Say one thing for the Never Trumpers out there who persist in a hatred for Donald Trump so intense it led them to toss their life’s work overboard and make bed with their longtime enemies; they are nothing if not daring, separating themselves from the more than 90% in their party who supported Trump through his presidency and beyond – and in most cases, abandoning the GOP altogether. Trump has that effect on people, but none more than those in the Never Trump movement, defined as conservatives/Republicans who don’t just refuse to support Trump, but make a spectacle of their burning hatred for the man.
As the midterms approach, the scatter-shot nature of this informal coalition has led to predictable chaos and confusion, with The New York Times reporting this week that the movement ”finds itself splintered as the election season begins, with various groups pursuing their own strategies and no discernible central organizing hub.” You can bet they are devoting most of their energy to preparing for a return of the single man who defines their movement for the 2024 presidential campaign, but their tacit or explicit support for the failing Joe Biden makes their anti-Trump position increasingly indefensible, and their credibility all but shot.
Nevertheless, we can be sure these contrarians feel very self-satisfied that their virtue-signaling helped take down a president they despise with such intensity that they lost all ability to reason. Conservatives like George Will, Bill Kristol, and Nicole Wallace engaged in previously unthinkable new friendships with the hard left – all welcomed with open arms on MSNBC – and were fine with the prospect of first Hillary Clinton and then Joe Biden becoming president, because he was not Trump and that was all that mattered. Ideology, the lifeblood of conservatives, just as it is for liberals, became utterly irrelevant to the suddenly single-issue Never Trumpers.
The GOP’s Fifth-Columnists
It is a seething revulsion unlike any we have ever witnessed by members of any party for their chosen nominee, not to mention president – especially one who ultimately espouses almost all of the same beliefs and practices. We have known many times when prominent members of a political party are reported to be wary of a controversial figure in their midst, but they stay silent so as not to wound their own side and provide aid and comfort to their enemies. The Never Trump movement threw out all those rules and can rightly be pinned with a significant chunk of responsibility for elevating Joe Biden to the presidency.
To comprehend just how rare and bizarre it is for prominent voices in a movement to openly and proudly condemn the person representing their cause, imagine if George W. Bush was at war with the Taliban, and at the same time castigating American soldiers on the battlefield. Or Barack Obama was trying to pass Obamacare, while condemning the Speaker of the House responsible for rounding up the votes to pass it. Or George Washington attempting to forge a new republic as its first president, while John Adams was consistently attacking him and demanding his impeachment. That is essentially what Never Trumpers have done in condemning the man who rescued them from eight years of Barack Obama – and four more of Hillary Clinton.
Rebels Without a Cause
The question is, what exactly animates these people, aside from extreme personal animus? Is it pure jealousy that Trump was able to achieve what they could only talk about for years? Is it that the outsider Trump succeeded while the duo of establishment icons who preceded him, Romney and McCain, failed? Was it that the declasse loudmouth billionaire dared invade their exclusive private club? Are they just flat-out ingrates?
Whatever the reason, on top of providing aid and comfort to the enemies of the Republican party and conservatives writ large, the genuine derangement of these people is perhaps best demonstrated by their utter disregard for the effect their defection will have on their own careers. Did they think the GOP would welcome them back once Trump’s presidency was over? And do they think the left’s embrace will be permanent, even after their usefulness in destroying Trump expires?
The answer to both questions is not just no, but hell no. Those viewed as traitors are never going to be welcomed back by those they abandoned. And most often, they are not even respected by the movement to which they defected, and are certain to be discarded by their new best friends on the other side once their single common issue is no longer relevant. They are headed to no-man’s-land, neither fish nor fowl, unattractive to all sides, for all intents and purposes politically homeless. And they had to know this would happen when they decided to go scorched earth on Trump.
Yet, they obviously felt a calling to do so, and the results are evident. George Will has become irrelevant – a relic whose opinion no one cares about anymore. Bill Kristol’s once-powerful Weekly Standard was bled dry and shut down. Nicole Wallace, once a force in the George W. Bush administration, hosts a lightly watched show on hard-left MSNBC, still pretending to be some kind of conservative even as she makes bed with progressives calling for everything from defunding the police to advancing the spread of critical race theory.
There are many others who have joined the informal Never Trump coalition. Among the prominent are loudmouth Anthony Scaramucci, jilted by Trump after serving ten unhinged days in his administration and now transparently out for revenge. Then there’s George Conway, who has taken particular glee in his attacks on Trump, given that he is the husband of former Trump advisor Kellyanne Conway.
Pining for the Neocon Days
But the man who might be considered the poster child for the Never Trump movement, and the most useful idiot for progressives given his prominence as the token supposed “conservative” on the op-ed page of the ultra-woke New York Times, is David Brooks.
The longtime neocon weighed in recently with a lengthy, rambling diatribe as a guest columnist for arguably the most Trump-deranged, conspiracy-minded site of all, The Atlantic – a once respectable publication now given over to conspiracies about Trump and coups d’état. In his piece entitled “What Happened to American Conservatism?” Brooks laments the death of the movement he came to know and love in the Bush 43 years and thereafter – until Trump came along – waxing nostalgic for the days when his brand of neoconservatism dominated the party. But it is his warped view of what the GOP has become which magnifies how this branch of conservatism has choked itself off from the lifeblood provided by the vine, namely the Republican party of 2022.
Brooks attempts to invoke melodrama in describing the “rich philosophical tradition I fell in love with …” but then sadly weighs in with his typically Never-Trumpian view that conservatism “has been reduced to Fox News and voter suppression.” While that must have given Mr. Brooks’ friends on the upper west side a good laugh, such sentiment presents as irretrievably, well, deranged. To reduce the game-changing MAGA agenda – and record – to a cable channel and a patently dishonest interpretation of responsible election law is to not just miss the essence of today’s conservative movement, but to do so deliberately and with vengeful malice.
At the same time, there are some Never Trumpers who decided to reduce their opposition to a dull roar once Trump became president, most prominently, Editor Rich Lowry of National Review, who masterminded the infamous “Against Trump” issue of his magazine in the midst of the 2016 presidential campaign. He continued his thinly veiled skepticism that Trump is an actual conservative but was at least willing to give Trump credit when he decided it was due.
These Never Trumpers have since justified their defection by attacking those they left behind in the party and its voters who not only refuse to condemn Trump as they do, but have the audacity – or stupidity, in the eyes of Never Trump elites – to view the man as a hero. Thus, Mr. Brooks and his gang of neoconservatives pining for a return to the days when Republicans would lose with dignity must now content themselves with the crumbs falling off the table populated by actual Republicans and actual Democrats.
~ Read more from Tim Donner.