Donald Trump looks poised on the threshold of victory. After over a year of struggle, the Republican nominee has finally found his footing just as Clinton seems to have lost hers. At a time like this, when it looks obvious that putting a Republican in the White House might not be a lost cause—at least for a week—you’d expect all the Aunt Agonies of #NeverTrump to suspend their acrimony for just that long.
But they haven’t. They’re still talking down to Trump and his supporters like members of a country club who tell you—politely, and in the royal “we,” of course—to get off their lawn. You’re just not their sort of person.
Well, I say it’s time we stopped being polite. Mind you, some of them are genuine ideological enemies to any attempt to reform or correct the errors of Bush-era conservatism, like that cringing Uriah Heep who writes for the Washington Post, or the Palin hagiographer who got a magazine as a dowry. And let’s not forget their “candidate,” that smug, virginal, soft-boiled literal egghead known as Evan McMullin. Those people were lost causes from the beginning.
But among the #NeverTrump crowd, there is another group that deserves a much worse epithet than “lost cause.” These are the people who had genuine ideas about how to reform the GOP, but lost the stomach for them the instant they realized that they shared those ideas with the Donald Trump campaign. And because these people came so close to the light, only to turn away as it became clear that they wouldn’t be the ones replacing the bulbs, the only term I can think of for them is “ungrateful bastards.”
Recognizing these swine who seem to live to turn their noses up at pearls is as easy as spotting a superlative in a Trump speech. Their varieties are many, and span all sides of the GOP spectrum, from social conservatives, to moderates, to hard core economic conservatives, to libertarians.
There are the people who claimed they wanted a GOP that got over its excessive attachment to a “makers versus takers” frame, that showed compassion for some of capitalism’s losers, that made its peace with the dispossession and pain of blue collar workers, and “missing white voters.” Trump gave them all of this and more. But because he sold the message with the style of Friedrich Nietzsche rather than Reinhold Niebuhr, and talked more like a self-help coach than a press release from the American Solidarity Party, they turned on him.
There are the moderates who sought a GOP that was more attentive to the needs of women and minorities—that sought a tax code cognizant of the difficulties of parenting, or that acknowledged the genuine suffering among the poorest members of America’s inner cities. Trump gave them tax credits for child care that would make mothers breathe easier, and appealed to inner city blacks more earnestly than any Republican since Jack Kemp. But he acknowledged that most women aspire to working motherhood rather than to the traditional notions of motherhood that reign in the reddest of red states. He cared about minorities who don’t want to work cheaply for the donor class. And he was mean to Marco!!! That poor dreamboat! LEAVE MARCO ALONE! So they called Trump’s plans “reform conservatism’s evil twin,” and turned on him.
Then there are the “good government” types who wanted Washington to focus on getting things done, to embrace bipartisanship, and to rediscover compromise. Trump’s entire pitch was that he could make deals, particularly by reaching across the aisle to his former Democrat friends and getting them on board with commonsense policy. He blasted through anti-compromise Republican purity tests like a hurricane, and exposed the truly nonexistent appetite for increasingly rarefied “true conservatism” among the primary electorate. But he doesn’t talk like he walked out of a cocktail party hosted by Erskine Bowles, and his character is unacceptable because he actually enjoys sex and winning conflicts, things apparently no respected policy expert has ever experienced. So they turned on him.
Then there are the hard core economic conservatives who wanted to see the GOP both simplify and cut the tax code, and take a hard line against stifling red tape for business. Trump’s tax plan takes a hatchet to deductions while also reducing the number of income brackets, and his Contract with the American Voter includes a Norquist-esque pledge not to allow any new regulation through without repealing two old rules first. But he didn’t sneer down his nose at the 47 percent, was ruthless in beating Ted Cruz, and didn’t bow and pray five times a day to Davos, so they turned on him.
And finally, there are the libertarian reformers, and boy could I write a book on them. Libertarians wanted a GOP that eased up on the social issues, that didn’t rush into every war it could find, that was easier on the drug war, and that didn’t jump into bed with the surveillance state every chance it got. Trump rendered the anti-gay wing of the GOP so irrelevant that Peter Thiel was able to dismiss their issues as “distractions” and get a standing ovation on the floor of the Republican National Convention. He publicly humiliated Jeb Bush and the entire neoconservative wing of the GOP, and has pulled back the GOP’s fondness for war so much that now Hillary is attacking us for being soft on Russia and terrorism. He went on record supporting medical marijuana at CPAC in 2015, a few months before he announced his campaign for president. He’s obviously friendly with Wikileaks and similar whistleblowing sites.
But he was mean to Ron Paul once, thought the rule of law was important at the border, didn’t dogmatically assert the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP), isn’t willing to immolate his chances at winning by publicly backing the least popular spending cuts, and makes it harder for libertarians to virtue signal about race and sex in order to get laid by their liberal crushes, so they turned on him.
All the causes mentioned are still ideas worthy of debate and possibly endorsement when discussing the GOP’s future, Trump victory or no. But the people who have been boosting them, if not their chosen candidates (nearly all of whom have backed Trump), have clearly exposed themselves as dainty, backbiting, prissy little cowards who wouldn’t know the courage of their convictions if it tap danced naked in front of them wearing a MAGA hat. None of them actually wants to put in the hard work and sacrifices to shift the GOP’s priorities, to make its message more modern, to fix its compassion deficit, or whatever the hell they all nod sagely at each other about at the nearest bowtie enthusiasts’ convention. If they did, they’d have bit the bullet and taken a chance on the one man who was willing to take a chance on a version of what they’ve been pushing, warts and all. But because he hurt their feewings, apparently all that hard intellectual work was for naught.
So whether we adopt the ideas of theirs that Trump has generously introduced into the GOP’s vocabulary or not, let us also make sure we refuse credit to the people who backed away from their ideas the instant it twinged their sad, cosseted little excuses for a conscience. Let us remember that they were ungrateful bastards.
They looked the gift horse that was Donald Trump in the mouth. Now that horse needs to give them a swift kick.