Republican Backlash Continues To Build Against Donald Trump
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
As Donald Trump continues his march towards the Republican presidential nomination, prominent people in the party keep saying they can't stomach this. Let's ask one of them why. Mac Stipanovich is a longtime GOP strategist and lobbyist in Florida.
We called him after he wrote an open letter to the party saying Hillary Clinton would be preferable to Trump.
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MAC STIPANOVICH: She's ethically challenged. She's a liberal. She stands for most of the things I've fought against for most of my life. But I can stand four more years of a Democrat before I can stand four years of a fascist.
GREENE: Stipanovich endorsed Jeb Bush first, then later Marco Rubio. He says would never get behind Trump.
STIPANOVICH: I think that Trumpism (ph) - I prefer actually to call it Cesarism (ph) - is a threat to the Republican Party and to the country. And so I feel an obligation to speak out. The Republican Party is not a cult. Just because a minority of voters in the Republican Party selected a nominee doesn't make him a Republican or a conservative.
GREENE: So you say a minority, but I mean, this is how, you know, primary election processes work. It was enough voters to put him in a position to be the nominee. I wonder why you would call that a cult, with so many people who've supported him so far.
STIPANOVICH: Well, because all you have to do is listen to many of his supporters. All you have to do is watch them ignore what he says, ignore the facts. And when you say but he just said so and so, they say I don't care.
He himself said he could kill somebody in the middle of 5th Avenue and his supporters wouldn't change their mind about him. And his supporters have echoed that. That is not a political movement. That's a cult.
GREENE: You know, I have to say, I've spent a lot of time traveling the country and talking to supporters of a lot of different candidates, including Donald Trump. And many of them seem like reasonable people who feel like they've been moved by his message. So I wonder what you would tell people like that. I mean, you seem to be sort of criticizing his supporters as well in a way.
STIPANOVICH: Yeah, I think that they are misinformed and haven't thought this through. Let's talk about his pledge to deport 12 million illegal aliens. Anybody who believes that the United States of America is going to round up, transport, guard, house, feed and deport 12 million people, twice as many as Stalin managed to deport in 30 years of trying, is a fool. And anybody who cynically exploits a fool's credulity is a charlatan.
GREENE: So your message to his supporters, voters who have voted for him, is they just haven't read up enough.
STIPANOVICH: I would say to his supporters, I understand your anger. I understand your frustration. I understand your anxiety - country's changing rapidly, socially, things are changing rapidly, racially the country's in transition.
But step back and think about what can actually be done about that. We're not going back to 1956. And to just elect someone like Donald Trump because you're frustrated is irresponsible.
GREENE: Can I just ask you, is there an argument that if Donald Trump is - you know, is indeed the nominee, that people like yourself, who have experience in your party, who know the party, that the best idea would be to sort of get behind him and try to make him into the best candidate you possibly can, to move forward and have a Republican Party that's excited and energized in this election?
STIPANOVICH: No, I think probably that the best thing to do is to learn from the phenomena that produced Donald Trump and to not be so sanguine about the ability of a 69-year-old man to change his behavior, his opinions and his mindset. I mean, I think there's an old saying that you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. And I don't think that our time would be well spent trying.
GREENE: Mac Stipanovich is a longtime Republican strategist in Florida. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.