At the beginning of March, after Donald Trump’s Super Tuesday victories, I went to the Conservative Political Action Conference expecting to see right-wing Republicans in the midst of a frenzied effort to fend off the short-fingered huckster taking over their party. Instead, I found conservatives starting to resign themselves to a Trump triumph well before it became inevitable. It was obvious then that Never Trump, for all its stalwart Twitter declarations, valiant internet petitions, and steadfast National Review epistles, was never going to happen. When the time for testing came, Republicans were always going to fall in line.
Ted Cruz’s speech on Tuesday night announcing the suspension of his campaign gives us some idea of how they’re going to spin it. Cruz invoked parents and grandparents watching the July 4 fireworks with their children and pondering the future of the republic. “Will we rise to meet the challenges that face our nation on the international stage, or will we withdraw and cower timidly from the world,” he intoned. “Will we secure freedom of thought, expression, and religion for future generations, or will we succumb to the tyranny of political correctness and the temptation of racial politics and balkanization here at home. Will we hold fast to our founding values of rewarding talent, hard work, and industry, or will we continue on that path of creeping socialism that incentivizes apathy and dependency. … This is the responsibility with which we have been charged by history.”
Trump wasn’t mentioned once, but this was the speech of someone who is ready to unify his party against the Democratic threat, even if that means supporting the man who, just hours earlier, tried to link his father to JFK’s assassination. It was the speech of someone who wants to make capitulation to Trump sound noble. We’re going to hear a lot of others like it before the summer is through.