So it has come to this: a brokered convention or President Hillary Clinton.
These options seem to be what's left to Republicans of conscience, who are, let's face it, rather Romney-come-latelys to the pyre. They're based on the following evidence: It is highly unlikely that Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio or John Kasich can wrest the nomination from Donald Trump, even though most polls show each of the three beating Clinton but Clinton beating Trump.
The most Republicans can hope for now is that Kasich and Rubio win the primaries in their home states of Ohio and Florida, respectively, as Cruz did in Texas, and enough other contests to deny Trump the necessary delegates, thus paving the way for a brokered convention. This was the recommendation of former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, who presented a line-item, factual take-down of Trump on Thursday.
The other option, offered in the service of saving the republic, is to vote for Clinton.
There, there, now. 'Tis bitter fruit, indeed, for any Republican to consider voting for Clinton for reasons well-known to all sentient beings, including, for the sake of clarity, her lack of appeal to the GOP's dominant older-white-male demographic. This was the party, after all, that saw the future in former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin — she of the red-heeled tundra, sparkler of fantasies and promisor of all that is ordinary.
Not surprisingly, she has endorsed Trump. Because? Because he's an "outsider" (like any other Ivy-educated heir-billionaire) and, perhaps for the same reason, Palin once said she dashed to see his ex-wife Ivana when she visited the cosmetics counter of an Anchorage department store: "We are so desperate in Alaska for any semblance of glamour and culture."
Nobody does glam like The Donald.
Even though few Republicans could ever vote Democratic, and certainly not for Clinton, it wouldn't be the end of the world as we know it. But voting for Trump, whom other civilized nations find abhorrent, might be.
Any hope that Trump might not really mean what he says is either delusional or a gamble too far. Which would voters prefer: The man who promises a "total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States," or one who'll say anything to get elected? The lunatic or the liar?
It has finally dawned on Republicans that their die is cast and Trump is about to destroy the party he relatively recently re-joined. Like a bunch of Ebenezer Scrooges, GOP leaders have begun emerging from their sleep, blinking at the horror of past misdeeds, trying to prevent a future that their actions foretold. Both House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have publicly distanced themselves from some of Trump's positions.
Republicans may be forgiven for thinking the Trump carnival would have ended by now, but they don't deserve much slack for allowing their party to devolve from an ideas-driven counterweight to liberalism to a ragtag consortium of discontents dissociated from anything like an intellectual trust.
From William F. Buckley to Donald J. Trump in the wink of a Palin eye, the reaper is grim, indeed.
It finally has taken someone such as Romney, whose deference to duty is one of his life's defining principles, to say the words others have been too cowardly to express: Love of country requires that Trump be stopped.
If this ultimately means a brokered convention, then Romney might be willing to step up again — even at the risk of losing a third time. Only the servant bound by duty would submit to such excruciation.
Then again, the country might be ready for an honest man like Romney who embodies many of the qualities of the various candidates combined — a successful governor (Kasich) and businessman (Trump), a constitutionalist (Cruz), someone with respect for the rule of law without the Draconian flair of a Cruz or Trump, and with compassion for the downtrodden as well as an eye for the possible over the promised (Clinton).
Still, if a last-minute audible isn't available, it may be time for some creative destruction. Should Trump become the nominee, more reasoned minds in the GOP might do well to abandon it altogether. The death of this party -- of know-nothing ugliness and outright fascist rhetoric -- might be a blessing, a cleansing of the palate before a resurrection of the party of limited government and individual liberty.
Until then, it's hail to the chieftess.
Kathleen Parker's columns appear in more than 400 newspapers. She won the prestigious H.L. Mencken Writing Award in 1993. Read more reports from Kathleen Parker — Click Here Now.