinion, and not just with the establishment Republicans who can't help acting like the main problem with Trump is he puts his dirty shoes on the couch. The common wisdom in most of the media — conservative, mainstream and liberal — is that a Trump nomination would be a ruinous thing, a blow to both the Republican Party and the political system as we know it. To which I can't help but say, "So what?"

I don't agree with Trump supporters on, well, almost anything, but I can't help sharing in the pleasure they take with the way that Trump's very existence exposes the smarmy two-faced hypocrisy of the modern Republican Party. Modern conservatism is built on a base of protecting men's dominance over women, white people's dominance over people of color and rich people's dominance over everyone else, but it's generally considered impolite to say so bluntly. Instead, it's standard for Republicans to pretend that policies obviously designed to screw people over are meant to help.  That puts journalists in this terrible situation of having to pretend that Republicans mean well, since it's generally considered impolitic to call someone a liar.

Trump doesn't play that game, at least not as much, and it is nakedly obvious that this, and not his actual beliefs and policies, is what angers many of his detractors. Take, for instance, Jonah Goldberg of the National Review on Fox News recently, complaining that Trump is "completely overturning what the Republican reset was supposed to be about after 2012, which was this idea that it was going to be a more consistently conservative but more inclusive and nicer toned party."

"And instead it's going to be a less conservative but meaner toned and less inclusive party," he added.

To which I must again say, "So what?" People who value kindness and inclusivity already have a party. They're called the Democrats.

But of course, Goldberg doesn't actually want a kinder, more inclusive Republican Party. What he and other establishment Republicans want is to be able to pursue nasty, bigoted policies while maintaining an air of gentility that garners respect in the mainstream media. Which is why it gives Trump voters such a thrill to symbolically kick dirt in the faces of folks like Jonah Goldberg by voting for Trump.

Trump annoys because he's loud and rude. Because if you actually look past the surface, even by a millimeter, to the policy level, this notion that Trump is somehow more hateful than his competitors Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio simply becomes laughable. Take, for instance, this telling exchange from Thursday's CNN debate:

CRUZ: Did you say if you want people to die on the streets, if you don't support socialized health care, you have no heart.

TRUMP: Correct. I will not let people die on the streets if I'm president.

CRUZ: Have you said you're a liberal on health care?

It went on in this vein for a bit, before Wolf Blitzer put a stop to it, but it was a telling moment where Cruz really did try to frame it as soft-hearted and "liberal" to even consider the possibility that human life is worth more than tax cuts. But Cruz is still considered by both the Republican establishment and the mainstream media to be a more acceptable candidate than a bully like Trump. Because Trump calls people "pussy," which is far worse than letting people die in the street. So crude, you know.

Rubio didn't get a chance to weigh in on the "let people die in the streets" debate, but since a major part of his platform is eliminating Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, it would seem he is also on Team Screw 'Em. If those 5-year-olds don't want to die from leukemia, they should get jobs that have full-time health benefits.

To be exquisitely clear, this is in no way a vindication of Trump. He represents the worst of conservatism. His policies are nonsensical, he clearly would rather burn this country to the ground than have anything approaching justice or equality in it, he is racist to his core, and he has no respect for anyone but himself and people who are just like him.

But that's just as true of Cruz or Rubio, and in some cases, they are arguably worse.

Trump retweets racist propaganda. Both Cruz and Rubio have backed legislation designed specifically to make it harder for people of color to vote.

Trump likes to rattle on about this stupid Mexican wall that will never be built.  Marco Rubio's immigration platform is also building up a big wall that makes the Southwest look like a war zone. Cruz is also all about that wall, while also suggesting that undocumented immigrants are "criminals and terrorists."

Trump suggested he'd be up for banning Muslims from traveling to our country. Cruz and Rubio aren't so blunt about it, but they send the same pro-bigotry message by rushing for the microphones to denounce President Obama every time he dares suggest that Muslims should be treated with respect and dignity. Both have also attacked Syrian refugees, hinting that they are terrorists in disguise who are slipping in through a supposedly haphazard system, which is a total falsehood. Cruz even suggested a bill banning refugees.

"The press went gaga for Rubio after Iowa," Matt Taibbi colorfully wrote in Rolling Stone last week, because "he's an unthreatening, blow-dried, cliché-spouting, dial-surveying phony of the type campaign journalists always approve of." It's a tough pill to swallow, but it's true.

And since it's true, it should be easy to see why Trump supporters enjoy the opportunity to stick it to the journalistic establishment that is so easily swayed by shallow Republican candidates who trick you into thinking they're reasonable because they wear nice shoes and can somewhat imitate the facial expressions of people who feel empathy.

Look, someone has to win the Republican nomination. In this particular contest of villains, Trump is the least-bad option. Cruz seems like a sociopath who thinks he's a prophet. Rubio just perpetuates that myth that the politics of nihilism are OK so long as the figurehead is handsome and genial enough. A Trump nomination, on the other hand, would puncture any remaining illusion that the Republican Party is a home for serious people, instead of a den of misanthropes and bullies that see politics solely as a way to preserve their own privilege while screwing over everyone else.

That, and it will probably be easier for Clinton to beat Trump than either of his opponents.

By Amanda Marcotte

Amanda Marcotte is a senior politics writer at Salon and the author of "Troll Nation: How The Right Became Trump-Worshipping Monsters Set On Rat-F*cking Liberals, America, and Truth Itself." Follow her on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte and sign up for her biweekly politics newsletter, Standing Room Only.

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Donald Trump Election 2016 Marco Rubio Republican Primary Ted Cruz