I enjoy reading Hot Air’s Jazz Shaw, but I fear that he misunderstands the intentions and tactics of the #NeverTrump movement — or at least doesn’t understand the movement in the same way that I do. In a post earlier today, he chastises “conservative thought leaders” for giving up on the White House and circling their wagons around the congressional majority. To the very limited extent that there are actual people who now believe we should focus more on Congress than the White House, I agree with Shaw. That is “foolish.” There’s a presidential race that can still be fought and won.
Shaw and I part company, however, in our assessment of the role of #NeverTrump in that fight. After critiquing my piece yesterday — where I argue that Trump is no better than Hillary Clinton — Shaw says this:
I fear that too many of our prominent conservative authors and commentators have lashed themselves so tightly to the mast of the #NeverTrump movement that this is now a matter of personal pride and a fear of the appearance of having lost an argument. This sort of vainglorious attitude is not going to help anyone, including those who decide to torch the ship while the rest of us are onboard. There is still hope that Ted Cruz might emerge as the nominee, but even if that much is managed it needs to be done in an open fashion which leaves room for Trump’s people to feel that they had a fair shot and come around to supporting Ted in November. But if that fails and Trump winds up carrying our banner, we owe ourselves the same opportunity to join them on a path toward taking back the White House rather than breaking out the seppuku swords before the battle is even begun.
In my experience, there is nothing vainglorious about #NeverTrumpers. Instead, we are people who’ve studied Trump and found that he’s so dreadful that he transcends typical party politics. Moreover, the vow to oppose him represents not just a matter of sincere personal conviction but also the best way I (we) know how to communicate to voters the true stakes of a vote for Trump.
We’re all so used to hyperbole in political races that we find it easy to tune out virtually any argument, even the most passionately delivered. Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney went after each other hammer and tongs, but they ultimately united. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama conducted months of political trench warfare in 2008, complete with daily charges and countercharges of racism and sexism. Clinton became Obama’s loyal foot soldier and today is his champion in the Democratic primary. That’s modern primary politics. You fight, then unite.
Against that backdrop, how does one convincingly make the argument that this time, things are different? This time, our critique of a GOP candidate goes beyond the normal (even the intensely normal) and veers into the fundamental. You do so through words and actions. Our words are clear enough, but just as faith without works is dead, so — I believe — are words without actions. The “condemn today endorse tomorrow” business as usual simply isn’t appropriate for this election cycle.
I didn’t always believe this way about Trump. I was wrong. I’ve explained why I changed my mind and vowed #NeverTrump, and — as I said — I’ve even come to believe Trump is so bad that he’s no better than Clinton. The man is dangerous, and I believe he’ll stain for a generation any party that adopts him as its standard-bearer. Making that case helps stop him now, and — if he wins the nomination — it helps rebuild the conservative movement later.
In short, #NeverTrump is about not giving up — not on the White House and not on the conservative movement. Not now. Not ever.