Super Tuesday III presented a definitive victory for Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican nomination. As my colleague Tyler O’Neill points out, Trump cannot officially claim presumptive status yet. However, a strong argument can be made that he will end up as the party’s nominee.
Let’s say that happens. Where does the #NeverTrump movement go from there? Electorally, it’s fair to guess that the movement will fracture. Some will vote third party in November. Some will abstain. Others will surely concede to their circumstances after much deliberation and vote for Trump after all.
Of course, there’s more at stake than who becomes the next president of the United States. There are consequential races at every level. Republicans who detest Trump still have candidates worth supporting for Congress, their state legislature, or other offices. Walking away from the party completely on account of Trump would sacrifice battles on those fronts. Yet, for many, the conviction to oppose Trump remains a matter of principle.
It adds up to a Republican Party more deeply fractured than it has been in modern history, with people working in trenches for the party who actively oppose its nominee. Then again, that was likely to be the case no matter how this contest turned out. If Trump were somehow denied the nomination, which may still happen, there would be just as much ruckus on account of that. This division within the party has less to do with the candidates and more to do with a polarity shift along the fault lines of coalition. Republicans don’t know who they are anymore, and the various definitions personified by different campaigns have proven irreconcilably different.