If Republicans want to derail Donald Trump's presidential campaign by parachuting a third-party conservative into the race this late in the game, they should start by picking out a nice gift for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton to congratulate her on winning the presidency.
Running a third-party candidate is tantamount to clearing a smooth, unobstructed path to the White House for the Democratic front-runner. The conservatives who say they won't vote for Trump -- a group The Hill says includes former Gov. George Pataki of New York, conspiracy theorist Glenn Beck, and Weekly Standard Editor Bill Kristol -- could even cover the path in roses and offer to carry Clinton to her swearing-in ceremony in a palanquin.
While they're picking out a gift for Clinton, those Republicans should start working on their apology to voters.
For a party filled with members who love paying lip service to American democracy, running a third-party conservative candidate now would send a clear message to voters: You voted, you had your say and picked Trump, but we know better than you do, so we'll take it from here and select a candidate we like better.
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And make no mistake, the party elites do think they know better than voters. How else to explain the National Review's Kevin D. Williamson, who in a March 2 column outright suggests the GOP reject Trump as its candidate?
"If the alternative to vicious demagoguery is back-room deals negotiated by party insiders," Williamson wrote, "then bring on the back-room deals."
Sure. Throw millions of votes in the trash, declare the primaries meaningless, and put Republican "fixers" Karl Rove, Paul Ryan and Tucker Carlson in a room to choose the candidate they like.
The GOP opposition to Trump is especially appalling when you consider the fact that it's not Trump's proposals Republicans find distasteful -- it's the way he talks about them.
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A good Republican is supposed to put a happy face on things like quasi-racist policy positions and contempt for civil rights. He's supposed to do the bidding of his corporate masters, but tell the plebs he's protecting them from the liberals who want to take their money.
Republicans might claim they're offended at Trump's bluster about closing the country to Muslims, but really they're just upset he didn't couch it in the right terms. Republicans aren't angry at Trump for campaigning on border security. They do it all the time. But no right-minded, establishment GOP politician would ever follow through on that promise. If they did, they wouldn't be able to campaign on it in the next election cycle.
That's why we don't see GOP elites clutching their pearls at the prospect of a President Ted Cruz, a man who openly admits he wants the U.S. to be a Christian theocracy, according to MSNBC would work to make gay marriage illegal again as president, and would impose a religious test on immigrants.
As Right Wing Watch notes, Cruz has allied himself with groups like the American Family Association, which the Southern Poverty Law Center classifies as a hate group. According to the New Yorker, the Texas senator told a Christian group in 2014 that U.S. military chaplains have a duty to be "insensitive to atheists."
And then there's that video of a cackling, maniacal Cruz cooking bacon by wrapping it on the muzzle of an assault rifle.
So the GOP is ready to back a guy like Cruz, but Trump is where they draw the line? No wonder the party is on the brink of breaking apart.
If Republicans want to accelerate that process and burn the party down, then throwing away primary votes and picking a new candidate would be a fine way for the party to cut off its nose to spite its face. But if Republicans don't want another Clinton presidency, and don't want to infuriate their own electorate, they'll stamp out any talk of a third-party candidate before it gains traction.