WASHINGTON – Life is imitating art in American politics.
Quintus: “People should know when they are conquered.”
Maximus: “Would you, Quintus? Would I?“
That fictional exchange from the film “Gladiator” reflects the real-life question of the day in Washington: Will those who dislike Donald Trump accept his victory as the GOP presidential nominee and support him, or field a third-party candidate of their own?
Nearly 100 prominent Republicans are vowing to never support Trump, and third-party talk has Washington abuzz now that the billionaire has all-but-sealed the nomination.
(The list of nearly 100 prominent Republicans who vow to never support Trump is included at the end of this story.)
As WND detailed on Thursday, William Kristol, editor of the the Weekly Standard, and conservative Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., are now leading the charge to run an independent candidate against Trump.
Trump confidante Roger Stone provided WND a laundry list of reasons that paint the idea as impractical and virtually impossible.
Talk-radio star Laura Ingraham flatly ridiculed the notion, telling WND, “It’s a terrible idea, both for the country and for people who agree with Bill Kristol.”
Stone is a veteran Republican strategist who was called “Donald Trump’s Donald Trump” by Politico and described in National Review as the candidate’s “high-profile, long-time, on-again-off-again unofficial consigliere.”
Although tagged by the media as a firebrand, Stone offered a cold, dispassionate series of reasons as to why a third-party candidacy wouldn’t be viable.
First of all, it wouldn’t even be a third-party candidacy. It would be, at best, a fourth. And the candidate would need a party.
“Libertarians will nominate a Libertarian Party member,” he reminded everyone, adding, “They would have to mount an independent candidacy.”
Stone cited other reasons so daunting as to appear prohibitive, not the least of which would be the need for a lot of money, and fast.
He reckoned it would take “$10 million, minimum to get on the ballot in 50 states.”
Additionally, backers “would need a universally known candidate.”
All in all, Stone said it would be “legally and logistically very difficult.”
And, perhaps the clincher: Even if a political outsider could launch a campaign, he or she would still be on the outside looking in, because, “Even if they succeeded, they would not be included in debates.”
Although vehement in her opposition to the idea as “terrible,” Ingraham was no less clinical in her analysis.
“If the Weekly Standard and its friends run a third-party candidate,” she said, the two most likely outcomes are:
- “The third party candidate is irrelevant (like John Anderson in 1980 – remember him?)
- “Or, the third party candidate peels off enough votes to throw the election to Hillary.”
“Either outcome is a disaster for Weekly Standard types,” Ingraham concluded.
She also pointed out how, “If the third-party candidate is irrelevant, then it shows they have no real base in the country.”
And she warned, “If the third-party candidate throws the election to Hillary, then Trump voters will see no reason to work with the Weekly Standard types in the future.”
The talk-radio star speculated the effort could be pointless.
“I don’t think it’s likely to make that much of a difference, one way or the other. A lot of the folks who would vote for a third-party candidate wouldn’t vote for Trump anyway.”
Besides, she suggested, how could another candidate generate any traction after GOP voters just rejected 16 alternatives to Trump?
“I don’t think such a candidate would be all that viable,” Ingraham said. “Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio both ran on the Weekly Standard platform, and both had massive amounts of money and donor support, and both went nowhere with the voters. People just aren’t interested in that worldview right now.”
But the die-hard Trump critics in the GOP are just not willing to throw in the towel, even if it means abandoning the party.
Kristol told CNN, “I just don’t think [Trump] has the character to be president of the United States. It’s beyond any particular issue I disagree with him on, or who he picks as VP or something,” and he said he was looking for an independent candidate like Sasse.
The senator indicated he wasn’t interested, but he penned a scathing and lengthy post on Facebook condemning Trump’s character and calling for a “healthy leader who can take us forward together,” asking, “Why are we confined to these two terrible options?”
Perhaps the most implacable dissenter is Washington Post columnist and Fox News political analyst George Will.
He wrote a column a few days before the Indiana primary essentially closed the deal for the presumptive nominee, titled, ” If Trump is nominated, the GOP must keep him out of the White House.”
In other words, Will, who calls himself a conservative, believes it would be better for Hillary Clinton to become president than Donald Trump.
While he didn’t say it outright, with the words he did use, the pundit left little doubt about what he meant.
Will wrote, should Trump get the nomination, conservatives would have to “help him lose 50 states – condign punishment for his comprehensive disdain for conservative essentials, including the manners and grace that should lubricate the nation’s civic life.”
After signaling his preference for a Clinton victory over a Trump triumph, Will suggested that in 2020 Republicans could then “help Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse, or someone else who has honorably recoiled from Trump, confine her to a single term.”
Critics of the third-party proposal have serious concerns about how much more damage Clinton could do than Trump. Their fears include:
- Supreme Court appointments: Trump has publicly committed to compiling a list of potential nominees who would be well-vetted constitutional conservatives. Conservatives are certain Clinton would appoint progressive judicial activists who would ignore the Constitution.
- Immigration: Trump has vowed to tighten the process for both legal and illegal immigration. Clinton has expressed no problem with the status quo and has publicly said she wants to raise Obama’s 10,000 Syrian refugees (almost all of whom would be Muslim, with an unknown number affiliated with ISIS) to 65,000.
- Military: Trump has vowed to rebuild the nation’s military while Clinton has aligned with President Obama’s program of making vast reductions, as well continuing social experimentation in the military, such as directing the Pentagon to end the ban on allowing transgender personnel serve openly.
Another conservative columnist has a nearly apocalyptic concern about Trump, fearing nuclear annihilation.
Thomas Sowell warns, “The political damage of Donald Trump to the Republican Party is completely overshadowed by the damage he can do to the country and to the world, with his unending reckless and irresponsible statements.”
At the very end of his column on Friday, titled, “A 3rd-party candidate could save America,” Sowell both expressed his fears and revealed what he sees as the strategy behind the proposed third-party conservative run, to deadlock the electoral college, a strategy with which he seems to agree:
“What was once feared most by the Republican establishment – a third-party candidate for president – may represent the only slim chance for saving this country from a catastrophic administration in an age of proliferating nuclear weapons.
“If a third-party candidate could divide the vote enough to prevent anyone from getting an electoral college majority, that would throw the election into the House of Representatives, where any semblance of sanity could produce a better president than these two.”
Sowell was, in effect, encouraging a strategy to create a presidential election crisis not seen since the 2000 vote, in which many Democrats still believe the Supreme Court handed the election to George W. Bush.
While not supporting a third-party candidate, both former Presidents George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush reportedly will not endorse Trump.
According to the Texas Tribune, the elder Bush has “retired” from politics, while the younger “does not plan to participate in or comment on the presidential campaign.”
According to CNN, not only are both Bushes planning to skip the GOP convention, but so are former Republican presidential nominees Mitt Romney and Sen. John McCain.
The network also reported that House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is also chairman of the Republican National Convention, still is not endorsing Trump, saying, “I’m just not ready to do that at this point. I’m not there right now.”
The Hill complied a list of almost 100 Republicans who currently say they won’t back Trump as the nominee:
- Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C.
- Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich.
- Gov. Charlie Baker, R-Mass.
- Brian Bartlett, former Mitt Romney aide and GOP communications strategist
- Glenn Beck, radio host
- Michael Berry, radio host
- Max Boot, former foreign policy adviser to Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.
- Brent Bozell, conservative activist
- Bruce Carroll, creator GayPatriot.org
- Jay Caruso, RedState
- Mona Charen, senior fellow at Ethics and Public Policy Center
- Linda Chavez, columnist
- Dean Clancy, former FreedomWorks vice president
- Eliot Cohen, former George W. Bush official
- Former Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn.
- Charles C. W. Cooke, writer for National Review
- Doug Coon, Stay Right podcast
- Rory Cooper, GOP strategist, managing director Purple Strategies
- Jim Cunneen, former Calif. assemblyman
- Rep. Carlos Curbelo, R-Fla.
- Steve Deace, radio host
- Rep. Bob Dold, R-Ill.
- Erick Erickson, writer
- Mindy Finn, president, Empowered Women
- David French, writer at National Review
- Jon Gabriel, editor-in-chief, Ricochet.com
- Michael Graham, radio host
- Jonah Goldberg, writer
- Alan Goldsmith, former staffer, House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
- Stephen Gutowski, writer Washington Free Beacon
- Rep. Richard Hanna, R-N.Y.
- Jamie Brown Hantman, former special assistant for legislative affairs for President George W. Bush
- Stephen Hayes, senior writer at The Weekly Standard
- Doug Heye, former RNC communications director
- Quin Hillyer, contributing editor at National Review Online; senior editor at the American Spectator
- Ben Howe, RedState writer
- Former Rep. Bob Inglis, R-S.C.
- Cheri Jacobus, GOP consultant and former Hill columnist
- Robert Kagan, former Reagan official
- Randy Kendrick, GOP mega-donor
- Matt Kibbe, former FreedomWorks CEO
- Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill.
- Philip Klein, managing editor at the Washington Examiner
- Bill Kristol, The Weekly Standard editor
- Mark Levin, radio host
- Justin LoFranco, former Scott Walker aide
- Kevin Madden, former Mitt Romney aide
- Bethany Mandel, senior contributor at The Federalist
- Tucker Martin, communications director to former Gov. Bob McDonnell’s, R-Va.
- Former RNC Chairman Mel Martínez
- Liz Mair, GOP strategist
- Lachlan Markey, writer for the Free Beacon
- David McIntosh, Club for Growth president
- Dan McLaughlin, editor at RedState.com
- Ken Mehlman, former RNC chairman
- Tim Miller, Our Principles PAC
- Joyce Mulliken, former Washington state senator
- Ted Newton, political consultant & former Mitt Romney aide
- James Nuzzo, former White House aide
- Katie Packer, chairwoman of Our Principles PAC
- Former Gov. George Pataki, R-N.Y.
- Former Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas
- Katie Pavlich, Townhall editor and Hill columnist
- Brittany Pounders, conservative writer
- Rep. Reid Ribble, R- Wisc.
- The Ricketts family, GOP mega-donors
- Former Gov. Tom Ridge, R-Pa.
- Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va.
- Mitt Romney, 2012 GOP presidential nominee
- Paul Rosenzweig, former deputy assistant secretary, Department of Homeland Security
- Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post conservative blogger
- Patrick Ruffini, partner, Echelon Insights
- Sarah Rumpf, former BreitBart contributor
- Mark Salter, writer and former aide to John McCain
- Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C.
- Sen. Ben Sasse, R- Neb.
- Elliott Schwartz, Our Principles PAC
- Gabriel Schoenfeld, senior fellow, Hudson Institute
- Tara Setmayer, CNN analyst and former GOP staffer
- Ben Shapiro, editor-in-chief The Daily Wire
- Evan Siegfried, GOP strategist and commentator
- Ben Stein, actor and political commentator
- Brendan Steinhauser, GOP consultant
- Stuart Stevens, former Romney strategist
- Paul Singer, GOP mega-donor
- Erik Soderstrom, former field director for Carly Fiorina
- Charlie Sykes, radio host
- Brad Thor, writer
- Michael R. Treiser, former Mitt Romney aide
- Daniel P. Vajdich, former national security adviser to Ted Cruz
- Connor Walsh, former digital director for former Rep. Eric Cantor, R-Va., founder Build Digital
- Former Rep. J.C. Watts, R-Okla.
- Peter Wehner, New York Times contributor
- Former Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, R-N.J.
- George Will, writer
- Rick Wilson, Republican strategist
- Nathan Wurtzel, Make America Awesome super-PAC
- Bill Yarbrough, chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus of Ohio
- Dave Yost, Ohio auditor of state
And what about a candidate from the third party that already exists, the Libertarian Party?
It might not offer the NeverTrumpers much hope.
The party’s likely candidate is former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who switched parties after he struggled to gain any traction in his bid for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination.