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This 'Would You Rather' in the GOP Is No Longer a Game

The Huffington Post logo The Huffington Post 3/03/2016 Marianne Smallwood

You've heard of the game "Would You Rather," right? In the game, you pick farfetched hypothetical scenarios and have people vote on which they'd rather choose and why. Would you rather be buried alive or stranded at sea? Always have to tell the truth or always lie? Marry Paris Hilton or Charlie Sheen?
Until now, the 2016 GOP presidential race seemed like a strange game of "Would You Rather" come to life, but still too surreal to be a threat. Ted Cruz may be dislikable, Marco Rubio may seem the untested freshman, but did anyone seriously consider that Donald Trump - with his promises to build walls and track Muslims in America- was a true contender in this race? Not really. Despite Trump placing second in a 2011 poll for potential GOP candidates, few thought he'd go through with it or would have the critical mass needed to carry him to the nomination.
How wrong we were. After Super Tuesday, results show that Trump won handily in seven of 11 states and is now the leading Republican candidate for president. Whatever amusement we saw Trump bring to U.S. politics has disappeared long ago. The GOP- conflicted between Trump's divisive candidacy and his unquestionable popularity that could be critical come November- critiques him from the sidelines, but has only recently understood the urgent need to unify around a strategy that can stop Trump winning the nomination.
To a large extent, Trump has gotten away with his showboating, grandstanding, and general offensiveness because he falls outside of traditional politics. We're all familiar with the unbelievable things he's said, which under normal circumstances would have run a normal candidate out of the race. He's insulted Muslims, women, Mexicans, African-Americans, said he'd violate the Constitution, mocks those with disabilities...the list goes on and on.
The fact that Trump has a spotty business history, a tendency to insult, no history of public service, and a willingness to offend voter groups and incite hate? That would typically disqualify people from being elected to city council, let alone the office of President of the United States. And yet, he resonates with many in the voting populace. The more extreme or outlandish Trump gets, the more he is heralded by his followers for validating racism and prejudices that many supporters now feel emboldened to voice. He's doing it for America, they say, so it's an acceptable means to an end. His loudness, his impunity, and his mastery of media manipulation has resulted in free and extensive coverage that has kept him at the forefront of the GOP race as voters head to the polls.
That said, Trump could still lose. Should three of the other four GOP candidates drop out, supporters of those candidates may cast their ballots in support of the final non-Trump candidate. That may not happen soon. Cruz and Rubio are still vying for the number-two slot and Rubio is projected to do better from here on out. For either to drop out at this point would be a political sacrifice neither may be willing to make. But when Cruz starts praising Rubio to detract from Trump as a candidate, it's clear that the party now recognizes the urgent need to unify, not divide.
Time is running out for the GOP, which needs to act quickly if it wants a chance at a non-Trump nominee. More spending on anti-Trump ads will help neutralize the otherwise predominant media coverage of Trump. In turn, mainstream media should shift its attention towards other GOP candidates still in the race. Republicans must agree on a strategy to oust Trump and throw its full and unified weight behind it. Finally, Republican voters should be thoughtful about who they believe would be their best nominee for President of the United States. There is a world of difference between the skills used in a corporate boardroom, and the diplomacy and patience needed to navigate the behemoth of Washington politics and bureaucracy.
We thought it was a joke that Trump was even in this race. Ha, ha. Joke's on us.

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