Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus has gone out of his way to block and tackle for Donald Trump and disparage principled conservatives in his party who will never support Trump.
Twisting himself into a pretzel trying to provide cover for Trump, he suggests Trump is just like any other Republican nominee. He has discounted or ignored Trump's racist language and misogynistic insults and has failed to defend vigorously the integrity of Republicans whom Trump has attacked.
Moreover, Priebus has been mute in the face of Trump's series of horrific gaffes confirming that the billionaire lacks basic knowledge to be president and has no attachment to conservative principles.
Priebus was at it again on Sunday during an appearance on ABC News, proclaiming any third-candidate run would be a "dumb idea" and assuring anyone listening that the party will fall in line behind Trump. Priebus thus confirmed that he is not the leader of a party grounded in ideology and conviction but a party functionary willing to follow whoever barks orders at him.
Worse still, Priebus offered Trump more support, brushing aside criticism from Charles Koch ("But, you know, certainly [the Koch brothers] have their own activities that they work on. We have ours. There isn't actually that much intersection between the two"). He falsely insisted there is no money behind a third candidate and that it is essentially too late to mount such a run.
(Only two states, Texas and North Carolina, have deadlines before the end of June, and those states' deadlines are open to legal challenge.)
Even worse, he minimized Paul Manafort's gaffe (letting on that Trump has been projecting a phony image), saying, "So, yes, we think that tone matters and being presidential, it does matter. And I get the sense that they get that."
Priebus is going a long way toward offending principled conservative opponents of Trump, giving them every reason to abandon the party if Trump wins the nomination. He offers up the GOP as an empty vessel to Trump, indifferent to the damage his nomination would do to its ideological coherence. He is entirely oblivious to many conservatives determined to ensure that conservatism has a champion and a party to present their views.
Priebus's error has been in treating his party like the worst kind of soulless political consultant -- taking all comers so long as they win and indifferent to the character of the candidate and the content of his views. This is fundamentally wrong and amoral. The GOP has a mission that is greater than being on the winning side in elections. It is the vehicle for conservative principles; a defense of the GOP must be a defense of it as an agent and enabler of conservative values.
Take out the conservative values with a nominee like Trump, and you've destroyed the mission and the soul of the GOP. Separate conservatism from the GOP, and you separate conservatives from the party. It will no longer be an organization that lifelong Republicans find worth supporting, with their dollars or their votes.
If Priebus cannot comprehend this and re-calibrate his public comments, he should be quiet. His nonstop presence on TV is entirely unwarranted and merely exacerbates the tension in the party. If he keeps this up, he will be a chairman in search of a party.