Finley: Trump litmus test will harm GOP

Nolan Finley
The Detroit News

The Donald Trump litmus test established by Republican Party Chair Reince Priebus for participation in the GOP will make it harder to rebuild the party once Trump is done destroying it.

In a purely destructive move, Priebus last week called out Ohio Gov. John Kasich for not backing the Republican nominee, threatening that he and other former presidential contenders can forget about any future White House ambitions if they don’t climb aboard the Trump bandwagon. (Ted Cruz heeded the warning Friday.)

Think about how boneheaded the threat is. Kasich is the popular governor of one of the three most important battleground states in this election. True, he, like Jeb Bush, reneged on a campaign pledge to support the Republican nominee no matter who it was.

But Kasich represents a lot of mainstream conservatives and Republicans who have watched this campaign unfold and are appalled at what they’ve seen and heard from Trump. It’s not sour grapes. It’s a matter of conscience.

And it is not an insignificant group. It includes most of the Bush family, including the last two Republican presidents. Other GOP governors, including Michigan’s Rick Snyder, are among the ranks of those who haven’t endorsed Trump. And senators, former congressmen and respected Republican strategists. Some are openly backing Hillary Clinton, but most are just sitting on the sidelines.

The latter group includes Republican mega-donors Paul Singer and the much maligned Koch brothers. They have chosen principle over partisanship, deciding that the well-being of the country matters more even than who will appoint the next Supreme Court justices.

Will Priebus exile them, too? Will he tell David and Charles Koch to take their checkbooks and go home in 2020?

Most of the #NeverTrump Republicans are still laboring tirelessly on behalf of the party, if not the top of the ticket. Kasich is campaigning to help keep the GOP’s congressional majorities. Snyder is working hard to maintain Republican control of the Michigan House.

The Koch brothers are pouring money into congressional races and other down ballot contests.

They are not traitors to the Republican Party. Rather, they represent the GOP’s sanity wing.

These are exactly the people the party will need after Trump is trampled to rebuild a Republican Party that can appeal to a wider and more diverse swath of the American electorate.

George W. Bush recently mused that he might be the last Republican president in U.S. history. Others are looking at the nation’s demographics and concurring they work hard against the GOP.

The narrative doesn’t have to play out, if Republicans embrace pragmatism and a broader world view, and come to the recognition that they can’t impose an ideology held dearly by one-third of the country on the other two-thirds who don’t share their beliefs. The GOP has to pull back from the extremes and become a center-right party again.

That’s the message Kasich and others are trying to send. Rather than shunning them, Priebus should strive to keep these wise men and women in the Republican ranks. He’s going to need them.

Nolan Finley’s book “A Little Red Hen: A Collection of Columns from Detroit’s Conservative Voice” is available from Amazon, iBooks and Barnes & Noble Nook.