Recently, the #NeverTrump movement briefly flirted with a potential new ally, the longtime conservative talk show host Michael Savage.
Savage, a nominal supporter of Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, feigned outrage when the candidate took to Twitter to criticize rival Ted Cruz's wife, Heidi. For Savage, a guy who was once fired from MSNBC for telling a gay man to "get AIDS and die" and "eat a sausage and choke on it," attacking a candidate's wife was over the line.
Savage eventually reneged on his threat to support another candidate, per The New York Times, but as a March 30 story in POLITICO notes, he's not the only right-wing talk show host trying to throw his weight around this election cycle. The POLITICO story focused on Charlie Sykes, a long-time Wisconsin radio host who preaches conservatism to an audience of about 100,000.
Sykes has been "delivering anti-Trump broadsides" almost daily, and isn't shy about taking credit as a kingmaker in state politics. This time, Sykes is taking credit for polls that show Trump trailing Cruz by 10 points in Wisconsin.
The radio host, who tells POLITICO he's "more anti-Trump than pro-Cruz," says Trump is a "cartoon character" who threatens to undo all the hard work of convincing people "that conservatives are not racists" nor misogynists.
“When the Republican Party ceases to be a vehicle for conservative values, there is no entitlement to people’s support," Sykes recently told his listeners.
But just like Savage, it's odd that Sykes thinks Trump crossed some sort of line or made a mockery of those good old conservative values. As the Democratic Party of Wisconsin pointed out, Sykes' conservative values didn't prevent him from gleefully playing a song on air about African American welfare recipients swiping their EBT cards at KFC, Pollo Loco and a liquor store.
"Sykes is no stranger to race-baiting," one Wisconsin political blogger noted, while a New Republic story pointed out that Sykes' subscription-based conservative website refers to First Lady Michelle Obama as "Mooch."
These are the kinds of people lining up to stop Trump. And it's not so much that they're opposed to what Trump is saying, as proven by the fact that many of them have said things that are much, much worse. It's that Trump doesn't bother to hide his views behind code words, isn't beholden to the GOP's leaders and big money men and doesn't pay lip service to the old-timey values the far right loves to wistfully reminisce about.
The #NeverTrump coalition wants a candidate who will fall in line. It wants a candidate who will sell him or herself to big donors and recite platitudes about the gumption and elbow grease that made 'Merica a great nation once upon a time, when men were men and there was none of that mamby pamby liberal stuff about feelings, and life in America's heartland was like a Thomas Kinkade painting.
Thus, the support for Cruz, a man who has said “the overwhelming majority of violent criminals are Democrats," who wants to reinstate "Don't ask, don't tell," and who says God himself approves the idea of American exceptionalism. A man who proudly takes the stage after Phil Robertson of Duck Dynasty warms up the crowd by saying of gay rights supporters, "We have to rid the earth of them!" A man who says the uninsured can get their healthcare via emergency rooms, and who cites infamous civil rights opponent Jesse Helms as an inspiration.
If Republicans think Cruz is going to be their savior, then they're in deeper trouble than they realize. If they think propping up a guy like Rick Perry, who already tried and failed, twice, to run a campaign for president, is going to get voters to reconsider, then they're delusional.
And if they think they're upholding good old American values by throwing out millions of primary votes and telling their own base they're wrong to pick Trump, then they'll destroy what's left of their party.
The problem isn't Trump. He's a blustering, ego-driven candidate who doesn't have the temperament to be president, nor has he offered specifics on anything he says he'll do as leader of the free world. But the fact that Trump has been dominating this contest, and has made the GOP's most prominent stars look foolish, says volumes about the state of the party. The problem is with the GOP itself.
Unless Republican leaders do some serious soul-searching about the future and identity of their party, they're not only forfeiting the 2016 race, but they're forfeiting the GOP's existence as a viable political party.