Abandoning the NeverTrump Ship

With 2017 safely behind us and a new year beginning, the NeverTrump faction continues to offer opinions on President Trump that range from thoughtful and surprisingly honest to ill-considered and seething with resentment.

Among the more thoughtful examples was an end-of-the-year column by Tim Carney, the more-or-less NeverTrump commentary editor at The Washington Examiner. Every year, Carney owns up to his biggest political miscalculation over the previous 365 days.

For 2017, his most glaring mistake was predicting Trump “wouldn’t appoint a restrained, conservative judge to the Supreme Court.” Contrary to Carney’s grave doubts, Trump “gave us a superbly qualified, brilliant, conservative justice in Neil Gorsuch.” Although it’s early yet, Gorsuch already looks like a very able successor to former Justice Antonin Scalia, a man he greatly admired for his judicial mind, character, and integrity.

Carney harbors major reservations on what he considers the president’s many character flaws (he argues these helped lose “winnable” races in Virginia and Alabama and risks the GOP alienating young voters). Nevertheless, he thinks it’s “possible that Trump will prove himself obviously better than Clinton. And that’s not what I expected.”

What about Evan McMullin, the candidate Carney voted for in 2016? He writes:

These days, I find myself regularly wishing I could make McMullin go away. Like almost every McMullin voter I know, I’m embarrassed by his post-election behavior. Most conservatives who voted for McMullin maintain a critical and skeptical stance towards Trump. McMullin, though, has joined the performative #Resistance, blasting as counterrevolutionaries anyone who doesn’t go far enough in castigating every action of the president, even the harmless and salutary ones.


This tracks with the results of an unscientific Twitter poll Sean Davis of The Federalist recently conducted, in which 90 percent of more than 2,300 participants said they regret voting for McMullin.

NeverTrump Pretzel Logic
Other commentators weren’t as thoughtful as Carney. Jonah Goldberg twisted himself into a logical pretzel in his final National Review column of 2017.

Trying to get around the problem that has plagued the likes of Jennifer Rubin and David Frum—rejecting policy positions they formerly held simply because Trump holds them—Goldberg adopts another noxious form of post hoc rationalization.

He admits Trump has had a bevy of policy successes—from “a record number of judicial appointments, including a Supreme Court justice” to “the defeat of [the] Islamic State”—but argues the president had little or nothing to do with these victories.

“Tax reform was carried across the finish line by the GOP congressional leadership,” he writes. “Net neutrality was repealed by independent Republicans at the Federal Communications Commission.”

While technically correct, Goldberg’s statements are literal to the point of absurdity. It’s akin to saying since Ulysses S. Grant didn’t personally fight in every battle as commander of the Union armies in the waning days of the Civil War, he didn’t deserve credit for those final victories. The only reason for tax reform and Net Neutrality repeal—to say nothing of a host of other regulatory reforms—is that Trump rather than Hillary Clinton won the election.

Further, the conceit that presidents get credit only if they oversee every minute detail of policy assumes the correctness of the modern view of the presidency. Only with more recent presidents such as Franklin D. Roosevelt has the executive branch shifted from executing the law to meddling in every area of policy imaginable.

What Goldberg considers to be Trump’s executive diffidence is instead one of his chief strengths. Trump has governed more like presidents in the mold of Washington or Cleveland—chief executives who did not intrude upon the powers the Constitution delegates exclusively to the legislature.

Goldberg evidently considers Trump’s respect for the separation of powers to be a foible. And though he might champion many of Trump’s policy victories, he still maintains that Trump and Clinton were equally terrible choices. Goldberg may have conceded that “NeverTrump” is over, but he sure doesn’t write that way.

The Intellectual Bankruptcy of NeverTrumpism
By far the silliest NeverTrump end-of-the-year column came from the New York Times’ housetrained “conservative,” Bret Stephens. Although he agrees with Goldberg on the myriad successful policy decisions Trump has overseen, he still wishes Hillary won in 2016. Why?

Because of the alleged “shortcomings” in Trump’s character: “lying, narcissism, bullying, bigotry, crassness, name calling, ignorance, paranoia, incompetence and pettiness.” Fact is, most voters didn’t vote for Trump because of his vices, real or imagined, but in spite of them.

But look: if you’re going to argue, on the one hand, that “character does count and virtue does matter,” and on the other hand confess you still wish Hillary Clinton were president, you don’t get to be taken seriously ever again.

The Clintons obliterated the importance of character for public officeholders in the 1990s. Democrats fell over themselves to defend Bill Clinton’s personal failings and almost matter-of-fact corruption. Hillary Clinton has demonstrated every character defect imaginable in her public life. From Americans getting killed abroad to enriching herself in the pay-to-play scheme known as the Clinton Foundation, her vices clearly trumped Trump’s. And it’s not even close.

Stephens also blames Trump for not kowtowing to our sainted press, not holding useless townhalls that are barely disguised political rallies (Trump drops the pretense and instead just has the real thing, crowds and all), having a sense of humor (“we have a president who fantasizes on Twitter about physically assaulting CNN”), not giving in to the ongoing coup attempt by our intelligence community, and other voluminous violations of the holy establishment catechism.

Obviously irritated that Max Boot beat him by a couple of days to a self-flagellating column acknowledging his “white privilege,” Stephens writes that Trump’s “white-identity politics” is the greatest threat to America’s stability.

Since when did pointing out that low-skill Americans who happen to be white and have had their job prospects and wages reduced by the one-two punch of illegal immigration and “free trade” become a grave evil? Stephens would rather indulge in the musings of critical race theory than actually help Americans who have suffered the brunt of the disastrous political decisions for which he and his peers have been strong advocates.

Although a hardened group of radical NeverTrumpers remains, most former fellow-travelers have moderated their stances and are at least willing to consider Trump on his merits. From R.R. Reno to Mollie Hemingway, former or more moderate critics of Trump are now undertaking important work in helping to smash the ruling class oligarchy.

As Trump’s successes continue to pile up in the New Year, the remaining few passengers on the sinking NeverTrump ship should ask themselves an important question: Does their hatred of one man matter more than the good of their country?

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18 responses to “Abandoning the NeverTrump Ship”

  1. MS: “By far the silliest NeverTrump end-of-the-year column came from the New York Times’ housetrained “conservative,” Bret Stephens…..”

    A 30-yr subscriber to the WSJ and having read BS a number of times…..his NYT end-of-year was as surprising an Op-Ed as I’ve ever read…..akin to the Dalls Morning News endorsing Hillary before the Election! Fruit cakes without any soul!

    • One does not remain the quote-unquote Token Conservative at the New Duranty Times by actually giving voice to conservative opinions. Stephens is no better and no worse than David Brooks. The best they can do is shrug that Trump is Almost As Bad As Stalin, but hasn’t starved the Ukrainians.


  2. “But look: if you’re going to argue, on the one hand, that “character does count and virtue does matter,” and on the other hand confess you still wish Hillary Clinton were president, you don’t get to be taken seriously ever again.”
    Sabo’s point here is the strongest counter to all of the moral preening, virtue signalling and righteous resistance by Democrats (and NeverTrumpers). They sold their souls to the devil and now expect sainthood for opposing Trump. If you voted for Hillary, you carry zero moral authority to lecture those of us that voted for Trump

  3. In the future please refer to Jonah Goldberg by his proper name, Jonah Cucksucker Goldberg. Thanking you in advance.

    • Wisdom from Jonah Goldberg:
      April 26th, 2016: “Trump will go down to a defeat of Biblical proportions in November.”
      Aug. 6th: “I am very skeptical that Trump’s candidacy can be saved…. Trumpism is a radiation leak threatening to destroy the GOP, not just in 2016 but for a generation.”

      If I was that hopelessly wrong, that often, I’d be too embarrassed to ever write about politics again.

  4. Projection, as Trump is floundering off the poop deck, the NeverTrump movement has a new Captain, Bannon

  5. The career suicide being practiced by Stephens and Boot et al has been an amazing sight to behold.

    • Sadly, for Stephens/Boot et al. this is career ENHANCEMENT, not career suicide.
      The MSM will now give them (undeserved) space and face time.

      • True, but their will not be embraced by the left, just troodded out and then forgetten, assuming anyone listens to them as their once conssertive reader base throws them out.

    • Let us all hope these neo con trouble makers all drink the kool aid.

  6. Newsflash to NeverTrumper’s – Roadkill would be better than Hillary Clinton as well as many of the GOP candidates – i.e. Jeb Bush!

  7. “Does their hatred of one man matter more than the good of their country?”

    Yes, because he is taking away their sinecure of complaining about the state of things, proposing solutions, but never getting those proposals done. Phony-baloney jobs, and “Harumph!” that.

  8. Max Boot
    Following Trump’s win in the Indiana primary, Boot wrote “The Republican Party is Dead…. Trump will lose by a landslide.” (LAT, May 8, 2016)
    Can anyone have been more wrong?
    Jonah Goldberg
    Goldberg’s own words show he shouldn’t be listened to:
    July 8, 2015: “Donald Trump has no chance of becoming president.”
    July 11, 2015: “He’ll never be president…”

    Trump exposed them for the fools they are.

  9. Most of the NT crowd are just bitter over lost influence. They saw it coming which is what motivated the worst of their commentary.

    What we can definitively say about this crowd is that any argument about “character” is – feel free to help with a more eloquent characterization – BS.

    These people saw and knew Obama had weaponized intelligence and had leveraged it against republicans, specifically Trump, and they saw and knew Clinton was fully corrupt. They never needed the result of the slow motion kabuki playing out now in Congress and in the media.

    Never Trumpers are the ones suffering from corrosion of character. Plain and simple, they have always been deceitful liars and they deserve to now be ignored and despised. For all their super intelligence, they missed the simple lessons about hubris and narcissism and, gee, simple honesty. They should go write books nobody will read. In any world where God exists, they will remain permanently irrelevant.

    • “Lost influence” is an important factor, of course, but there is also the deep regret they feel over Trump’s huge distance from the intellectual world from which Never Trumpers come.

      The Straussian world, for example, of Kristol. Go to his website, see the people he interviews, and then imagine how appalled he must be by Trump’s distance from and indifference towards such people and their ideas.

      A country is, someone said, more than just an economy. It’s also more than just an academic seminar. Never Trumpism missed, completely, the indifference of working people towards seminar culture–but also missed, completely, the kinds of concerns such people did have.

  10. While technically correct, Goldberg’s statements are literal to the point of absurdity.

    And that was always the tell with the #Nevertrumps, wasn’t it?

    Their carefully considered “analysis” was nothing more than absurd hyperbole. These guys (and gals) sat on their duffs for most of my adult life, selling their little books and their cruises. Doing gigs on the cable networks and trying to impress everyone with how smart they were. Then, when forced to choose, they failed to meet their own measure and attempted to justify this failure with hyperbolic crap and emotionalism. An instant giveaway. They outed themselves from the start and then continued at full speed till the results were in and any benefit of the doubt was buried far behind them. The question is why?

    There are only a handful of possibilities and none of them are particularly charitable.

    One is that the 4th estate has been purchased outright for the sake of moving public opinion. Some journalists and commentators were obviously purchased as well. They could be some of those people. Considering the endless lament for lost gigs, friendships and interest beyond comic relief, that doesn’t seem to have worked out well for them.

    Another is that they miss being influential. The neoconservative #Nevertrumps held great sway till recently. At the zenith of their power they had the ear of presidents and had successfully written nationalist conservatives out of “Conservatism” They then erected an echo chamber and a feedback loop in its place where they talked among themselves and claimed the entire spectrum of conservative thought as their own. Their bankrupt ideas quickly brought the roof down upon them and Trump is the result, and they miss their former influence and wish to roll back the clock. Trump’s failure would assist them greatly in this so they cannot admit he has done anything but fail since assuming office.

    The above possibilities are the most charitable, as the third option can only be described as willfully deceitful and malevolent. Because the third option is that they never were conservatives at all.

    The neocons come from the left. Basically, they’re progressives who love war and wish to employ the US military with the same heavy handedness progs use with Fedgov, generally. There’s a tell here that all of the #Nevertrumps have employed at some point – The specter of white nationalism and a nation of racist white people searching for a dictator. There are examples in the OP, above. But there are many more. They aren’t shy about saying this at all and what it means is, basically, that they hate and fear the republican base itself.

    In this instance, Trump is hated by extension. He’s merely a totem for those evil, racist, white , republicans and therefore every word they breath against him applies to his supporters in the republican base as well, and perhaps even more so. This is a serious offense against conservatism and the republican party, as it is traitorous and necessarily means they have been operating (quite profitably) for decades under a false flag.

    Any of these possibilities are enough to disqualify their analysis and that should be done going forward. Being #Nevertrump should disqualify them immediately. An indelible blot on their conservative credentials.

    It is the height of irony that people like David Frum, who have made careers “writing people out” of “conservatism” have now written themselves out of it as well.

    Excellent article. Keep up the good work.