As Republicans watch Donald Trump lumber across their electoral landscape laying waste to their best-laid plans for 2016, the GOP has moved through the first few stages of grief. First there was denial: He'll never run, and if he does nobody will support him. Then came anger: Who does this jerk think he is? Then bargaining: We could maybe imagine liking Donald Trump, so if you support him, please don't be mad at us! All they need is to get through depression before they move on to acceptance.
Along the way, Trump's opponents and the party establishment have tried to take him down. They called him a demagogue and a carnival barker. That didn't work. They argued that he had supported liberal policies in the past (even said nice things about single-payer health coverage!), so he wasn't a real Republican. That didn't work. They argued that he'd be an electoral disaster, bringing down other Republicans along with him. That didn't work.
John Kasich aired an ad tying Trump's attacks on various minority groups to persecution by the Nazis, echoing what many commentators said about the whiff of fascism hovering around Trump's statements on American Muslims (only the latest group he has attacked). A shadowy group called Trump Card LLC is planning a wide-ranging attack on his candidacy. To which the infinitely thin-skinned Trump responds that if if he isn't "treated fairly" by the party, he might just mount a third-party run and guarantee a Republican loss in 2016.
It should be more than clear by now that the people who support Trump don't care about any of this stuff. Not only that, but everything that the rest of the world finds abhorrent about Trump seems only to deepen their commitment. He doesn't know anything about policy? He's an outsider, not like those Washington politicians! He's a buffoonish vulgarian enacting a 10-year-old's idea of what a rich guy acts like? He's a winner! He hates Mexicans? Well those damn immigrants are ruining our country! He's a misogynist creep? Shut up, feminazis! He wants to register and surveill American Muslims? Damn right!
So here's the only way the party can defeat him: Do nothing.
It's the strategy of no strategy. It moves right to acceptance, saying that there just isn't anything that can be done about Trump. Maybe he does have a ceiling of 30 percent or so of the party (around where he is now in the polls), and if that's true, what Republicans need is an alternative. One alternative, not 12. Someone who can begin to consolidate that other 70 percent around him.
And it may happen without the party having to do anything about it. Three candidates have already pulled out, and a couple more may go before the Iowa caucuses on Feb. 1. Soon after that, candidates who haven't scored anything resembling a primary win will begin to drop off, until there are only a few left.
Some of the people who write the checks are getting this idea. As the Washington Post reported, "More than a dozen interviews with high-profile GOP financiers revealed a pervasive confidence that the party's rank-and-file voters will ultimately reject Trump's brand of politics" — so there's no need to put money behind a concerted effort to take him out.
The truth is that all the party's voters won't be rejecting Trump. It's certainly possible that his campaign will prove incapable of the nuts-and-bolts work required to actually get primary voters to the polls. But by now it seems pretty clear that the voters who like Trump actually like Trump. It isn't because they haven't learned enough about him, and it isn't because they haven't thought enough about their loyalty to the party. He's the one they want.
So the party's only hope is that the seven out of 10 potential primary voters not currently behind Trump find their way to somebody else who can accumulate enough delegates to wrest the nomination from him. Those party bigwigs may be able to help that person, but it won't be by holding 100 more focus groups to figure out what turns voters away from Trump.
Acceptance isn't easy. In this case it requires people who cherish their own power and influence to acknowledge that they're powerless in the face of the bizarre and terrifying monster that is the Donald Trump campaign. Maybe they could do some meditation, or take up a hobby between now and the convention in July. Better that than fooling themselves into believing there's a strategy out there to take out Trump that's just waiting to be found.