The Great Cratering is upon us. According to the RealClearPolitics average, Donald Trump is losing to Clinton by almost seven points, the battleground polls look terrible, his net favorability rating is minus 26 (a 16-point gap with Clinton), and the betting markets give him an almost 80 percent chance of losing the presidency. Only the most deluded Trump loyalist — the kind of person who measures support by counting Trump signs in his neighborhood or comparing rally attendance numbers — would think things are going well for their man. But who’s to blame for his fall? Is it those elitest GOPe jerks at Never Trump? Hardly. A few points:
1. We Never Trumpers must be the most powerful “losers” in history. I can remember just days ago when we were completely irrelevant, the Trump Train had driven straight over our cuck bodies, and it was cruising straight to the Oval Office. Now that Trump is slumping Never Trump is suddenly so powerful that “assholes” like the Wall Street Journal’s Bret Stephens (to quote Trump acolyte Sean Hannity) should be “held accountable” if Hillary wins.
2. The real story is much less dramatic. Never Trump’s actual electoral influence — to the extent it had any — peaked during the primaries. In a base election, Never Trump writers, thinkers, and pundits reached a much higher percentage of the electorate. Our great failure wasn’t so much in persuading people not to vote for Trump — he won with the lowest percentage of the vote of any GOP nominee in the primary era (even when he was unopposed for the last few contests) – but in creating a movement that could unite behind a single candidate. For lack of true leadership, the movement was lost.
3. Never Trump still has some electoral influence, but it’s at the margins. The electorate is spiking from the 31 million who voted in the GOP primary to the almost 130 million who are expected to vote in the general election. While our collective reach isn’t small (in the millions), it often overlaps, is hardly monolithic, and simply can’t reach a significant fraction of the total vote. In other words, engineering a large-scale, national polling swing is well beyond Never Trump’s political capacity.
4. Even if Never Trump has a considerable megaphone, it’s dwarfed by Trump’s media-amplified reach. In other words, we can’t reach nearly as many people with a message about Trump as Trump can reach with a message about himself. He’s the central actor in this drama, and his performance is the one that matters most, by far.
5. Thus, the real goal of Never Trump isn’t so much to beat Trump in the general election (Trump is proving quite good at beating himself) but to preserve the intellectual and moral foundation of the conservative movement. If Trump and his acolytes are the arsonists — torching the ideas and values that will best secure our inalienable rights and our national prosperity — then Never Trump seeks to be the firefighters. And it’s not just vital that we preserve the viability of conservative ideals, but that we also preserve the credibility of conservative thinkers. Ideas need ambassadors, and Trump’s loyalists are shredding their long-term credibility with every passing day.
Trump is to blame for his troubles. He is losing to Hillary Clinton. He would rather humiliate his opponents than unify the party. He is the Democrat demagogue who secured the nomination. He is the person who mocks conservative values and scorns conservative ideas. That’s all on him, not on Never Trump.