Why Are Prominent Republicans Who Despise Trump Voting for Him Anyway?

If you want to understand why Donald Trump could win in 2024, look no further than Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, former Attorney General Bill Barr, and New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu. These three top Republican voices who previously condemned Trump now say they plan to vote for him again this November.

Let’s start with McConnell, who on Sunday (re)asserted that he would be voting for Trump for president. McConnell’s reason? “Because the voters of my party across the country have made a decision. As the Republican leader of the Senate, obviously, I’m gonna support the nominee of our party.”

Keep in mind, following Trump’s second impeachment trial in 2021, McConnell said that “Trump’s actions preceding the [Capitol] riot were a disgraceful dereliction of duty,” and that “There is no question that President Trump is practically and morally responsible for provoking the events of that day.”

Supporting a man McConnell has clearly deemed unfit for the office may make McConnell craven, cynical, or absurd, but he’s not alone in his decision.

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu, who backed Nikki Haley’s primary effort and has previously criticized Trump over Jan. 6, recently reiterated his support for Trump. And just last week, Trump Attorney General Bill Barr did the same.

To understand just how much sway tribalism and partisanship drives Republicans like Barr, look no further than an interview the former attorney general gave last week to CNN’s Kaitlin Collins.

“Just to be clear,” Collins said, “you’re voting for someone who you believe tried to subvert the peaceful transfer of power, that can’t even achieve his own policies, that lied about the election even after his attorney general told him that the election wasn’t stolen… You’re going to vote for someone who is facing 88 criminal counts?”

After some hemming and hawing, Barr confessed: “The answer to the question is ‘Yes.’ I’m supporting the Republican ticket.”

To a normal observer, McConnell, Barr, and Sununu have made assertions about Trump that should logically preclude him from serving as president again.

What is more, McConnell (who is stepping down from his leadership post in November) and Barr (who was just mocked by Trump) seemingly have little to gain by sucking up to Trump—and little to lose by opposing him. Only Sununu has a political future to consider.

So why are they all sticking with Trump?

McConnell and Sununu have given reasons that could be summed up by a (possibly apocryphal) quote from the 19th century French revolutionary Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin: “There go the people. I must follow them, for I am their leader.”

McConnell also has another reason. “I’m spending my political time and my political capital, whatever amount I have, on trying to flip the Senate so that my successor is the majority leader and not the minority leader,” he said on Sunday. In McConnell’s mind, he believes this effort will somehow advance his legacy. A presidential victory for Trump would make this scenario more likely.

Barr is the most grandiose and audacious of the three, saying, “I think Trump would do less damage than Biden, and I think all this stuff about a threat to democracy—I think the real threat to democracy is the progressive movement and the Biden administration.”

Honestly, I have no idea what Barr is smoking. As a conservative, there are many things about the left that I can’t stand (see the antisemitism problem), but many of these same leftists are protesting Joe Biden.

Likewise, there are numerous things about Biden I don’t like. That’s why I did not vote for him in 2020. But as the late humorist P.J. O’Rourke said about backing Hillary Clinton over Trump in 2016, “She’s wrong about absolutely everything, but she’s wrong within normal parameters.” Trump is wrong and he operates outside the normal parameters.

At the very least, Republicans who are cognizant of this situation might want to sit out the 2024 election.

Regardless, I think McConnell, Barr, and Sununu are representative of a portion of the Republican electorate. Along with the MAGA radicals, Trump’s coalition includes boring old white guys who read The Wall Street Journal and would literally vote for a Republican nominee even if he shot someone on Fifth Avenue.

When it comes to jumping off the crazy train, former Vice President Mike Pence is an outlier, in that he is a rare prominent Republican who has said he will not endorse Trump’s re-election.

If you want to understand why 46 percent of the American electorate are with Donald Trump—and why no amount of new information will sway them—look no further than these three amigos.

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