It's not too late for the GOP to abandon Donald Trump

Better late than never

Republicans are beginning to turn their backs on Donald Trump.
(Image credit: REUTERS/Mark Kauzlarich)

All of a sudden, a bunch of prominent Republicans are withdrawing — or considering withdrawing — their support from Donald Trump. Now, less than one month before the general election, they understand that he is what he is and that he's not going to change. He is unstable and gross and crazy, and they finally get it.

The reaction to this development has to be a mix of relief and incredulity. Relief, of course, because it's nice to see the Republican Party I support finally trying to get some grip on this cancer it has infected itself with. But also incredulity, because why should Trump's most recent scandal, which revolves around a 2005 video in which Trump brags about using his fame to sexually assault women, be the last straw, and not the billion scandals that preceded it?

How about the time Trump insulted a Gold Star mother and insinuated she didn't speak from the Democratic convention stage because she wasn't allowed as a Muslim woman? How about the time(s) when he implicated Ted Cruz's father in the Kennedy assassination? How about the time he launched his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists? ("A lot of them, I assume, are good people." Oh, alright then.) And how about the birther nonsense?

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It was always obvious that Trump was both vile and lacking in self-restraint or self-control. Why turn on him now that he is the nominee? Why turn on him now that his name is on every ballot? Why now, when "un-endorsing" him would require legal gymnastics such as a write-in campaign or asking electors to vote for a different candidate? Why turn on him now after you shut down convention delegates who simply wanted an open vote?

Why now?

That's a great question, and one that deserves to be asked. But it shouldn't prevent Republican officeholders from officially dropping Trump. They can't just distance themselves and let him crash and burn. They can't just cross fingers and hope for the best. They need to come out loud and strong against Trump, no matter how much it hurts their egos.

Why? Because better late than never.

Yes, some Republicans fear that Trump supporters will blame Trump's defeat on a lack of support from the Republican establishment. But they shouldn't worry about that, as I've written before. That will happen no matter what, but because Trump's flaws as a candidate are so glaringly obvious, that blame won't be easy to lay at anyone's feet but his own.

On top of that, the longer the Republican Party is officially associated with Trump, the more its brand is tarnished, and the harder it will be for the party to cobble together a winning national coalition. It needs minorities. It needs college-educated whites. It needs women.

Republicans cannot continue to roll their eyes and keep their distance from Trump while still seeming to suggest Americans should back the GOP candidate. The middle ground is no longer safe. They should never have endorsed him in the first place, and maybe even backed a third-party bid instead. Now, they should do the next best thing and simply speak their mind.

It's time to bring some actual conservative values back to the Republican Party. Values like honor, for example. Donald Trump has brought shame to the GOP. And so the best thing the GOP can do to regain its honor is to cast Trump off in the most visible way possible.

It will take a lot of work to rebuild the Republican Party after this. But one of the hardest tasks will be disassociating the GOP from Trump's noxious brand of politics. The sooner the party starts on that mission, the better. In fact, doing it before the election, before he has officially lost, would show goodwill.

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Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry

Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry is a writer and fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. His writing has appeared at Forbes, The Atlantic, First Things, Commentary Magazine, The Daily Beast, The Federalist, Quartz, and other places. He lives in Paris with his beloved wife and daughter.