President Donald Trump’s campaign for the White House created the greatest presidential upset in recent memory, but it also gave rise to the Never Trump “conservative.”
A small, not particularly popular type, Never Trump journalists and commentators are nonetheless outspoken and celebrated, particularly among left-wingers who share their contempt for Trump. Failing to stop Donald Trump securing his party’s nomination and failing to sabotage his run for the White House with a spoiler candidate, Never Trumpers found success in the first year of Trump’s presidency in a new role: go-to resources for the left-leaning press.
Despite their best efforts, Trump managed to facilitate many of the conservative victories Never Trumpers once advocated. Let’s check in on how some of the most prominent of them handled themselves in the first year under President Donald Trump.
For Sen. Ben Sasse “Never” Trump Turns Out to Be “Just 90 Percent Trump”
Few establishment GOP figures were more explicitly Never Trump in the 2016 election than Nebraska Sen. Ben Sasse. He was even floated as a possibility for Bill Kristol’s (read about his first year under Trump below) failed attempt at a spoiler candidate.
Sasse’s orientation to Trumpism hardly changed in the last year. He has continually attacked the president’s immigration agenda and used his position within the GOP establishment to torpedo populist candidates. He racked up another stiff reprimand over his Never Trumpism from a GOP state chair after his own state convention did the same in 2016.
But, when push came to shove, Sasse’s actions have not been in universal opposition to the president he so despises rhetorically, backing, for example, his Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch. In fact, according to FiveThirtyEight’s analysis, Sasse has voted roughly nine times out of ten with the Trump agenda.
Even arch-liberal comic Bill Maher seems to have trouble buying Sasse’s Never Trump act, using an extraordinarily controversial term to describe his putative ideological fellow-traveler.
Mitt Romney Aspires to Be Senator Never Trump
Failed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney tried to stop Trump, who endorsed Romney, with all his might during the 2016 presidential campaign, coming out of relative retirement to fling bombs at his own party’s nominee. By contrast, the onetime Massachusetts governor spent the first year under Trump trying to jockey his way into a U.S. Senate seat across the country in Utah by attacking the populist-nationalism and the Trump wing of the Republican party.
The Senate race in Alabama provided a perfect opportunity for Romney to pick a fight with Steve Bannon and the populist wing. Romney lined up with Democrat Doug Jones to ensure a Democratic victory, all while ignoring the Democrats’ own sexual misconduct woes.
In the new year, Romney kept his name in the news, invoke the memory Martin Luther King Jr. to attack Trump during his negotiations to get America’s immigration fiasco under control.
With longtime Sen. Orrin Hatch’s (R-UT) retirement now in the books, Romney’s bid for the Senate looks stronger than ever. And worry not, he has lined up a full slate of Never Trump’s finest to back him up. Failed Utah presidential spoiler Evan McMullin, Trump “Dossier” sponsor Paul Singer and his Washington Free Beacon, and famous Trump debate victim Jeb! Bush have all made their support for Romney known.
Ben Shapiro Finds New Friends at the New York Times
Prior to leaving Breitbart News, Ben Shapiro declared he would “Never Vote for Trump.”
Republicans having decided they largely do not care that Ben Shapiro would not vote for Trump, Shapiro has kept up his act, largely replacing now-President Trump with his former boss, ex-Breitbart News Executive Chairman Stephen K. Bannon, as the boogieman ruining “true conservatism.”
In the process, he racked up a fawning profile in the New York Times calling him a “Provocative Gladiator” and, evidently, seeing him as their champion in the battle to keep conservatism toothless and inconsequential. In Shapiro’s defense, the piece came only a month after an op-ed in the same publication accusing him of “hollow bravery” because he does not sufficiently challenge “the wrongheaded ideas held by his right-wing fans.”
Max Boot Goes Full SJW
Max Boot — the unrepentant Iraq War cheerleader and self-described American imperialist who advised failed pro-amnesty presidential candidates John McCain and Marco Rubio on their bellicose, and roundly rejected, foreign policy — let slip his “conservative” mask perhaps more than any of the president’s nominally Republican critics. Even before his 2016 crusade against Donald Trump, in which he declared the Republican Party “dead,” endorsed Hillary Clinton, and claimed — likely facetiously — that he would vote for genocidal communist dictator Josef Stalin over Trump, Boot was hardly a man of the conservative base.
Then known primarily for his endorsement of myriad potential and realized American military interventions, Boot also argued passionately for the destruction of the South’s Confederate history, the complete removal of the Confederate flag from public use, and changing place names across the South to erase the “traitors” of the Civil War Era.
After Trump’s nomination and victory, he became a favorite of left-wing news outlets who would feature him as the distraught soul of the hijacked Republican Party.
But Boot’s flight from even a rough semblance of the political right rapidly accelerated after Fox News’s Tucker Carlson embarrassed him in front of a national audience in July as Boot excitedly repeated accusations of Trump administration collusion with Russia and called for a radically anti-Russian foreign policy. After that fateful “Tucker” appearance, Boot went on, in September, to reaffirm he is pro-abortion, pro-amnesty, and endorses the “transgender” movement.
As 2017 drew to a close, however, Boot let the other shoe drop, fully-embracing the Social Justice Warrior’s left’s ethos and vocabulary, writing a full Foreign Policy column on “white male privilege.”
Videotaped police misconduct and sexual harassment scandals, combined with Trump’s open appeals to prejudices, have opened my eyes to white male privilege in America. Me in @ForeignPolicy: https://t.co/OpgCFew2cF
— Max Boot (@MaxBoot) December 27, 2017
I once scoffed at claims of “white male privilege,” dismissing such criticisms as mere “political correctness.” But in the Trump era I have had my consciousness raised. Seriously. Me in @ForeignPolicy: https://t.co/OpgCFew2cF
— Max Boot (@MaxBoot) December 27, 2017
After Tucker Carlson quipped that Boot’s embrace of the SJW-left was a ploy to “let him invade Iran,” Boot decided to round out 2017 with this campus leftist-esque tweet:
A professional (and highly paid) defender of white privilege is threatened by my article. Good. But instead of lashing out with a sarcastic sneer, @TuckerCarlson, you would be better advised to reflect honestly on your life choices and the views you propagate. https://t.co/xCw7sOYcHh
— Max Boot (@MaxBoot) December 28, 2017
Jennifer Rubin Hates Whatever Trump Likes … Even Her Own Stances
Jennifer Rubin, author of the Washington Post’s “Right Turn” column since 2012, has long been one of the left-wing media’s favorite “conservatives,” a status cemented when she became a leading Never Trump voice. Now, she is routinely given glowing profiles in the leftist circles she once purported to opposed — at least for a few years. In 2013, even the ardent conservative-hunters at Media Matters for America were unable to find any evidence of the 55-year-old Rubin being a Republican — let alone a conservative — before 2005.
Having struck chord with her anti-Trump vitriol, Rubin finished up 2017 by showing opposition to the president to be her closest-held “conservative principle,” when she opined against Trump’s fulfillment the U.S.’s promise to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. She called the decision “a foreign policy move without purpose” and “indicative of a non-policy-based foreign policy.” But, as National Review’s Charles Cooke points out, for years Rubin had repeatedly endorsed moving the embassy — when her heroes Mitt Romney and Marco Rubio wanted to.
Cooke’s piece, widely-disseminated in actual conservative circles, goes on to point out that Rubin has done the same thing about the Paris climate agreement, the Iran nuclear deal, and core conservative issues like gun control and tax policy. Rubin may be Never Trump in 2018, but 2017 ends with increasing awareness that her 12 years as a “conservative” may be at an end.
Reviewing the National Review:
Cooke’s takedown of Rubin is all the more interesting because it was his publication that provided Never Trump with its seminal moment: their “Against Trump” issue in January 2016. That tome of purported conservatives who opposed then-GOP front-runner Trump brought together a broad range of commentators who felt one conservative principle or another should preclude Trump’s winning the nomination.
The venerable conservative magazine, as a publication, has strongly moderated its stance. To mark the one-year anniversary of Trump’s presidency, its editors ran “A Year of Achievement: The Case for the Trump Presidency” as its cover headline. That piece’s author, Victor Davis Hanson, and other National Review editors, including the once Never Trump Rich Lowry, have had the magnanimity to highlight the conservative accomplishments of the Trump administration’s first year.
Collectively, the magazine’s editors even offered congressional Republicans moral support to “hang tough” in the battle over this week’s government shutdown and the Trump immigration agenda.
Some of the contributors to the now-infamous Never Trump issue, however, are less open to acknowledging that progress. Where are the unrepentant contributors behind the now silly-looking “Against Trump” issue now that Trump has delivered victory and a full year of conservative governance?
Glenn Beck Keeps his Chef as The Ship Goes Down
Glenn Beck, once a giant of the political right, seems to have lost every bit of political star Trump has amassed. After he called Trump a young Adolf Hitler and compared him to Benito Mussolini, Beck and his Blaze media empire have taken a nosedive, but he has shown some contrition based on Trump’s record.
That reversal did not stop the Blaze from being forced to lay off nearly a third of its workforce. Beck’s personal chef, reportedly, was not on the chopping block, even as dismissed top executives blamed Beck’s “erratic behavior, excessive spending, and mismanagement” for the company’s downfall.
Bill Kristol Descends into Madness
The Weekly Standard editor and son of foundational neocon Irving Kristol spent much of 2016 pushing ex-CIA analyst Evan McMullin as his second “impressive” alternative to Trump. McMullin preformed pitifully, but, in 2017, Kristol followed in taking Never Trump ethos to new and unforeseen depths, refusing to join other Never Trumpers in dumping McMullin after he called George W. Bush official Ed Gillespie’s campaign “white nationalist.”
In February, Kristol let slip a possible motivation for his opposition to Trump’s immigration agenda when he told an audience member at the American Enterprise Institute that white working-class Americans should be replaced by immigrants. “Look, to be totally honest, if things are so bad as you say with the white working class, don’t you want to get new Americans in?” Kristol asked. After the fever to destroy Confederate heritage hit in August, Kristol claimed Trump supporters and those advocating for their statues not to be torn down were “rationalizing slavery.” And, by November, Kristol was gloating over GOP losses in battleground states.
As 2017 draws to a close, Kristol responded to liberal commentator Glenn Greenwald’s observation that many “resistance” members are Bush-era Iraq War proponents by claiming that his critics are in a “red-black alliance” (that his critics on the right are Nazis and that those on the left are communists — in alliance with each other) and that the Republican Party is now a personality cult because it tweeted an image of the president on Christmas:
I’m in no way a hero, but happy to be one of many standing against the red-black alliance of Greenwald and Bannon. https://t.co/uJVyBZI3Or
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) December 26, 2017
That feeling when the political party you've belonged to almost your whole adult life turns into a cult of personality worthy of a banana republic. https://t.co/YQnXeGB05D
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) December 24, 2017
David French Softens on Trump but Smears Breitbart
French — the National Review editor who was Kristol’s first pick as spoiler Never Trump candidate before claiming Trump “intimidated” him into dropping out — may also have played a part in formulating Kristol’s views on the white working class, vigorously supporting a fellow National Review man who claimed their communities “deserved to die.”
Later, French, who once claimed he would vote for Trump, may have softened on the president, noting his success in combating ISIS. But his ax to grind with Breitbart News has remained. French closed out the year falsely smearing Editor-in-Chief Alex Marlow.
Erick Erickson Declares Preference for Poor African Immigrants over Educated Westerners
As decidedly anti-Trump as anyone in 2016, Never Trumper Erickson, editor of the Resurgent, has handled 2017 and the Trump presidency with more serenity than any of the above. While he has by no means become a MAGA-type, unlike Kristol, he did have the foresight to sign off on dropping McMullin in June.
Back in November, Erickson had the magnanimity to give his honest assessment of the young Trump administration, praising what he liked and finding teaching value in the things he did not. And, to close out 2017, he had the presence of mind during the debate over the GOP’s major tax overhaul, to remember who “conservatives” actually are supposed to oppose: the big-government, culturally iconoclastic left.
None of that tacit support, however, transferred over to immigration. In response to President Trump’s alleged comment referring to “sh**hole” countries in Africa and elsewhere, Erickson responded with a powerful signal of his globalist virtue. Ignoring decades of research showing immigrants from the third world vote overwhelmingly for Democrats and big government, Erickson claimed:
I would rather the immigrant from Africa, Asia, or South America who lives in a kleptocracy and wants a better life … To be sure, the well educated first generation Norwegian would probably do better in the United States than a first generation African immigrant in terms of income. But that African immigrant would be more likely to embrace this country and its ways and indoctrinate his children into a long term love of this country