WASHINGTON, May 8, 2016 — Donald Trump is his party’s presumptive nominee, but the “Never Trump” movement says the fight to stop him is far from over. One of the biggest anti-Trump groups, the Never Trump PAC, has intensified the fight, even though the battle to deny Trump the nomination is already lost.
Never Trump PAC’s main focus now, it says, is to wage war against the presumptive GOP nominee in order to protect Republicans in down-ballot races in November and help the party keep control of Congress.
The Never Trump PAC includes several prominent Republicans, including former Republican staffer Rory Cooper, who worked in the George W. Bush administration. Never Trump PAC circulated a petition last week asking conservatives to promise not to vote for Trump. The petition has almost 30,000 signatures.
Though Trump has clinched the nomination, the PAC calls on delegates not to “sign off on” his nomination at the convention in July. But most delegates’ hands are tied. Most are required under party and state rules to support him on the first ballot. In the ever-more-likely case that Trump clinches the 1,237 delegates required to win the nomination before the convention, a second ballot is unlikely, even if there were a viable alternative.
Trump’s nomination is a moment of crisis—and defiance. For decades, the thought leaders of the conservative base have said that the electoral misfortunes of the GOP were due to insufficiently conservative candidates at the top of the ticket. For the “Never Trump” crowd there is only one certainty: Under no circumstances will they vote for the New York businessman. As conservatives who value principle over party, even at the risk of handing the White House to the opposing party, many of them have publicly taken an oath against Trump.
A sizable contingent of the GOP base promises that they will not, no matter the cost, pull the lever for Trump. Whether this movement withers or grows in the months ahead may be the deciding factor in the 2016 presidential election. If the GOP has been the party of conservative values up until now, what does it become when it throws its weight behind a decidedly un-conservative standard-bearer? If conservatives can’t back their party’s nominee, where do they go?
Many in the “Never Trump” movement have promised to vote for Hillary Clinton. The Republican party is fracturing over Trump. The stubbornly Never Trump crowd believes that the cruelty and crudeness of the real-estate developer’s approach—not to mention what they see as his ideological inanity—could taint conservatism for years, possibly decades. They view the man most famous for deal making as more likely to stake out opening negotiating positions than to assert true conservative policies. For these conservatives, four years of Hillary Clinton is a price worth paying to stop Donald Trump.