The Ideological Aimlessness of the NeverTrump Primary

The already-hopeless prospects of the NeverTrump crowd’s attempts to primary President Trump have gotten even worse. And that’s quite an accomplishment, even for them.

It’s not like expectations were high for the ringleader of the NeverTrump circus, Bill Kristol. His much-touted “political war machine” that he has been building to take on Trump seems to be out of gas already. He is now so desperate that he is resorting to an alliance with embarrassing former White House communications chief Anthony Scaramucci. The fact that even that revelation is not considered rock-bottom tells you all you need to know about Kristol, the professional sinker of magazines and flip-flopper extraordinaire.

The Rats Fleeing the Ship

When we last profiled Kristol’s “NeverTrump primary,” a handful of the most prominent names were still actively considering a run against the incumbent president, because of “principles” or something. Since then, even the biggest darlings of Conservatism, Inc. have ruled out any possible challenge.

Former Senator Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and former Governor John Kasich (R-Ohio) have both signed on as contributors with CBS and CNN, respectively. As if entering such lucrative media deals wasn’t enough to dissuade the diehard anti-Trumpers, both men have since openly declared they have no intentions of challenging President Trump, with Kasich recently admitting, “there is no path for me” to run in the primaries.

If that sting isn’t painful enough, even the significantly less famous NeverTrump figureheads have ruled out a possible bid. These include the Diet Jeff Flake, former Senator Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and the two incumbent Northeastern governors with the most NeverTrump buzz: Charlie Baker (R-Mass.) and Larry Hogan (R-Md.).

Of course, it’s a no-brainer to want to serve out your second term as governor over a suicidal bid for the nomination against a party’s sitting president ; but remember, this is the “principled conservatism” crowd we’re talking about. So having brains capable of making the correct decision is an impressive feat for the likes of these people.

The Island of Misfit Toys

If these are the names of the anti-Trump peanut gallery’s “best” candidates, then brace yourself for the cringeworthy candidates who actually are running, or still openly considering it. The pathetically short size of the list, combined with the quality of their résumés and personal histories, make this a group pretty a sad lot.

As of now, there is still only one declared major primary challenger: former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld. He was elected twice as governor in the early 1990s and lost badly in his attempt to unseat Senator John Kerry in 1996.

He was then appointed by President Clinton to serve as ambassador to Mexico in 1997, but his nomination ultimately was blocked by conservative Republicans on the Foreign Relations Committee. He withdrew himself from the nomination, but only after already having resigned as governor, leaving public office in utter embarrassment.

The true icing on the cake, of course, is Weld’s most recent—and equally futile—bid for the White House, as the Libertarian Party’s vice presidential nominee in 2016. Because, if Justin Amash (I-Mich.) is any indication, libertarianism is a safe haven for anti-Trump “Republicans.”

The only thing keeping Weld from receiving the full embrace of the NeverTrump crowd is that he is not seen as a legitimate challenger, even by them; that’s why they are still relentlessly trying to recruit candidates.

Also on the radar is another washed-up former governor, Mark Sanford of South Carolina. Sanford was first elected to Congress from the 1st Congressional District in 1994, serving three terms. He then went on to serve two terms as governor, elected first in 2002 and again in 2006. But after a widely publicized extramarital affair with an Argentinian woman and a prolonged public disappearance, Sanford was censured by the state legislature, resigned as chairman of the Republican Governors’ Association, and finished his second term an utter disgrace.

Sanford managed to claw his way back to the House by winning a special election for the 1st Congressional District in 2013, getting re-elected in 2014, and again in 2016. But after becoming one of President Trump’s most vocal critics in the congressional GOP, he was ousted last year by primary challenger Katie Arrington.

The last of the “major” candidates being courted by Kristol is by far the most peculiar, if for no other reason than because of the wide discrepancy between his beliefs and rhetoric and those of his would-be benefactor.

Former Representative Joe Walsh (R-Ill.) first ran for Congress in 1996, losing to incumbent Democrat Sidney Yates by a truly remarkable 26-point margin. He then campaigned for the Illinois House of Representatives in 1998, losing to incumbent Democrat Jeffrey Schoenberg by a slightly better margin of 24 percent.

He finally won elected office in 2010 as part of the Tea Party wave, but that was an extremely narrow result of just 0.15 percent, a difference of just under 300 votes, against incumbent Democrat Melissa Bean. Walsh served only one term before future Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) unseated him in 2012.

Zero Principles, Zero Backbone

Walsh appears all but ready to jump into the race, if only for the sake of giving the lonely Weld some company. But the fact that this man is now actively courted by Bill Kristol is telling, to say the least.

While Weld is styling himself the left-wing challenger to President Trump on just about every issue—from gun control and amnesty for illegals to being pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, and in favor of expanding Medicaid—Walsh is touting his Tea Party credentials, ostensibly to run to Trump’s right. Walsh admits he supported and voted for Trump in 2016, and even considers himself an immigration hardliner who thinks Trump isn’t conservative enough, yet he also believes in the “Russia” conspiracy theory and is spouting the usual nonsense about how Trump is supposedly a racist who “encourages bigotry and xenophobia.”

The best way to describe this quaint concoction of a candidate is to imagine what would happen if Ann Coulter and Bill Kristol had a political love-child. That makes about as much sense Kristol actively supporting this guy, especially considering that Walsh has a long history of comments that are far more divisive than anything President Trump has ever said, not the least of which include his outright declarations that former President Barack Obama was a Muslim. As such, his “wokeness” and status as an “anti-Trump savior” was even called into question by the late Weekly Standard and the Washington Post.

For what reason, then, could Kristol possibly back Walsh’s candidacy? Walsh considers himself a “conservative,” even on matters such as President Trump’s signature issue of immigration, and has also said “mean things.” How can someone oppose Donald Trump but support Joe Walsh?

The answer is simple. At this point, Kristol obviously could not care less about any issue on the table, from immigration to fiscal policy to abortion. Kristol has no values, morals, or guiding principles. He is motivated by one thing and one thing only: He personally does not like Donald Trump and he wants to be vindicated in his displeasure.

It goes without saying that anyone who hires a far-left commentator to go to CPAC and harass conservatives, including pro-lifers, is not a conservative let alone a man of principle. But if he is serious about supporting Walsh, then he’s obviously not a liberal either. Kristol has only his one false god to worship in his sad life: the Anti-Trump. Anything and everything that Donald Trump says, Kristol is automatically against.

And if that is what drives Kristol, then ultimately that will be what drives the president’s primary challengers. On top of being a pathetic collection of has-beens, adulterers, and professional turncoats, campaigns driven by the hatred of a single person for highly personal reasons seem doomed to fail.

Even Senator Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) understands that simply attacking Trump is not enough to win an election. And if a geriatric socialist is making more sense than Bill Kristol, then it’s safe to say he’s doing something wrong.

About Eric Lendrum

Eric Lendrum graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he was the Secretary of the College Republicans and the founding chairman of the school’s Young Americans for Freedom chapter. He has interned for Young America’s Foundation, the Heritage Foundation, and the White House, and has worked for numerous campaigns including the 2018 re-election of Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22).

Photo: iStock/Getty Images

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