It’s a certain indication that NeverTrump is miserable when it turns on Rich Lowry, embraces Michelle Obama, and imitates Hillary Clinton.
Perhaps rattled by new poll numbers showing President Trump with rising approval ratings, NeverTrumpers seem particularly unnerved this week. To some degree, their columns and tweets expose (again) their fundamental contempt for Trump voters and preference for Democrats when given the choice.
But this week, die-hards such as Jonah Goldberg, Bill Kristol, and Kevin Williamson have taken it up a notch: Their collective spite has nothing to do with Trumpism, “conservatism,” or even good manners. Realizing they’re once more on the losing side of a colossal political battle—Trump is getting politically stronger, their beloved Mueller probe is foundering, and the GOP isn’t yet vanquished—NeverTrump is lashing out in an ugly way.
Good Riddance to the “Libertarian Moment”
In his inaugural column for The Atlantic, Kevin Williamson, a longtime writer for National Review and savage NeverTrumper, presented a mostly warmed-over version of his many anti-Trump rants at NR. (The Atlantic faced a fierce backlash for hiring Williamson over his comments about abortion and minorities. Just weeks before his hiring was announced, Williamson, a prolific tweeter, deleted his entire Twitter account to cover his tracks.)
The piece is classic Williamson: Bursts of compelling prose mixed with childish ridicule and pretentious preening. He laments that the “libertarian moment” is gone, sniffing how “libertarianism is an intellectual tendency rather than a cultural instinct, one that benefited from the rigor and prestige of the economists who have long been its most effective advocates.” Translation: Trumpists are morons and I am superior.
He portrayed Trump’s base this way: “Those who celebrated Trump the businessman clutch their heads as his preposterous economic policies produce terror in the stock markets and chaos for the blue-collar workers in construction firms and manufacturers scrambling to stay ahead of the coming tariffs on steel and aluminum.” (As if to unwittingly counter Williamson’s poor political temperature-taking, the Wall Street Journal ran a front-page article that same day about how Midwest manufacturers can’t find enough workers amid the tightest job market in 20 years.)
After mocking Jerry Falwell, Sean Hannity, and Larry Elder among others, Williamson concludes: “The Democrats are, incredibly enough, for a moment the relatively free-trade party and the party more closely aligned with the interests of the country’s most dynamic business concerns and cultural institutions.” I am not sure how much daylight exists between Williamson’s assessment and recent remarks by Hillary Clinton. The smug opinion of economic libertarians and social conservatives like Williamson is more aligned with far-left, abortion-loving statist aristocrats than with nationalistic Americans. And they wonder why they are political outcasts.
Williamson also took an ungracious shot at his longtime home and at one of the finest historical and political writers of our time, Victor Davis Hanson. After mocking Hanson for suggesting in National Review that high-tech companies might be regulated, Williamson scoffs: “That from a magazine whose founders once dreamed of overturning the New Deal.” As if regulating the intrusive monopolies of Google and Facebook is the same as passing the Wagner Act. Buckley’s hand is now bitten.
Lowry Reaches Acceptance
But Williamson wasn’t the only NeverTrump hand-biter. An internecine spat erupted at National Review Online after Rich Lowry, the magazine’s editor, wrote a fairly innocuous column about NeverTrump and the many shortcomings of our president. He flattered his friends in NeverTrump. (Remember, Lowry was the same editor who compiled the magazine’s infamous “Against Trump” issue, which birthed the current NeverTrump movement.)
Lowry presented an unvarnished view of the current political landscape, explained how the GOP’s fortunes are tied to Trump, and jabbed overzealous NeverTrumpers about their unrealized fears: “With Trump, the danger was that the populism would overwhelm the conservatism. But there have been no populist judges, regulation or tax policy. His presidency has been a crude shotgun marriage between the off-the-shelf GOP agenda and his own impulses on immigration and trade. By all means, criticize him when he’s wrong. But don’t pretend that he’s just going away, or that he’s a wild outlier in the contemporary GOP.”
That rather tepid analysis did not sit well with Lowry’s two colleagues, Jonah Goldberg and Ramesh Ponnuru. (Goldberg must be grumpy that his non-stop coverage of Stormy Daniels had little impact on public opinion.) They fired off a response that only served to confirm Lowry’s central point that NeverTrumpers can’t move on and refuse to recognize Trump’s achievements.
After completely disregarding the president’s successful first year in office, the pair insists, “Republicans have essentially no agenda this year, with the exception of spastic administrative actions against trade.” There is an agenda, but perhaps Goldberg and Ponnuru disapprove of it and won’t say so. Trump and the GOP plan to tackle intractable foreign policy woes, continue deregulatory efforts, control illegal immigration, and proceed with the not-inconsequential probe into how the Obama Administration conceived and executed the Trump-Russia conspiracy hoax. (This last is a matter that NeverTrump, including Goldberg, rarely acknowledge. Goldberg has instead mocked the idea and the lawmakers who are investigating it.)
But this passage, arguing that Trump is an outlier among Republicans, is the most nonsensical:
With respect to the traits that have earned him the most criticism from conservatives, and his consistently low poll numbers, that is exactly what he is. Paying off porn stars, attacking judges based on their race, and so on should be outliers for any president, Republican or Democrat. Rich concedes that the president is “repellent” to suburban women and Millennials, “perhaps doing long-term damage to the GOP.” This suggests that significant numbers of voters consider him an outlier as well. Republicans should hope they continue to do so.
Let’s break this down: First, Trump didn’t pay off a porn star (still an allegation) or attack a judge when he was president. If NeverTrump must continually rely on off-hand remarks candidate Trump made nearly two years ago, no, they have not moved on.
Trump’s poll numbers remain very high among Republicans and are rising among independents (although still low), a remarkable feat considering the unprecedented amount of negative news coverage Trump receives.
There is no evidence that suburban women find Trump repellent; he won 46 percent of white, college-educated women’s vote in 2016, and—anecdotally speaking—nearly every suburban woman I know voted for him and still supports him. And what support the GOP loses from Millennials (and can I add, who cares?) it may gain in white, working-class voters, which is a far bigger and more sustainable blow to the Democratic Party.
Contrary to what Goldberg wants to believe, Trump is not an outlier in the Republican Party: He has given the GOP a backbone it hasn’t had in more than a decade. Despite Trump’s brash and occasionally unkind messaging, Republicans still consider him a strong leader and are optimistic about his presidency.
So, instead of obsessing over Trump’s tweets or Stormy Daniels, Goldberg and friends might be better served trying to find out why Trump still has such appeal to Republican voters.
Kristol Continues to Embarrass Himself
But the NeverTrump outrage of the week goes to its de facto leader, Bill Kristol. No NeverTrump meltdown is complete without an eye-rolling tweet from Kristol, and this week’s was a doozy:
I’m no fan of the Obama Administration, and intend to vote for a non-Trump Republican in 2020. But…even I’ll admit, in light of this tweet, that it would be kind of great if Michelle Obama ran in 2020 and crushed Trump. https://t.co/R9y3gSq9Ey
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) April 3, 2018
Yes, Kristol—who is openly rooting for Republicans to lose control of Congress in November—hopes a Democrat (and a very liberal one) will win the presidency in 2020. Think of what it would mean for the country if Democrats rule every aspect of the federal government in 2021: There is nothing conservative or Republican or even rational about that scenario. It is pure malice—fueled by bitterness—aimed not only at the president but at America in general.
NeverTrump has quickly devolved from sore losers to women scorned. They’ve learned nothing from 2016, and instead of taking the L, they are upping their losing game-plan in a venal, unpatriotic way. Time to hit the showers, guys.
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