by Jeffery A Rendall
Is #NeverTrump disappearing?
It’s safe to say intra-party opposition to a certain candidate or platform isn’t a new concept. Conservatives, for example, have battled the Republican establishment for well over a hundred years trying to win control of the party and turn it into more of an ideologically driven movement (as first embodied by Barry Goldwater and then by Ronald Reagan) as opposed to a collection of politicians who generally favored sound (but big) government and vigorous national defense.
Internal schisms were on full display during the 2016 Republican primaries with the “outsiders” (Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina) consistently polling at 60% or above versus the establishment (Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, John Kasich and Chris Christie, et al) dividing the smaller pie of votes.
From the outset it was apparent an “outsider” would win the GOP nomination – it just took months to determine whether it would be Trump or Cruz.
Once Trump was a shoe-in for the nomination, however, a new phenomenon developed within the Republican Party that hadn’t manifested before. A small group of noteworthy conservatives banded with the shattered remnants of the Bush establishment to vow to never support Trump under any circumstances. Their resistance was vicious and bitter.
These people promised they wouldn’t vote for Trump. When he won many of them swore he wouldn’t last; now that Trump’s settled into his job as president they’re continuing to snipe at his flanks the way a guerrilla force would an invading army. #NeverTrumpers have made precious little headway on their quest to damage Trump’s prestige with his supporters while tarnishing their own reputations in the process. Heck, who listens to Bill Kristol anymore?
#NeverTrumpers are fading into the background, that’s for sure. But could it be they’re willfully going away?
Rich Lowry wrote in National Review, “Trump’s presidency so far has been a shotgun marriage between the off-the-shelf GOP agenda and his own impulses on immigration and trade, when, ideally, there would have been a more fully thought-out and integrated conservative populism.
“Trump is not seriously engaged enough to drive this himself, while congressional Republicans lack interest in immigration restriction and oppose Trump on trade. But make no mistake: On immigration and China trade, Trump is closer to the national Republican consensus than his conservative detractors.
“A realistic attitude to Trump involves acknowledging both his flaws and how he usefully departs from a tired Reagan nostalgia. 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.”
It was surprisingly refreshing reading this piece from Lowry seeing as he manages a core group of intellectual dissidents – and outright opponents – of Donald Trump. A good number of Lowry’s National Review colleagues constantly harp on Trump’s peculiar habits and uneven personal history as though they’re a foundation for continuing skepticism of his presidency.
Last month it was the hubbub over former porn queen-turned-adulterous-accuser Stormy Daniels that drew a healthy degree of acrimony from the #NeverTrump contingent. How many times did they (and others in the mainstream media) examine the credibility of Stormy’s account of an alleged encounter with then Reality TV star Trump in 2006? Everyone knows Trump was no angel in his “former” life – and at least when it comes to language and mannerisms he isn’t a whole lot improved even today.
Yet we’ll find a lot more truth associated with Trump’s tweets than with anything reported in the mainstream media. Trump first suggested the Obama administration directly spied on his campaign. Was it true? Yes. Last summer Trump called out various members of his own party leadership for their failures to produce for the American public. Was it true? Yes.
Trump tosses in a stretched tweeted fact from time to time but by now there’s little doubt he dearly loves his country and is most concerned with preserving old traditions while at least taking note of the views of the opposition. Trump’s “listening sessions” with the Democrats over guns and immigration demonstrated he’s open to public discussions on virtually any issue.
What else would should we expect from a president?
Having observed the #NeverTrump phenomenon for two years now it seems clear the biggest obstacle the remaining so-called “conservative” Trump’s opponents must overcome is the simple fact hardly any of their frantic “sky will fall under Trump” warnings came to fruition.
Outside of non-presidential behavioral quirks Trump has actually acted as any traditional Republican chief executive would, nominating solid Republicans for his cabinet, instituting a “peace through strength” foreign policy, choosing textualist Constitution-revering judges for court vacancies and touting his “Make America Great Again” agenda which in most ways mirrors the GOP platform.
Trump talks tough to enemies and rivals and demands that federal officials do their jobs. At the same time, he’s deferred to the establishment on a number of occasions, most recently to sign the omnibus spending monster.
Trade is perhaps Trump’s greatest deviation from Republican orthodoxy but even in this realm the president finds some backers in the GOP. Practically everyone supports the notion of free trade but if foreign nations aren’t doing their part to reciprocate, most conservatives favor some sort of retaliation to insure fairness.
And needless to say if our southern neighbor is purposely allowing people to break our immigration laws, something needs to be done about it.
Kyle Feldscher of the Washington Examiner reported over the weekend, “President Trump appeared to kill the prospect of making a deal on the Deferred Actions for Childhood Arrivals program as a caravan of thousands of migrant workers make their way through Mexico toward the U.S.
“Trump, after wishing the country a happy Easter holiday, tweeted a plea to Republican senators to change the rules of the upper chamber to pass tough new immigration laws.
“’Border Patrol Agents are not allowed to properly do their job at the Border because of ridiculous liberal (Democrat) laws like Catch & Release. Getting more dangerous. ‘Caravans’ coming. Republicans must go to Nuclear Option to pass tough laws NOW. NO MORE DACA DEAL!’ Trump tweeted.”
Sure, this Tweet warning came on Easter Sunday and yes, it looks like just another Trump-ian mini tantrum over something he saw on cable news, but this is serious. As the president indicated a “caravan” of Hondurans is passing through Mexico on the way to the U.S. border, intending to cross and demand sanctuary under current programs like DACA (short for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) or other Obama-era policies that allowed Hondurans to evade deportation.
Trump was also venting his frustration over the Democrats’ lack of good faith in the DACA negotiations. DACA, which was supposed to end a month ago, was extended by liberal federal judges going outside their authority to interpret laws. Trump always expressed sympathy for the plight of illegal “kids” (mistakenly labeled “Dreamers” since most are adults) and even offered them amnesty and eventual citizenship – a more than fair compromise – but Democrats wouldn’t “dream” of trading away a campaign issue that gets leftists animated.
With the matter now in limbo there are Hondurans marching through Mexico on the way to the U.S. border – and Mexican authorities are ostensibly allowing them to do so.
Far from the #NeverTrumpers’ depiction of Trump as aloof and uncompromising, the president has proven to be flexible – perhaps a little too much – on certain elements of his agenda. Trump and conservatives were willing to talk about trading concessions on the Democrats’ DACA if the minority party would come to the table on chain migration, ending the disastrously stupid “visa lottery” and reorienting the legal immigration system to favor more educated immigrants.
None of it worked. The issue will remain at the forefront ahead of November’s midterms – and Republican candidates would be wise to “nationalize” the election by highlighting it.
It’s ironic how Democrats all-but killed any hope of realizing DACA – and they should be made to pay for their hypocrisy at the ballot box.
It’s also somewhat odd how the “outsider” candidate-turned-president’s strongest leadership has come in foreign policy (of which immigration is certainly an element). During the 2016 campaign #NeverTrumpers hooted and hollered over Trump’s purported lack of knowledge and temperament for dealing with foreign leaders. Do they still doubt?
Maybe we should ask South Carolina establishment Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Though Graham would no longer be considered #NeverTrump he still feels empowered to offer opinions as though he were. Over the weekend Graham said Trump would make a huge mistake by altering U.S. policy in the Middle East.
Connor O’Brien of Politico reported, “In an interview on ‘Fox News Sunday,’ the South Carolina Republican argued that leaving Syria would wipe out gains against the Islamic State terrorist group.
“’It’d be the single worst decision the president could make,’ Graham said. ‘I’ve seen this movie before, when Obama did the same thing in Iraq.’
“’When it comes to Syria, do not read the Obama playbook, one foot in, one foot out,’ Graham advised. ‘This is a disaster in the making.’”
Not true; a disaster in the making would be Trump’s ignoring his own instincts on the best way to handle the unsolvable conflict in the Middle East where American troops in Syria (said to number around 2000) currently find themselves sandwiched between Kurdish allies to the east and NATO backed Turks to the west. With ISIS essentially eliminated (and surrounded by enemies on all sides) it doesn’t seem logical the group could reconstitute and remain a lasting threat.
Meanwhile several regional fighting forces are vying to carve up the formerly ISIS conquered territory. Trump’s biggest error would be listening to Bush-era neoconservatives like Graham who continuously push for more and more U.S. involvement in territory that cannot be pacified no matter how many American fighting men and women are on the ground.
Trump promised during the 2016 campaign he wouldn’t repeat George W. Bush’s mistakes and last week indicated the troops would be coming home “very soon.” If Graham is so assured withdrawing the U.S. military would bring calamitous results, how long does he suggest we be there? What happens when they’re fired upon (as inevitably they will be by somebody)?
“Peacekeeping” doesn’t work. If history is a guide there is no solution to the religious and ideological divergences in that war-torn part of the world. Trump seems to have learned from the thousands dead and trillions America dumped into Iraq with no apparent victory secured.
#NeverTrump’s influence is waning in today’s American politics. The last remaining conservative and Republican anti-Trump holdouts would be well served to take Rich Lowry’s advice – keep a close eye on Trump but don’t be afraid to support the man who’s doing a lot of good things.