(AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
In reality, there are three shades of the NeverTrump line of thinking. First, there are the McMullinists exemplified by then-hero and last great hope, Evan McMullin. While his opponent for GOP votes (Trump) was off boasting about his hand size, his kissing abilities and grabbing women by their genitalia, McMullin was espousing the traditional conservative talking points.
Obviously, although enjoying his day in the sun, he lost in 2016, but instead of slinking away into political obscurity, McMullin went full-speed-ahead liberal.
To illustrate how off the deep end he went, in the 2017 Virginia gubernatorial election, he preferred Democrat Ralph Northam over the Republican candidate, Ed Gillespie. His reason? Gillespie allegedly peddled fear and white nationalism.
Gillespie was a former head of the RNC. He was a counselor in the Bush White House. He was an official in the failed Romney campaign in 2012. Gillespie was one of the first in Virginia to call out the white nationalists that descended on Charlottesville. Folks…you can’t get more mainstream Republican than Ed Gillespie. And this is a common thread among the McMullinists – their damn close flirtation with liberals.
Some within this wing of the NeverTrumpers are quick to point out a cult of personality as concerns Trump’s supporters, or even those who do not view Trump as some existential threat to democracy or conservatism. While there are certainly some (many?) who have succumbed to a cult of personality surrounding Trump, it appears that many within the NeverTrump movement have also created their own cult of personality: the anti-Trump.
While they rail about this cult of personality, often derisively calling others part of the “MAGA crowd,” they have transformed into their own cult, or tribe. In effect, while decrying liberal tribalism, they have engaged in it and created their own tribe. Hence, the conservative underpinnings they claim to be saving are revealed as hypocritical talking points.
It is not about ideology; it is about the tribe. These are the people willing to ignore or toss aside what are conservative policy gains not based on ideology, but in servitude to the opposition of Trump. That is, like #TheResistance, Trump must be stopped at all costs. They are ideological hypocrites.
The second group might be as bad as the first group, but for differing reasons. I refer to them as the Ahmarists, after Commentary writer Sohrab Ahmari. This group looks at the Trump presidency in a broader view. To them, it is not satisfactory to be anti-Trump because, well…Trump, but because they view themselves as the saviors of conservatism. As he laid out in an article, it is the “steady erosion of presidential norms and civic duty under Trump” that must be the focus of the battle.
Apparently, one cannot call out the press or the FBI or any other entrenched “institution.”
To them, this is no longer a battle between liberals and conservatives, but against the tribalism that got us here in the first place. If not killed now, and that process starts with Trump, then when Donald Trump is gone the same dynamics that created the tribalism will remain. Perhaps that is why many within his group will quote jackasses like Adam Schiff, who will quote things from sources that have no place on a conservative website, and will run with anything negative about Trump (often from “anonymous sources”).
These are also the virtue signalers who will, with veracity, cite their conservative credentials, then think and write garden-variety liberal columns. This was particularly evident after Charlottesville where many in this and the McMullinist camp thought they had caught Trump in their “Gotcha” white supremacist trap. Most of the commentary from the Right in this vein could have appeared on the pages of DailyKos, Slate, or Salon.
They claim to be fighting for the greater good, but they are no better than the McMullinists. In fact, they are often interchangeable given the slippery path between the two groups.
The third group are the Ericksonians, so-named after Erick Erickson. They are certainly not rabid Trump supporters (although those in the other camps would disagree and lump them, at times, into the “MAGA crowd”). But, neither are they rabid Trump detractors. They are a wait-and-see, pragmatic group. Although believing that Trump was a threat to the GOP and conservatism, the time to make that case was during the primaries. Having failed that task, the best one can do is deal with what you have now. They, like the others and probably citing the reasons of the others, probably did not vote for Trump in the primaries or general election. Again, they deal with what is, not what could or should have been.
Perhaps the only thing that held all three groups together was an underlying belief that Trump would not win the general election. Thus, they all took a moral stand against his candidacy fearing a liberal disguised as a conservative had taken over the GOP. All groups may have unconsciously adopted a liberal tendency, that of a Utopian candidate and clearly Trump strayed too far away from that mythical candidate.
After so much energy was invested in opposing Trump, predicting his nomination would lead to certain defeat, then predicting he would govern like a liberal, it is understandable that the McMullinists and Ahmarists find it difficult to, thus far, admit they were wrong. To see Trump actually follow through on basic conservative actions (perhaps, not achieved as originally envisioned during the campaign) is a bitter pill to swallow. Yet, here is the beauty of it: should Trump falter, they can always say they were right all along. In fact, many even seem to welcome failure.
There are two reasons for the persistence of the NeverTrump movement. The first is resentment that “their guy” did not win the nomination. If they honestly believe that a President Cruz, or Rubio, Bush III, or Perry would not be opposed by Democrats in Congress or attacked by a liberal press, then they are living in a fantasy world. NOTE: I did not include John Kasich because he is basically a moderate Democrat.
The second reason is Trump’s style. The NeverTrumper will elevate people like Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, John McCain, and Mitt Romney to hero status when, in fact, all of them are nothing more than conservative-lite. They are representative of so many in the two wings of the NeverTrump movement- the victim wing of conservatism who wallow in pity after their electoral defeats because they fought the “good fight.” The “good fight” is apparently defeat. To them, they cannot fathom the thought that Trump left the knife at home against Clinton’s gun and instead brought a flame-thrower and bazooka to the fight.
Dealing with the reality of 2018 and the not the wishes of 2016 is called pragmatism. And that, I posit, is more conservative than any of the Utopianism offered up by the NeverTrump crowd.