Opinion

The Case For Stickin': Don't Leave the GOP Just Yet

Divorces should be a last resort

If Trumpism is eventually discredited and collapses, future Republican leaders will be needed to pick up the pieces, writes Matt Lewis. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call file photo)

There’s a scene from "Office Space" where a character who shares the name of Grammy-award winning crooner Michael Bolton is asked why he refuses to go by “Mike.”  

“Why should I change?” he spits out. “He's the one who sucks.”  

I thought of that the other day when I read that top Jeb Bush aide and confidant Sally Bradshaw had bailed on the Republican Party on account of Donald Trump's behavior.  

Why should she leave?  

Of course, Bradshaw’s not alone. Conservative columnist George Will recently announced that he had also bid farewell to the Grand Old Party. This grand gesture (which is sure to continue as a trend) strikes me as either a way to garner attention—or an utterly symbolic, if sincere, attempt at catharsis. But it’s not helpful or rational. It’s tantamount to declaring you’re going to up and move to Canada if your favorite candidate doesn’t win in November. It might make you feel better, but does it really accomplish anything?  

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It is also ironic. Bradshaw’s exodus actually underscores one of the larger problems that cultivated the cult of Trump: the decline of loyalty to institutions.  

People used to get married and stay together forever. Likewise, people used to stay true to their political party for life. For better or worse. In sickness and in health.  

This is not to say that there are never good reasons to split; Ronald Reagan—and a lot of other conservatives—left the Democratic Party as it began to radicalize. But divorces, political or otherwise, should be a last resort. They are messy. Bonds are permanently broken. And besides, they suck up valuable time and resources. Divorces should only come after intensive counseling and sincere efforts for a rapprochement.  

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Besides, fleeing the party is a tacit concession that this is now Trump's party. It isn’t. You don’t abandon your house the first time a houseguest overstays his welcome (unless you’re Dennis Wilson, and that houseguest is Charles Manson — but that’s a different story). Trump's attempt at a hostile takeover isn’t complete.  

Trump could lose in November, and the base could then come to its senses. If that happens, Republican voters might finally have to have a “Come to Jesus” meeting.  

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If Trumpism turns out to be a bubble, then that means voters might start looking around for Republican leaders who can help lead them out of the wilderness when it finally bursts.  

Conservative leader Morton Blackwell says that “in moments of crisis, the initiative passes to those who are best prepared.” Guess who’s not prepared to help rescue a flailing political party? That’s right. The people who didn't stick it out. If the party wakes up, only the loyal and stalwart will have permission to put it back together.  

A better idea is to be a conservative movement in exile — a loyal opposition, if you will. If Trumpism is discredited and collapses, it will be vital for future leaders to A) have preserved their integrity and B) still be in the party. I really think you need both things. And don’t forget, there are plenty of potential leaders ready to fill this role, whether that is someone like House Speaker Paul Ryan (who has nominally endorsed Trump, but — I think — managed to preserve his honor), South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, or Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse.  

Disaffected Republicans like Bradshaw should realize that they’ve really only lost one election. A lot of conservatives held their nose, while moderates like Mitt Romney — and establishment families like the Bushes — were repeatedly nominated. Maybe we should wait and see how this plays out before we rush in headlong and make a rash decision.  

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Don’t get me wrong. There may very well come a time when this house is permanently divided — when this family is so dysfunctional and abusive that it is unsalvageable, and when the great divorce becomes necessary. If the GOP becomes the Party of Trump, then any connection to it will be untenable. I’m just not prepared to say that merely nominating Trump constitutes the crossing of the Rubicon. Divorce is painful enough.  

Remember, Republicans currently control the U.S. Senate and House, as well as the majority of state capitols and state legislatures.  

Let’s stay together — at least until November. For the good of the kids.  

Roll Call columnist Matt K. Lewis is a Senior Contributor to the Daily Caller and author of the book “Too Dumb to Fail.” Follow him on Twitter @MattKLewis.

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