On Tuesday night, Donald Trump defeated Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the Indiana primary, cementing the billionaire's status as the Republican frontrunner and presumptive GOP nominee. As Cruz announced his decision to suspend his campaign, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus called on his party to unite around Trump "and focus on defeating Hillary Clinton."
— Reince Priebus (@Reince) May 4, 2016
But while Priebus and other party leaders insist Republicans must rally around the frontrunner, lifelong GOPers are refusing to support the racist, sexist, xenophobic candidate, with some even begrudgingly suggesting Clinton is a better candidate. Mark Salter, a former speechwriter for John McCain, tweeted support for Clinton Tuesday after Trump peddled an unsubstantiated story by the National Enquirer linking Cruz’s father, Raphael Cruz, to President John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
the GOP is going to nominate for President a guy who reads the National Enquirer and thinks it's on the level. I'm with her.
— Mark Salter (@MarkSalter55) May 3, 2016
In an email to MSNBC, Salter said he considered Clinton "the more conservative choice and the least reckless one."
"[Trump’s] policy views are like some drunk’s rant," Salter said. "If he tried to do anything like he says he will, we’d have no allies, a lot more enemies, and more of them with nukes. Finally, he’s unfit for the office, too, temperamentally and morally, a narcissistic bigot."
Ben Howe, an editor for the conservative website Red State posted a series of tweets after the Indiana primary results were announced, insisting he is "no longer a Republican." Howe also indicated he would instead vote for Clinton in November, tweeting the hashtag "#ImWithHer."
— Ben Howe (@BenHowe) May 3, 2016
Shortly after Cruz declared his departure from the race, Lachlan Markay, a writer for the conservative news website Washington Free Beacon who served as the first investigative reporter for the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, lodged his opposition to the GOP frontrunner, tweeting "Never Trump. Still," followed by an image of his burning voter registration card.
— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) May 4, 2016
Jamie Weinstein, senior editor at Tucker Carlson’s conservative news website The Daily Caller also suggested he’d support Clinton over Trump, writing an op-ed Wednesday entitled, "Hillary Is Preferable To Trump Just Like Malaria Is Preferable To Ebola."
Hillary Is Preferable To Trump Just Like Malaria Is Preferable To Ebola
— Jamie Weinstein (@Jamie_Weinstein) May 4, 2016
And in an essay for the Federalist, staunch conservative and five-time undefeated "Jeopardy!" champion Tom Nichols explained his rationale for supporting Clinton over Trump:
Better to lose to a true enemy whose policies you can fight and repudiate, rather than to a false friend whose schemes will drag you down with him. This is a painful choice, but it also embraces realism while protecting the possibility of recovery in the future. The need to live to fight another day is why conservatives should adopt a Hamilton Rule if, God forbid, the choice comes down to Hillary and Trump.
— AG (@AG_Conservative) May 4, 2016
Other conservatives are refusing to support either candidate, suggesting they will write in a third party candidate or simply stay home on election day. In an open letter to Trump supporters on Facebook, Senator Ben Sasse (R-NE) said he fears a Trump administration’s abuse of power, adding many conservatives in his constituency are "unwilling to support any candidate who does not make a full-throated defense of the First Amendment a first commitment of their candidacy."
One of the more outspoken #NeverTrump congressmen, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), also suggested the Republican party will lose conservative voters in November if Trump wins the nomination.
If we nominate Trump, we will get destroyed.......and we will deserve it.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) May 3, 2016
And conservative blogger Erick Erickson—hardly one to shy away from racist and sexist sentiments—also insisted he wouldn’t be voting for the racist, sexist frontrunner, writing an op-ed eviscerating Trump’s support among "white supremacists, white nationalists and racial grievance mongers."
"Twenty years ago Republicans supported impeaching the President of the United States for lying under oath in office and having an affair in the Oval Office," Erickson wrote. "Now that same party is on the verge of nominating a serial philanderer and pathological liar. At the very least the GOP owes Bill Clinton an apology.’
It is a rare form to see someone like Erickson, who spent the majority of his conservative adult life railing against liberal democrats, insisting he will not play a role in ensuring the Republican frontrunner makes it to the White House.
It’s impossible to foreshadow the outcome of this insane 2016 election, but it seems pretty clear that, at least for the hard-line conservative constituency within the GOP, the Republican Party is imploding.