Cam Newton's petulance after the Carolina Panthers lost to the Denver Broncos largely eclipsed the splendid season Newton had had before the Super Bowl. Since Donald Trump essentially clinched the GOP nomination after winning over 50% of the vote in seven consecutive primaries, a number of conservative pundits and Republican politicians have begun emulating Newton's post-Super Bowl antics, mostly without ever having a season in politics comparable to the one Newton had in football before the Super Bowl.
Actually, the stamping of political feet began even before Trump's decisive victory in Indiana. The week before the Indiana primary, Jonah Goldberg, David Brooks, and George Will each warned Republican and conservative figures that, after Trump loses in November, anyone who supported Trump will be discredited and should be run out of public life. Will went even further, calling on Republicans to visit the "condign punishment" of a 50 state defeat on Trump. This is, of course, a more or less straightforward call for the election of Hillary Clinton as president.
Back in 2000, Ramesh Ponnuru chastised Pat Buchanan for seeking the presidency as the Reform Party candidate, arguing that this jeopardized the pro-life cause since the Supreme Court was at stake. This logic should compel Ponnuru and his colleagues at National Review to swallow their pride and support Trump. After all, Antonin Scalia's death means that the future direction of the Supreme Court actually is at stake. If Hillary Clinton gets to appoint another liberal to join the liberal bloc of Breyer, Ginsburg, Kagan, and Sotomayor, the Supreme Court will be more reliably liberal than it has been in decades. This prospect hasn't fazed Ponnuru, who has continued attacking Trump, or National Review, which, in addition to running article after article blasting Trump, has recently run pieces touting Gary Johnson, the likely candidate of the Libertarian Party, as well as the third party effort being promoted by neocon William Kristol.
After Trump's victory, this petulance spread beyond pundits. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan told reporters that he was not yet ready to support Trump, because he was not sure that Trump's views were consonant with a Republican Party that Ryan described as being the party of Lincoln and Reagan and Jack Kemp. (Ryan could just as easily have described the GOP as being the party of Bill Miller, Sarah Palin, or the long-forgotten running mates of Alf Landon, Wendell Willkie, and Thomas Dewey, but political parties generally aren't defined by reference to the running mates of failed presidential candidates). To Ryan, Kempism means supporting economic policies that impoverish working class and middle class Americans in the name of "hope," "optimism," "opportunity," and similar banalities, and Ryan's version of Kempism was just thoroughly rejected by Republican primary voters. It is hard to see why Trump should replace his vision of the Republican Party that had just been embraced by millions of voters with one that failed to propel either Kemp or Ryan himself to the vice presidency.
Kempism wasn't all GOP primary voters rejected. They also rejected Bushism and the latest tribune of the Bush family, the hapless Jeb, as well as Mitt Romney, who emerged from retirement to urge GOP voters to support anyone but Trump. Now that Trump has secured the nomination, Jeb has broken the pledge he took to support the GOP nominee and both George Bushes and Mitt Romney have announced that they won't support Trump or even show up at the Republican convention in Cleveland. These pronouncements are undoubtedly intended to hurt Trump and, by extension, help Hillary.
What all of these die-hard opponents of Trump are arguing is that the voters should not be allowed to determine the direction of the Republican Party. It is easy to see why these Trump opponents have come to the this conclusion: a Trump victory would threaten their influence, their reputations, and even their livelihoods. The irony is that each of these Trump opponents was a staunch supporter of George W. Bush's disastrous effort to impose democracy on the Middle East by force of arms. Rather than worry about democracy in the Mideast, the sore losers of the GOP and the Beltway Right should instead learn how to accept the results of democracy within the Republican Party.
Thomas Piatak is a contributing editor to Chronicles: A Magazine of American Culture. He writes from Cleveland, Ohio.