Into the NeverTrump Gulag

Deep in the D.C. Suburbs—After a frightening New York Times column by Bret Stephens comparing Trump supporters to Stalinists and NeverTrump “conservatives” to anti-Communist freedom-fighters, several NeverTrumpers—fearing for their safety—have taken refuge in the suburban home of their de facto leader, Weekly Standard editor-at-large Bill Kristol.

The group includes Stephens, Washington Post columnists Jennifer Rubin and Max Boot, National Review writer Mona Charen, and author Tom Nichols. Their self-imposed exile gives the courageous dissidents a chance to plot their next move, schedule their next MSNBC interview, and close their next book deal without fear of being crushed by the MAGA jackboots . . .

Kristol: OK, brave warriors, here’s what we need to do given my decades of success in mastering the levers of power in Washington. We must first come up with a clever name, like the Committee for the Liberation of Iraq, er, America. Then we draft a Statement of Principles. Then we write a strongly worded letter to the president but it’s really just a prop to get more interviews.

Nichols: [looks up from phone] Can’t we just tweet? It’s the only way I’ll ever get more followers than Hannity.

Kristol:  [tries unsuccessfully to button cardigan sweater] Tom, I know you’re an expert and all, but you don’t understand. None of this means anything, we just have to sound like we know what we’re doing. Trust me, when this is all over, we will be welcomed as liberators of the conservative cause. Or at least considered as clever as I was when I made McCain pick Sarah Palin as his running mate.

Rubin: [Applies garish lipstick] Can we make this quick? I have to be on CNN in an hour and I don’t have all my screaming points done yet. [Looks at Boot] Max, what are you doing?

Boot: I’m writing my next column, “Letter from a McLean Mansion.” I mean, as a historian, I know Martin Luther King had it rough and whatnot, but he didn’t have to deal with social media or Fox News. If you really think about it, we are no different than the Little Rock Nine. Except there’s six of us.

Nichols: [looks up from phone] We should have Rick Wilson, Jonah Goldberg and Charlie Sykes over . . . 

Group: [In unison] Nooooo!

Charen: [pauses from doing needlepoint] Max, that’s a good point. When I was on stage at CPAC courageously saying what literally hundreds of other pundits have been saying over and over about Donald Trump and Roy Moore, I felt just like Rosa Parks. Only braver and more important.

Nichols: [looks up from phone] Kristol, do you have anything to drink in this gulag?

Kristol: [checks fridge] I have lite beer and some rosé from the last time Hillary was here. Or I could whip up a batch of piña coladas. The bartender on the last Weekly Standard cruise shared his secret recipe with me.

Stephens: [sobs quietly] Hillary. She came so close. As I wrote last year, I can’t believe America chose Trump’s “lying, narcissism, bullying, ignorance, paranoia, incompetence and pettiness” over her purity. It makes me feel just like Lech Walesa when he was crushed by Soviet thugs in Gdansk. Only worse, because I’m way smarter than that drunk Polack. He didn’t even go to college!

Nichols: [holds up his hand] Look at how calloused my fingers are. The common man just doesn’t appreciate how much tweeting I must do to fight the goose-stepping MAGAs every waking second of my life. I am just like that guy at the State of the Union who held up the broken crutch he used to escape starvation and forced labor in North Korea. But my condition is much worse because he doesn’t have 100,000 Twitter followers who depend on him, and he never wrote a bestselling book. I actually need my extremities. What does he do?

[Loud pounding on the front door]

Group: [In unison] EEEK!

Kristol: That’s it! The Stalinist-Trumpers are here for us! We are doomed! [peers through the window] Never mind. It’s only Evan McMullin.

Rubin: Don’t let him in. He didn’t tweet out my last column about how the Trumps should be executed just like the Romanovs. [FaceTimes Joy Reid]

Stephens: I guess I can put this away then. [returns handgun to his man purse]

Charen: [buttons up housecoat] Bret! You just wrote two columns about how we should repeal the Second Amendment, which all of us conservatives here totally agree with. How can you possess a weapon of war?

Stephens: I just meant the illiterate rubes in Trump country shouldn’t have guns. I’m not talking about us. That would be just like giving up my doorman on the Upper East Side.

Nichols: [looks up from phone] Bret, you’re so right. I actually . . . . well, this is really hard to admit to all of you . . . . [swallows hard, looks down in shame]

Kristol: What is it?

Nichols: I just went to Ohio for the first time. And I had to, like, talk to people . . . from Ohio. And I even shook their hands. [wipes a tear] I told myself that I was just like Mother Theresa going into the slums of Calcutta, only way worse because these people are from Ohio. And some voted for Trump.

Boot: Where’s Ohio?

Kristol: [puts a paper umbrella in a piña colada] Tom, don’t feel bad. I just went to Wisconsin for the first time. I called Hill on the way back and told her she really should’ve gone there in 2016. She laughed and said, “Ew, gross.”

Rubin: [sets up Skype connection with Rachel Maddow] OK, quiet because I have to do another interview on MSNBC about how Hope Hicks is the smoking gun in the Trump-Russia election conspiracy. [checks mirror] Actually, I think she and I look a lot alike, don’t you guys? [everyone looks at their phone]  

Kristol: [brings out tray of frozen drinks] Alright, my fellow Solzhenitsyns. Who’s ready for a cocktail?

Charen: [adjusts shawl] Did you make mine a virgin?

Ah, the poor NeverTrumpers. It’s not a good sign when you have to tell people that you’re relevant because you’re becoming increasingly irrelevant: “That’s why NeverTrumpers matter; why the Trumpers know they matter (which they prove every time they feverishly assert the opposite); and why progressives who dismiss NeverTrumpers as politically irrelevant are wrong,” Stephens wrote this week.

Desperate pundits do desperate things, such as comparing a few Russian-backed Facebook ads to the 9/11 terror attacks, or claiming that writing a newspaper column in a free society is the same as risking your life to defeat Communism. And no, Stephens and company, when we write about you, it’s not necessarily because you matter. It’s that your delusions of grandeur deserve to be mocked. Whether you are right or not about “conservatism” or the Republican Party or the Trump presidency in the end, you have to own the embarrassing sophistry you used to make your argument about Trumpism, and the tragedies and true heroes you exploited to get clicks. There is nothing courageous about it.

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