Poor Marco!

You know,  I understand Marco Rubio's endorsement of Donald Trump. I really do. I also understand Joni Ernst endorsing him (though I still haven't gotten over her leading the convention in the same "USA! USA!" chant that was used to drown out dissent, or her praising of one of the ugliest and most un-American political movements in our history).

If you expect the party to back you in the future, you back the party right now. And in Marco's case, the matter was even more pressing than it would have been otherwise. He wants to be in a position to pick up the pieces after the Trump debacle this November and be the 2020 nominee. He doesn't want to make enemies.

But he has. This election is one of the crisis points in our nation's history,  It's one of those tests of character and of principle that one either passes or fails. Marco, like Joni, failed. They both chose political expediency over principle and party over country. Especially after all the very accurate things Rubio said about the unstable. irresponsible and utterly unqualified Trump during the primaries, for Rubio to turn around and endorse him once he received the nomination makes Marco look like a hypocrite or a wolf-crier.

Of course, if he'd run for re-election while refusing to endorse Don the Con, his path back to the Senate- to say nothing of his path to the White House in 2020- would have been a rocky one indeed. But it would have been a path he could have walked with integrity, and maybe succeeded in traveling.

As things stand, a great many of us who supported him in 2016 have lost respect for him.  I don't rule him out as my candidate in 2020, though I must say that the chances of my supporting him again have gone downhill.

The same is true of Joni. I continue to like and respect her. On the whole, I think she's doing a wonderful job for us Iowans in the Senate. But she's declined a bit in my esteem this year, and I'm going to find it a little harder to work up much enthusiasm for her in 2020 when she runs for re-election.

It's guys like Ben Sasse who have earned my respect this year- people who have done the right thing when so much was at stake, and put country before not only party but self.  And people like Evan McMullin, who, though he had no political career before announcing  his independent political candidacy, picked up the fallen banner of real Republicanism when so many better-known people with a far better chance of actually winning (coughMittRomneycough) left it lying on the ground.

Yes, 2016 has been a test of character and principle. Some have passed it; most have failed. And while I do not argue that people like Rubio and Ernst should be read out of the party like the hard-core Trumpsters once Dishonest Donald has been annihilated at the polls this November and the real Republican party begins to re-emerge, it will be hard to entirely forget which category prominent Republicans fell into.

And then, of course, there comes the question of whether the GOP will at long last summon up the courage and the principle to purge the Trumpsters from positions of influence and leadership, or whether what Evan McMullin has started may have to turn into a new political party to reclaim the GOP's bartered soul.