Why didn’t Republican elites try to stop Trump?

I’ve been too busy finishing my novel to blog about my many insightful political observations.  But anyway, I was reading many discussions in the media over the past few days about how the Republican elites failed to stop Trump.  The canonical text is this article in the New York Times.

In public, there were calls for the party to unite behind a single candidate. In dozens of interviews, elected officials, political strategists and donors described a frantic, last-ditch campaign to block Mr. Trump — and the agonizing reasons that many of them have become convinced it will fail. Behind the scenes, a desperate mission to save the party sputtered and stalled at every turn.

This became obvious to me as I worked out in my local gym in the mornings leading up to the New Hampshire primary.  The Boston TV stations reach into New Hampshire, so we see all the campaign ads aimed at NH voters.  I would be on the treadmill looking at the news on three separate TVs, and each of them would be running the same set of ads.  And none of them were negative ads aimed at Trump.  I can see why the individual candidates wouldn’t run them–they were too busy trying to bolster their own campaigns.  But why not an outside SuperPAC?  Why wouldn’t Mitt Romney dump a few million dollars into this?

The Massachusetts primary is coming up this Tuesday, and the latest poll shows Trump getting 43% of the vote.  And where is our popular, moderate Republican governor Charlie Baker?  Sitting silently on the sidelines, now that the candidate he endorsed, Chris Christie, has dropped out.  Why won’t he use any of his political capital to try to stop Trump?

If I were a rational Republican (and I don’t know how many of them there are), I would be gnashing my teeth.  But of course, if they were really rational, they would long ago have abandoned the modern Republican party.  Here is Josh Marshall in Talking Points Memo:

Trump is very little different from the average candidate Republicans elected in 2010 and 2014, in terms of radical views and extreme rhetoric. All he’s done is take the actual GOP issue package, turn it up to eleven and put it on a high speed collision course with RNC headquarters smack in the middle of presidential election year.

Americans like their candidates religious, but not really religious

So the Republican senate candidate from Indiana has gotten himself in hot water for saying that pregnancy resulting from rape is the will of God:

“I’ve struggled with it myself for a long time, but I came to realize that life is that gift from God,” Mourdock said. “And even when life begins in that horrible situation of rape, that it is something that God intended to happen.”

On the one hand, God intended the baby to happen.  On the other hand, God didn’t intend the rape that resulted in that gift from God, which is sort of confusing.  This is somewhat different from the “legitimate rape” comment that got another Republican senate candidate into trouble.  The latter was just bad science; the former is theology.  As I say, I find the theology somewhat confusing, but not absurd, from a Christian perspective.  Bad things (like rape) happen as a result of free will; God permits them even if He doesn’t approve of them.  But God is in favor of life, and He is certainly opposed to the unjustified ending of life.  And presumably that is the case Mourdock was trying to make.

Kevin Drum makes the point that this is a pretty conventional religious belief. It’s just not the sort of thing a politician (in particular) is supposed to say out loud:

What I find occasionally odd is that so many conventional bits of theology like this are so controversial if someone actually mentions them in public. God permits evil. My faith is the only true one. People of other faiths are doomed to spend eternity in Hell. Etc. There’s a lot of stuff like this which is either explicit or implied in sects of all kinds, and at an abstract level we all know it. Somehow, though, when someone actually says it, it’s like they farted in church. Weird.

I don’t find it particularly odd, though.  Americans like religion, but most of us are not especially religious when it comes to actual dogma.  So people like Mourdock or Rick Santorum who are really religious make us uncomfortable.  And they make the mainstream media, who are even less religious, even more uncomfortable.  So good politicians always skate around the implications of their (supposed) religious beliefs, because they don’t want to make anyone uncomfortable.

I see all of this from the perspective of a lapsed Catholic.  For example, Catholic theology is about as clear about abortion as it is about anything.  Abortion is murder.  Murder is a mortal sin.  People who commit mortal sins will go to hell. So, to a true believer, the fifty million or so American women who have had abortions since 1973 are going to hell (except for those who subsequently repented).  So are the doctors and nurses involved in the abortions.  Maybe all the politicians who vote in favor of abortion rights are going to hell too.  It would have been great if someone at one of those primary debates had asked Santorum about all those people going to hell.  (Santorum, by the way, thinks the Mourdock controversy is “gotcha politics.”)  I wonder if Santorum would have been a good enough politician to skate around it?