The tumultuous #NeverTrump movement received some much needed rejuvenation this past week when the Donald’s remaining adversaries, “Lyin’ Ted” Cruz and John “1 in 38” Kasich, announced a combined effort to deny Trump the Republican nomination. The plan consists of each campaign shuttering their campaigns in states that lean toward the other candidate—Kasich is now focusing on Oregon and New Mexico, while Cruz shifts efforts to Indiana. In theory, this will cause voters to consolidate around one candidate, allowing that candidate to edge out Trump in these winner-take-all contests.
The pundits’ collective mouths have been watering over such a possibility ever since Rubio tried to broker a similar deal with Kasich before the Florida and Ohio primaries—Kasich left him out to dry and Rubio lost his home state. Although a formal alliance has materialized this time around, there is little doubt in my mind that the result will be just as disastrous.
Within 12 hours, problems with the alliance had already begun to percolate. While the implicit reason for each campaign to strategically shut down their campaign operations was to push voters in their ally’s direction, Kasich made clear that he was by no means telling his supporters to vote for Cruz—he just wasn’t going to expend any more resources in those states. Since Kasich has just a little over $1 million cash on hand and no massive voter outreach operations, this is hardly a generous concession on Kasich’s part.
While some pundits might write these problems off as growing pains that come inevitably with this new unchartered alliance, both Cruz and Kasich have created even greater problems for themselves. Namely, in this half-hearted attempt to sway their voters to the other’s camp, they seem to have forgotten that voters are not their personal pawns. Even if Kasich were to wholeheartedly implore his supporters to vote for Cruz in Indiana—the newest state in a long line of “make or break” contests—it is unlikely that all of Kasich’s supporters will rally to Ted’s side. Though some of this might be due to the fact that Cruz’s Punchable-Face Score™ is off the charts, more likely than not it comes down to ideology.
One of the biggest reasons the Cruz-Kasich pairing is so odd is partially because they are on opposite ends of the spectrum. We have an alliance where the (mostly) moderate former Governor of Ohio is supposed to send his voters to one of the Tea Party’s most prolific heroes. It’s hard to imagine Kasich supporters (or Cruz fans, for that matter) abandoning their candidate for someone who differs so greatly from their views. If that seems like an already insurmountable challenge, there’s an even greater one standing in the ideological middle: Trump.
You may be struggling to picture immigrant-deporting, carpet-bomb-deploying, Muslim-banning Donald Trump as a moderate between Cruz and Kasich. However, once you look past The Donald’s hardline immigration stance, authoritarian rhetoric, a long list of –phobic remarks, and his support for several war crimes, Trump does rest somewhere in the ideological middle of the current contenders. As Vox’s Ezra Klein notes, Trump’s “promised to protect Social Security and Medicare from cuts, increase taxes on the rich, make the government cover the uninsured, renegotiate (or rip up) the nation’s trade deals, abide by Obama’s…nuclear deal with Iran, and so on.”
This amalgamation of policy is often misconstrued as extreme because of Trump’s aggressive and unrestrained personality, but it is really just a mixed bag. Unfortunately for Cruz and Kasich supporters on both sides might have a much easier time finding something they like in Trump’s platform before each other’s.
Part of me hopes that Trump’s widespread lack of appeal among Republicans will help keep disaffected Cruz and Kasich supporters away. Unfortunately, some might view a vote for Trump as the lesser of two evils. After all, one survey found that only 50 percent of Kasich’s supporters would vote for Cruz. Another third of supporters wouldn’t vote for anyone but Kasich. To be fair, “1 in 38 Kasich” isn’t exactly carrying a huge block of voters up his sleeves, but in order to stop Trump from clinching, Cruz will need a sizable block of them.
While there are many questions as to whether this new alliance can deny Trump the outright nomination, an even more daunting question might be what happens if they succeed? No matter which one of the Republicans ultimately seizes the nomination, it is inevitable that a portion of their supporters will choose to either skip the General or vote for another party. Given that some prominent Republicans have already said they’d vote for Clinton over Trump, a significant Republican exodus isn’t unfathomable.
Though it’s easy to point out the numerous flaws in the new Never Trump alliance, I also don’t think Cruz and Kasich have much of a choice. With Trump’s primary sweep this past Tuesday, his campaign is showing no signs of slowing down. I can’t blame Trump’s opponents for trying to hinder that momentum in everyway possible. However, by slapping together a half-assed coalition in a hope that some of their supporters will support the other guy, so that Trump doesn’t win, so then maybe Ted or Cruz will win the nomination, the Never Trump movement is grasping at straws. They are not stopping the momentum of the Trump Train; they’re merely throwing themselves on the tracks.