Tucked deep in a story in the Washington Post about Virginia Republican gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie’s fundraising:
Susan Kristol of McLean donated to the past two Republican gubernatorial nominees but said the party’s embrace of Trump inspired her to cut a $200 check for Northam.
“I’m very disappointed in the Republican Party in general and its inability to stand up to Donald Trump’s behavior and message,” said Kristol, who is married to Bill Kristol, founder of the Weekly Standard and a fierce Trump critic. “I don’t think we should keep feeding the Republican pipeline with new officeholders if all they are going to do is toe the line and agree with every one of [Trump’s] policies.”
It’s a free country, and Susan Kristol can donate to the candidates she likes. But it’s worth observing that the idea that Ed Gillespie is some sort of Trump clone or yes-man is pretty laughable. She’s forgetting that Corey Stewart’s entire argument in the primary was that Gillespie was insufficiently loyal to Trump: he never attended a Trump rally in 2016, he condemned Trump’s “Access Hollywood” comments, and refused to endorse him after the primary for being unwilling to support Trump. When Gillespie contrasts his position with Democrat Ralph Northam’s, he’s careful to characterize it as one of pragmatic prioritization against stubborn partisanship: “I want to lead Virginia. Ralph Northam wants to lead the resistance… I seek to serve my fellow Virginians, and I will work with the administration — you’re darn right I will.” If a position like that is enough to get you donating to the Democratic candidate… well, you may feel really at home in today’s Democratic party.
Secondly, if your litmus test for whether or not to support a Republican candidate is how often each one stands up to Trump’s behavior, message and policies… you’re going to end up supporting very, very few Republicans. Most Republicans vote in line with the administration, not out of obedience or because they have succumbed to a cult of personality, but because the Trump agenda and the traditional Republican agenda still overlap quite a bit. Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake votes in line with the administration’s position about 91 percent of the time. Traditional Republicans may not like Trump’s rhetoric, style, impulsive behavior, temperament, Twitter use, populism, opposition to free trade, quasi-isolationist instincts, warm feelings towards Russia… where was I going with this? Ah, yes — that is still an administration that supports tax cuts, traditionalist judges, a stronger military, less regulation, school choice, and at least gives lip service to spending cuts.
You can ask a Republican candidate to make opposing a Republican president his life’s mission. But the vast majority of the time, you’re going to be disappointed by the answer.