Republican Leaders Are Hostile to Trump’s Presidential Bid
The Republican Party is going to need some time to sort out the internal chaos caused by Donald Trump. Having blown all of his rivals out of the water, his nomination as the conservative candidate to the White House in November’s presidential election is now nearly inevitable, but the party’s wounds run deep. Regarded with suspicion by a good part of the Republican leadership, Trump has in his hands the future of the party. A critical move will be his choice of candidate for the vice presidency, a role that will involve compensating for the unorthodoxy of the former television star.
Having failed in their attempts to stop Trump’s campaign, which few took seriously when he threw his hat into the ring a year ago, the Republican establishment is now making plain its discomfort with the man who, without doubt, will be their candidate in six months’ time. In recent days, high-ranking Republicans and high-profile Republican supporters have offered their opinions on Trump, a man whose campaign has been based on a populism that has divided American society in debates on topics such as immigration, and that has shaken the ideological foundations of the Republican Party.
Both George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush, the two most recent conservative presidents, have made clear that they will not publicly support Trump in a presidential battle that will almost certainly be fought against Hillary Clinton. Paul Ryan, speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives — the most important institutional post held by the Republicans — has also stated that he is not prepared to support the magnate in the electoral process.* Republican leaders of Hispanic origin have also added their voices to the chorus of those not hiding their unease over the man who is set to win the Republican nomination.
Trump, however, is not daunted by an internal movement that is having difficulty coming to terms with the decision of the Republican electorate in the seemingly never-ending series of primaries. As his victory has begun to seem inevitable, Trump has toned down his anti-establishment rhetoric. However, the distrust with which this very same establishment regards him remains enormous. “I think the conservatives want to know, does he share our values and our principles … There are a lot of questions that conservatives, I think, are going to want answers to, myself included,” stated Ryan.
Going into an election against a candidate with as much political experience and strength as Hillary Clinton with such a divided party could be suicide — a fact of which both Trump and the Republican elite are acutely aware. In an attempt to build bridges in a party fractured by the bruising fight for the nomination, Ryan has invited Trump to meet with the Republican leadership this week.
On such a fraught stage, Trump’s choice of vice presidential candidate will play a very important role; he is conscious of the fact that his decision could be vital in making peace with the many sections of American society with which he has clashed in recent months, the Republican leadership first and foremost. To this end, the New York-born magnate has hinted that he may opt for John Kasich, a moderate politician who, until last week, was fighting Trump for the Republican nomination, and who is well regarded by the Republican Party machinery.
However, the list of those who have condemned Trump is a long one that includes both Hispanics and women, two groups whose votes could prove decisive in the election. Sen. Marco Rubio, who is of Cuban origin and who, until his crushing defeat in his home state in March, was the establishment’s favored candidate, has sought to put an end to speculation that he is set to become the vice presidential candidate, declaring, “I’m really not seeking it, I’m not requesting it, and it won’t happen.”
Other names that have been circulated include those of the governors of New Mexico, Susana Martínez, and South Carolina, Nikki Haley, one of the Republican Party’s brightest prospects. Last January, Haley, daughter of Indian immigrants, was charged with responding to President Obama’s State of the Union address, fueling speculation that she was to be chosen as the vice presidential candidate. However, Haley, who supported Rubio in the Republican race, is among the group of conservative leaders who have called into question Trump’s suitability for the White House.
*Translator’s note: Paul Ryan’s actual statement, when asked if he would support Trump, was that he was “just not ready to do that at this point.”