Great post from Ace at Ace of Spades, on the childish refusal of the NeverTrumpers to take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Read the whole thing, as they say. His premise, which seems eminently sound to me, is that the NeverTrumpers want to pretend that their constant attacks on and refusal to support Trump, which decrease the likelihood of him becoming president, do not at the same time increase the likelihood of Hillary Clinton becoming president. Indeed, they deny any responsibility for this outcome, even though it is the entirely logical and predictable result of their efforts.
Notwithstanding Bill Kristol’s yeoman work, the intellectual locus of the NeverTrump movement seems to be at National Review, where writers Kevin Williamson, Jay Nordlinger and David French flail away at Trump daily in spasms that increasingly resemble monomania. Presumably the NeverTrump view enjoys tacit, if not official, institutional support there, given the total absence of pro-Trump writers or any rigorous discussion of Trump’s agenda. So why would a historically conservative magazine undertake to elect Hillary Clinton over the Republican nominee?
I have four different, though not mutually inconsistent, theories:
The Evil Donors. I try to steer away from cynicism in evaluating the motives of people I believe to be decent, principled allies in the battle of good versus Democrats. But I also know that us humans like money. And jobs. It is no secret that large donors to the GOP and conservative think tanks broadly loathe the Trumpian agenda and are not shy about saying so. The donees of their largesse surely take note.
The Incestuousness of Conservatism, Inc. Movement conservatism exists in an interconnected world of lobbyists, donors, Congressional staffers, political consultants, think tanks, advocacy groups and media operations. For a host of reasons, the Trump candidacy is a threat to various components of this ecosystem. Even if an individual member of the hive is not personally threatened by the Trump phenomenon, he or she likely has a friend, relative or spouse who is. And all of them are wary of offending contacts or potential future employers.
It’s Personal. I can certainly imagine that it must be humiliating to spend your life building up an organization and a movement only to have some unsophisticated poseur (a veritable “witless ape,” in Kevin Williamson’s charming phrase) waltz in and take over the joint without breaking a sweat. It must be doubly painful when you have confidently predicted all along, drawing on your vast experience and network of insider contacts, that such a thing could never happen.
And then it does. To top it all off, the impertinent parvenu hasn’t learned the rules, the etiquette, the wonkish policy details – for God’s sake man, he doesn’t even know Burke from Strauss! Yeah, that’s gotta leave a mark.
Pre-mortem of the Post-mortem. The final theory is that NR is banking on a massive Trump defeat, after which they will be able to say “See, we had no part in this. We tried to warn you. But you were seduced by the intemperate bluster of Drudge and Brietbart, the slinky stylings of Coulter and Ingraham. All is forgiven. Gather round now, and listen to our Reformicon agenda for the future!”
I just don’t think that’s going to happen. Rather, I see two outcomes for the NeverTrumpers, both bad. Either Trump wins, and NR is further marginalized down to a Nockian remnant of its peculiar brand of conservatism, one with such selective appeal the entire movement can carpool in a Winnebago. Or Trump loses, and a great and goodly number of the 85% of Republicans who support Trump know just who to blame for the Hillary Era. I can’t think of any scenario where conservative voters want to thank NR for aiding the enemy.
The NeverTrumpers pose as a movement based on principle, but are utterly unprincipled at their core. If they honestly believe Donald Trump is a greater threat to conservative principles than Hillary Clinton, they should say so. Say it loud, say it proud.
But they don’t. Nope, because while supporting Trump can damage your career prospects at Conservatism, Inc., asserting the utterly delusional could be even worse. So instead they evade, they obscure, they change the subject, they deny the logical and obvious results of their efforts are what they intend. You know, like principled people.