The five stages of Republicans’ grief over Donald Trump

After the businessman’s strong Super Tuesday showing, attitudes are starting to change inside the Republican party.

Republicans woke up on Wednesday morning not sure if the so-called Super Tuesday was actually so super: The party is divided, the establishment has a frontrunner it dislikes and none of the challengers made any great breakthrough.

But such is Donald Trump’s strength after his showing at the polls, that there are those who now believe there may be a way to work with him – and hope that he may not be such a bad option after all.

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It is interesting to see the change in attitude towards the billionaire businessman.

In many ways it reflects the five stages of grief.

1. Denial

At first they thought Trump’s campaign would never last. They believed it would perhaps survive through the summer. They were sure that Trump would say something, or do something, that would seriously damage his campaign.

From the first moments, when he accused Mexico of sending their worst people as immigrants to the US, Trump walked into several battles. Each one was predicted to kill the campaign.

But his poll numbers kept going up. When he came second in Iowa, there were some who were relieved, believing they were about to be proved right. But then he won the next three states in a row.

Trump was not going away.

2. Anger

Trump has been able to tap into a widespread anger among Republican voters. The exit polls showed people are frustrated with the government, with the Republican Party and with their own economic situation, and they are looking for a game changer.

The Republican Party is angry too. Many of them don’t believe Trump is a true Republican, never mind the Conservative he claims to be.

They point to his previous positions on abortion, on immigration and his comments on temporarily banning Muslims from entering the US.

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And he infuriated them further before the vote in South Carolina, where he attacked former Republican President George W Bush as a “liar” for the intelligence that led to the US invading Iraq. Former presidential hopeful and South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham told Trump to “get the hell out of my party”.

But Trump’s refusal to initially condemn the racist Ku Klux Klan saw him widely attacked. He eventually disavowed the support of a former leader of the group, but not before he stoked some pretty severe anger.

3. Bargaining

There are those in the Republican Party who have now made their peace with the idea of a Trump candidacy, which they hope will lead to a presidency. The most high-profile is New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, who gave him his endorsement last week.

But others have begun to imagine what it might be like with the businessman in the White House.


They are trying to convince themselves that somehow they’ll be able to rein in some of his more aggressive and unsettling instincts.

They point to some of his comments after his win on Super Tuesday, which they said sounded statesmanlike.

And they believe that given he is a political neophyte, he would have to rely on the political establishment to operate the levers of power and that may give some sway over him. 

4. Depression

Some Republicans are slightly further along the five stages. They are totally depressed with the idea of Trump winning the nomination, fearing he has no ideological core and will say anything to get elected.

READ MORE: What’s behind the rise of Donald Trump?

They lose sleep worrying about the damage he would do to the party’s reputation and wonder if that would lock them out of the White House for many election cycles to come. And they fear that a Trump candidacy will energise the Democratic Party and bring out voters in huge numbers.

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That could hit votes for Republicans across the ticket in November, so possibly put the US Senate at risk as well as a number of state governorships.

In their worst moments, they have nightmares that this could be the end of the Republican Party as they know it, seeing it hijacked by Trump and his supporters.

5. Acceptance

There’s been talk that somehow the Republican Party will refuse to accept Trump if he secures the nomination. But you simply cannot set up a process to involve the party to select a presidential candidate, run elections in all 50 states and a number of territories and then reject the outcome.

There is such huge distrust of the political establishment on both sides, that would simply play in to the hard-held views people have and turn them off the process for years, if not generations to come.

The Republicans may just have to accept Trump if he wins the nomination.

Source: Al Jazeera