Joan Frawley Desmond, is the Register’s senior editor. She is an award-winning journalist widely published in Catholic, ecumenical and secular media. A graduate of the Pontifical John Paul II Institute for Studies of Marriage and Family, she lives with her family in California..
Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, a Catholic, has suspended his presidential campaign after his chief rival, Donald Trump, won the Republican primaries in Florida, Illinois and North Carolina.
When Rubio announced the end of his run for the presidency and congratulated Trump for winning the Florida race, his supporters booed.
“No, no, no,” he responded, quickly. “Guys, we live in a republic and our voters make this decision. We respect this.”
It is hard to predict whether such soothing words will have much effect on the estimated 44% of GOP voters who say they won't vote for Trump. Yet his political victories tonight have brought him much closer to his goal of 1,237 delegates.
That news will deepen the anxiety of Catholics who see Trump as a vulgar, authoritarian figure with a murky commitment to life issues and religious freedom. Last week, two leading Catholic public intellectuals, George Weigel and Robert George, issued a statement that denounced Trump and attracted a slew of signatures from conservatives.
"Donald Trump is manifestly unfit to be president of the United States," they argued, noting their lack of "confidence that he genuinely shares our commitments to the right to life."
While Rubio was in the race, many Catholics who agreed with Weigel and George's harsh judgment of Trump thought they had a clear choice. They may have worried about the Florida senator's lack of executive experience, but figured that the GOP could provide seasoned advisers to guide his administration. Looking back, though, political pundits now argue that Rubio's optimistic message about achieving the American dream didn't jibe with the dark mood of voters.
Now, as the New York Times put it, anti-Trump Republicans and others looking to support a pro-life candidate "are left with a pair of deeply flawed alternatives: Mr. Cruz, who has the second-most delegates but is reviled by many party leaders, and Mr. Kasich, who has so far run the equivalent of a favorite-son campaign, winning only Ohio."
But Cruz, who has bested Trump in nine states and fought hard for delegates in Missouri, still maintains that only his campaign can beat Trump.
Meanwhile, the businessman has asked Republicans to unify around his campaign. WilI his opponents within the party have the stomach for that?
At National Review, Victor Davis Hanson cautioned against anti-Trump hysteria, and tried to provide perspective by comparing Trump's questionable ideas and behavior with that of liberals who get a free ride from media commentators. Said Hanson:
Trump is all over the place on abortion, flip-flopping almost daily and without much clue about the mission of Planned Parenthood. But he has not seen abortion on demand as a good thing because it falls inordinately on the poor and minorities — in the fashion of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who matter-of-factly said to a friendly reporter, “Frankly I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we don’t want to have too many of.” If we thought Ginsburg’s callous remark was a slip of the tongue, she clarified it a few years later with a postscript: “It makes no sense as a national policy to promote birth only among poor people.” Did prominent philosophers, ethicists, and humanitarians sign a petition demanding that she step down, given her judicial ill temperament and what can only be described as displays, on not one but two occasions, of crackpot notions of racist eugenics?
Catholics that want a worthy leader for their party may not be satisfied with such arguments. Yet the brutal truth is that tonight Trump got a lot closer to meeting his goal.
“America’s in the middle of a real political storm, a real tsunami,” said the vanquished Marco Rubio. “And we should have seen this coming.”