There's still time for Republicans to stop Donald Trump, but not much. Super Tuesday is in just a few days, and if the polls are correct, Trump is going to romp through those primaries winning everywhere, with the possible exception of Ted Cruz's home state of Texas. After that, his nomination will go from "likely" to "nearly inevitable." And what will those Republicans who have been fussing and fretting over Trump do then?
They'll do what any of us would: rationalize. Right now, most Republicans have two fears when it comes to Trump being the GOP nominee. He might lose badly and make Hillary Clinton the president, or perhaps even worse, he'd win and destroy conservatism. But it's one thing to say that when his nomination is hypothetical; what if it becomes real?
Here's what I predict: Without any other good options, they will quickly convince themselves that things are going to work out great. Here's a preview of just some of the arguments conservatives will be making. For simplicity's sake, I offer them in the first person.
1. Trump can beat Hillary Clinton. Democrats have some natural advantages in the electoral college, so we need someone who can mix things up. Ted Cruz would have been a Goldwater-level disaster, because the truth is that we can't just appeal to the right; we need independents, too. Marco Rubio, for his part, was too young and inexperienced. Trump can bring out non-voters, like he did in the primaries, and maybe steal a bunch of working-class whites who vote Democratic because those limousine liberals are supposedly the party of the people. See more here.
2. Have you seen his tax cut? It's yooge. Let's be honest: There's nothing we love more than cutting taxes. And according to the Tax Policy Center, Trump's tax cut is the biggest of all the candidates; it will cost $9.5 trillion over 10 years. That's bigger than anything Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush tried! Okay, so Cruz's plan gives more to the noble and virtuous job creators of the 1 percent. But still, just think how much government will have to be cut when we deprive it of all that revenue.
3. He's a businessman, and businessmen are the best of us. We've always said we wanted a businessman president, but we've never elected one. And yes, Trump's business is a little out of the ordinary, depending as it does on licensing his name and coming up with branded products like Trump Vodka, Trump Steaks, and Trump University. But it'll make a big difference to have someone in the White House whose life has been devoted to getting rich and doesn't apologize for it.
4. Maybe he really will build that wall, even if Mexico won't pay for it. We all say we want border security, right? Let's let the man build his wall. It'll cost more than he thinks and it'll lend America a little of that je ne sais quoi we associate with East Berlin circa 1972, but the public will thank us for it.
5. Sure he panders, but that will keep his popularity from plunging too low. We all remember what happened the last time we had a failed Republican president — we got Barack Obama. So if Trump moves away from conservative positions in order to be where the public is now and again, we can live with it.
6. Better strong and erratic than timid and weak. Trump hasn't thought through our national security challenges, but so what? The worst thing that will happen is he'll bomb somebody he shouldn't. The point is, we love strength, and Trump knows how to show he's strong. Just wait until he calls Putin a "little girl" and starts moving missile batteries into Eastern Europe. That'll show 'em.
7. He'll have to bring us in whether he wants to or not. There are about 3,000 appointed positions in the federal government. Who's going to fill them in a Trump administration? The government-in-exile now cooling its heels in conservative think tanks and lobbying firms, waiting for the next Republican president to get elected so they can have their old jobs back. Trump showed that with the right combination of celebrity and timing it's possible to blow into a political campaign and win. But he won't be able to do the same thing with, say, running the Department of Energy. For that he'll need our people. The fact that Trump doesn't know the difference between a deputy secretary and an undersecretary (Hah, what a rube!) means that we should have little trouble running the government the way we would have with any other president, and shaping policy to our liking.
Those are the kinds of things Republicans will be telling themselves. At first it'll be just about being handed lemons and making lemonade (or being handed Trump and making Trumpade, which sounds like a disgusting cocktail you make with Trump Vodka). But after they make this case to themselves and to each other for a while, they'll start to believe it. Selling him to the rest of the public, however, is a whole other matter.