You know your party’s in trouble when the lead headline from a presidential debate reads, “A National Descent into Trump’s Pants.”
But nothing Republican insiders are doing to save the party itself from Donald Trump seems to be working. An insider-funded super PAC began running ads against Trump for his shady business dealings, but that effort might have been more successful before Super Tuesday, instead of the day after, when the ads began.
Mitt Romney tried to discredit Trump as a “phony” in a surreal Thursday news conference, when he made no mention of taking Trump’s endorsement in a Las Vegas news conference four years earlier. A less charitable person might call Romney’s news conference phony, but I’m honestly not sure which one was real and which one was pure politics.
Marco Rubio tried to take Trump down last week by joining him in the gutter. At his campaign rallies, Rubio suggested Trump had wet his pants, that Trump has small hands (and we all know what that means), and that Trump should sue “whoever did that to his face” for his Jello-hued spray tan. But days later, Rubio stood indignant in Detroit lamenting Trump’s habit of engaging in personal attacks.
Other Republicans are trying other things. They’re writing open letters about never supporting Trump, trying to recruit Speaker Paul Ryan for president, and plotting scenarios to run ads against Trump if he’s the nominee, even as they promise they’ll support the GOP nominee no matter who it is.
The reality is that there is no way to out-Trump Trump. Question his manhood and he’ll tell you, on a debate stage, “There’s no problem, I assure you.” Run an ad against him, and he’ll detail the day and time you came begging him for money in Trump Tower. Accuse him of lying and he’ll lie about the lie he told in the first place.
The only way for Republicans to get a better result is to be Republicans getting better results. Turn off the Jerry Springer Show and “DTW,” as my mom always tells me — Do the Work. Show some leadership. Represent yourselves and your constituents with a little dignity.
They’ve got a great example to follow in Nathan Deal, Georgia’s two-term Republican governor.
Nathan Deal is nobody’s idea of a squish. He signed a bill last year to allow guns in Georgia bars. He’s refused the Medicaid expansion through the Affordable Care Act and even voted to impeach then-President Bill Clinton back in the day.
On Thursday, as the GOP establishment descended into a cauldron of desperation, hypocrisy and chaos, Deal was quietly saving Georgia Republicans from themselves on a contentious bill, championed by Republicans in the legislature, originally called the “Pastor Protection Act.”
The bill began as a measure to allow pastors not to perform same-sex weddings, but it quickly morphed into a bill to protect any people of faith for speaking or acting in accordance with “a sincerely held religious belief” against same-sex marriage or sex outside of marriage, a definition with so broad you could start your own religion and build a megachurch inside of it.
After weeks of watching the bill’s progress, Deal spoke out against it Thursday and used the gospel of John to do it.“We do not have a belief, in my way of looking at religion, that says we have to discriminate against anybody,” Deal said. “If you were to apply those standards to the teaching of Jesus, I don’t think they fit.”
The bill is now with the House, but Deal made it clear he won’t sign it in its current form. “I hope that we can all just take a deep breath, recognize that the world is changing around us, and recognize that it is important that we protect fundamental religious beliefs,” he said. “But we don’t have to discriminate against other people in order to do that.”
Georgia had the example of Indiana to learn from last year, when Gov. Mike Pence signed that state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act and ignited a backlash the state is still recovering from. Like Indiana, Georgia is home to major corporations like Delta, Home Depot and Coca-Cola that have large, diverse workforces. Those companies and others made it clear they do not want to do business in a state with a law that legalizes discrimination in anyone’s eyes.
Common sense would say any governor would prevent a bill from offending large employers in their own state, but common sense has been taking a vacation from politics lately. Speaking of which, Deal says he’ll also support the GOP nominee for president, no matter who it is. But a man can only save so much of the party from itself at once.
Roll Call columnist Patricia Murphy covers national politics for the Daily Beast. Follow her on Twitter at @1patriciamurphy.
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