The Donald finally went too far for the other Republican candidates for president and for the party establishment. He issued a statement on Pearl Harbor Day that opened with the sentence “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” The response in many quarters was to label Mr. Trump a fascist, to call him un-American and to note that his shut down is unconstitutional. While one might expect that from supporters of Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Sanders, the very same things came from the mouths of Republicans. Whether the many Doctors Frankenstein in the party can subdue their monster is hard to say, but it seems they have finally realized what they have created.
The threat this poses to the GOP is easy to discern. Hillary Clinton told a rally in New Hampshire, “Their [the other GOP candidates’] language may be more veiled than Trump’s, but their ideas are not so different. They are all driving the same argument that jihadists are trying to advance — that we are at war not with barbarous jihadists but with an entire religion.” In other words, it’s not Mr. Trump alone but the entire Republican Party that is sacrificing freedom for a false sense of security. This will not only hurt the party’s standard bearer in 11 months’ time, it will also damage down-ballot candidates.
Florida Congressman David Jolly, who is currently trying to win the Republican nomination for Marco Rubio’s Senate seat, condemned Mr. Trump’s statement from the well of the House, and his office issued a statement that read in part, “While ISIS is beheading innocent people for their religious practices, Trump is betraying our freedoms. His brutal, bullying bigotry runs contrary to the very principles our forefathers fought so hard to defend. We are either a party of protecting the constitution and religious liberties or we’re not. America should insist on a security test but never a religious test.” This journal agrees with Mr. Jolly on very little, but in this instance, there is not a comma to be changed.
Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus told the Washington Examiner “I don’t agree [with Mr. Trump]. We need to aggressively take on radical Islamic terrorism but not at the expense of our American values.”
“As a conservative who truly cares about religious liberty, Donald Trump’s bad idea and rhetoric send a shiver down my spine,” South Carolina GOP chairman Matt Moore tweeted. “American exceptionalism means always defending our inalienable rights, not attacking them when it’s politically convenient.”
Jeb Bush tried to advance the meme that Mr. Trump is a Clinton cat’s paw by saying that Mr. Trump’s comment “helps his buddy, Hillary Clinton, for sure. In our fight against Islamic terrorism, we have to maintain our values and what he proposed, if that’s a proposition, is not a serious proposition at all.”
Chris Christie said of Mr. Trump’s shut down “this is the kind of thing people say when they have no experience and don’t know what they are talking about.”
Lindsey Graham said “You know how you make America great again? Tell Donald Trump to go to hell . . . . He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party. He doesn’t represents the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for. … He’s the ISIL man of the year.”
The trouble is what to do about him? Mr. Trump is the party’s front-runner according to the polls with about 30% of the GOP primary voters. As this journal has noted before, in a two-man race 30% is a disastrous defeat; in a 15-candidate election, it’s an unassailable plurality. In the interests of the party and the nation, a good dozen of the GOP contenders need to fall on their swords and quit the campaign now. In a race of Mr. Trump, Dr. Carson, Ms. Fiorina and one serious candidate, the Trump threat can be defeated at the polls.
Such machinations might set Mr. Trump off to run as an independent, his signed pledge to the contrary not withstanding. That would split the anti-Democrat vote and ensure a Republican defeat next year. It is a risk worth running because if Mr. Trump wins the nomination, the Republicans may be locked out of the White House not just for four years but potentially for decades.