On Tuesday night Lachlan Markay, a political reporter based in Washington, D.C., tweeted a photo that grabbed the national media’s attention.
Markay, a Republican, burned his voter’s registration card.
Poof. It was gone.
Then he followed it up with a pledge echoed by many other card-carrying Republicans.
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Now that Donald Trump is the Republican Party’s presumptive presidential nominee — John Kasich is expected to bow out Wednesday like Ted Cruz did Tuesday night — the talk shifts to building unity within a party left broken and fractured after a contentious primary season.
“We’ve had enough intraparty fighting,” says former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman. “Now it’s time to stitch together a winning coalition.”
Trump already has high-profile Republicans in his camp. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie. Sarah Palin. Former Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal and Ari Fleischer, press secretary for former president George W. Bush, have already said they will support Trump in the general election.
“There’s a lot about Donald Trump that I don’t like, but I’ll vote for Trump over Hillary any day,” said Fleischer.
When the Washington Post surveyed every Senate Republican in March, most signaled they’d support Trump even though, the newspaper noted, his nomination could ruin Republican chances to hold on to the Senate.
“Whether they committed to support Trump or not, most Republican senators were hoping this day wouldn’t come,” the Post noted Wednesday. “Now they’re on the hook for getting behind someone who has completely upended their party and looks like he’ll be the most unpopular major-party presidential nominee in recent history.”
Judging by the stream of comments on social media beginning Tuesday evening, party unity will be elusive.
Vote for Trump?
Never. Gonna. Happen. For some.
Trump’s response? He says he doesn’t need every Republican to back him.
“I don’t think it’s imperative that the entire party come together. I don’t want everybody,” he said Wednesday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” program.
“I don’t even want certain people that were extraordinarily nasty. Let them go their own way. Let them wait eight years or let them wait 16 years or whatever, because I think we’re going to have a great success against, probably Hillary ...”
The New York Times noted the wide spectrum of dissenters within the party, “from wizened elders to younger strategists and even elected officials,” who are “loudly and publicly proclaiming their unwillingness to support Mr. Trump.”
Like Markay, some party members are turning in their Republican cards.
One of the first elected Republicans to oppose Trump, Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, doubled down on his opposition Tuesday night by retweeting an essay he posted to Facebook in February.
The Tea Party Republican, considered someone to watch within the party, wrote passionately and at length about why he could not support Trump.
“My current answer for who I would support in a hypothetical match-up between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton is: Neither of them,” wrote Sasse. “I sincerely hope we select one of the other GOP candidates, but if Donald Trump ends up as the GOP nominee, conservatives will need to find a third option.
“Mr. Trump’s relentless focus is on dividing Americans, and on tearing down rather than building back up this glorious nation.”
Sasse is not the only Republican withholding affection for the presumptive nominee.
From Tony Fratto, a former deputy press secretary to President George W. Bush:
From Steve Deace, a conservative radio show host in Iowa:
Some Republicans, including Ben Howe, a contributing editor to the conservative website Redstate.com, have done the unthinkable and pledged to vote for you-know-who instead.
Mark Salter, a longtime strategist for Sen. John McCain of Arizona, is considering the same.
Fox News contributor Erick Erickson, founder of RedState.com, who has said he won’t be a Republican if Trump is the party’s nominee, wrote that he won’t vote for either Trump or Clinton should she be the Democratic nominee.
“I could no more vote for Donald Trump for president than I could David Duke,” wrote Erickson. “From here on out, it will be somewhat refreshing to cover this race while hating them all.
“This is going to end badly for the GOP. Everyone knows it — Republican leaders included — everyone knows it except Donald Trump’s supporters.”