Democrats came alive last week when Donald Trump, ill-prepared and under pressure, told Chris Matthews that women should be subject to “some form of punishment” for getting an illegal abortion. Never mind that there is no conceivable way that abortion would become illegal in the next four years. Never mind that no one was even talking about abortion in the Republican primaries. Never mind that it was obvious to any observer that Trump was winging it. And never mind that he quickly retreated back to safe political ground within hours. When Democrats have a chance to press the “war on women” button, they’re going to take it.
This was what so many anti-Trump conservatives failed to notice when they were criticizing him last week. In fact, it’s what they have missed since last summer. While everyone is so busy coming up with new and inventive ways to slam the Republican frontrunner, the Democrats are rubbing their hands together and cackling. What conservatives and establishment Republicans say about Trump, Democrats say about the entire party.
And here we are again.
“Don’t be misled,” Hillary Clinton said at a town hall in New York. “Trump may be the most outrageous of the Republicans, but he is saying what all of them believe. They want abortion to be illegal, and they do want to punish women and doctors. He just committed the sin of actually telling people what they believe.”
There’s not one shred of evidence that this is the case – almost no one in conservative circles defended Trump’s statement – but since when does that matter? It “feels” true to liberal voters, because it’s exactly the kind of thing they already believe about Republicans. Trump is reckless, plain-spoken, and politically incorrect, but he’s not completely off the reservation. He’s just showing America what the party is really all about.
By opposing Trump so fiercely, Republicans believe that they can fight back against this propaganda. No, look, we hate him as much as you guys do! We’re inclusive and tolerant and friendly and loving! Please believe us!
Instead, they are doing Hillary’s bidding for her. Even now, there is a very good chance that Trump will be the Republican nominee. Instead of throwing him under the bus at every opportunity, maybe even those who don’t like him would be wise to remember that. Would you rather win with an imperfect candidate or lose with a pure conservative?
With three months left in the primary season, it’s time to take that question seriously.