Right now, the “Republican establishment” is busy wringing its hands over what can be done to stop Donald Trump. Do not be deceived. When the time comes, they will all fall in line with Donald Trump.
Mitt Romney is attacking Trump as a fraud. Republican Senators are vowing not to vote for Trump and making noises about a third-party candidate. Republican donors are pouring money into a last-minute anti-Trump campaign. Prominent neoconservatives are blasting Trump’s foreign policy and threatening to vote for Hillary Clinton. Conservative pundits are stumbling over one another to publicly vow not to support Trump.
If Donald Trump wins the Republican nomination, all these good conservatives will fall right in line.
It is one thing for a Republican functionary to speak loudly today about how much they dislike Donald Trump. It is easy. Trump’s nomination is still in question. There is a strong popular backlash against him. And more pleasing alternatives still seem possible. Give it a few months, though. Wait until the day comes when Donald Trump’s nomination is a mathematical certainty. Wait until the alternatives have disappeared. On that day, the rationalizations will begin. On that day, the opposition will somehow get much harder to find.
Already, early adopters like Chris Christie and Jeff Sessions have made the political calculation that getting behind Trump early will pay them political dividends if and when his nomination is a lock. The more solid Trump’s popular support becomes, the more Republican officials will make this same calculation. They will realize that the faster they begin backing Trump, the more likely they will be to curry his favor. And so they will do it.
The political establishment—of either party—is not courageous. That is not what the establishment is built for. The establishment is built to perpetuate its own existence, and to help itself thrive. In this sense, it sits outside of the political ideology of left and right. The establishment’s ideology is its own self-interest. People who have risen to high perches in the establishment—be they politicians, or power brokers, or pundits—have done so because they are adept at building and reinforcing their own power. If Trump becomes the nominees, the most obvious way to remain in the establishment will be to become his ally. And so that is what most of them will do.
The Republican establishment does not dislike Donald Trump because he is a vindictive, ignorant, xenophobic bigot. Many members of the Republican establishment are all of those things. They dislike him because he has disrespected their role as gatekeepers, and because he does not fully embrace the policy agenda of the conservative donor class. But if Trump is able to gather enough popular support to win the nomination, these quibbles will seem small in comparison to the political establishment’s one overriding goal: maintaining its own power. That is what ultimately drives the members of the political establishment: continuing to be members of the establishment. If Trump becomes the nominee, he becomes the head of the establishment. And all the rest will fall in line behind him, reaching out to pat his back, explaining all the while that he has matured enough to render all their earlier complaints irrelevant.
Watch and see.