Cold Fury

Harshing your mellow since 9/01

“The Collapse of the Never-Trump Conservatives”

Collapse? More like suicide by self-beclownment. The subhed is hilarious too: “They’ll always have Twitter and MSNBC.” Which, they’re welcome to both of ’em for all me, and I’ll even throw in CBABNBCNN as a booby-prize bonus.

With the installation of Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and a yet-to-be-named reliable replacement for the unreliable Anthony Kennedy, Donald Trump will have confirmed himself as the most consequential conservative president of the modern era (or a close second to Reagan if you’re nostalgic). This will be complete vindication for Trump supporters, which means it’s really the end for the so-called Never Trump conservatives. Of course, there have been so many humiliating defeats for that crowd that we are spoiled for choice. What was your favorite blunder, or blown prediction, which marked their ignominious end?

You can tell already this is going to be one hell of a fun read.

For some, it must have been in March when Bill Kristol, longtime editor of the conservative magazine the Weekly Standard, showed up in New Hampshire telling people he would run against President Trump in 2020. Or in April when the conservative website RedState was taken over and purged of writers who were “insufficiently supportive” of the president. Some go back to October 2017 when a Twitter spat broke out between Stephen Hayes and Brit Hume of Fox News over the Weekly Standard’s anti-Trumpeditorials. With the death last week of Charles Krauthammer, the revered neocon commentator and prominent Trump skeptic, the eclipse of the neocon intellectuals is complete.

One thing’s for sure: it wasn’t really a war so much as a rout. The Never Trump intellectual crowd has no momentum and no popular following these days. Consider the trajectory of their would-be leader Kristol, who appears to be indulging in a personal fantasy by putting himself forward as a candidate, as his rapport with GOP voters includes trying to run Evan McMullin in Utah to throw the 2016 election to Hillary Clinton. When that stunt failed, Kristol personally insulted the pro-Trump writer Michael Anton for his influential essay “The Flight 93 election.” Then Kristol’s commentator gig with Fox was not renewed, and he was soon accusing Tucker Carlson of “ethno-nationalism” and “racism.” Overshadowing all of these breaks was Kristol’s personal history of being the conservative’s answer to Bob Shrum, a political “pro” who was always very wrong about politics.

Of course, Kristol was not alone in his contempt for Trump — he was only the most vocal and unhinged. 

My oh MY. Did I say “fun read” up there? That’s one hell of an understatement. But after a whole bunch of seriously stinging naming-and-shaming, Robinson goes on to do some fine analysis here too, and you definitely want to read it all.

Okay, okay, if the above excerpt wasn’t enough to send you flying thither, one more painful slam ought to do it:

What happened? If these intellectuals were so influential in the conservative movement, then why has their apostasy garnered so little attention? A Ramesh Ponnuru editorial in Bloomberg blurted out this truth: “In 2016 we found out that conservative elites didn’t speak for Republican voters.” This split between the party’s base and its donor class (as well as the donor-funded intellectuals) was years in the making, but it became obvious once Trump became the nominee. Then the truth became obvious and damning: the Never Trumpers represented no one but themselves.

Looking back, it now seems self-evident that conservative pundits were preposterously out of touch. (Who isn’t amused by the poindexter pretentiousness of George Will’s bow-ties or the pseudo-scholarly piffle of Jonah Goldberg’s byline as “the inaugural holder of the Asness Chair in Applied Liberty?”).

Trump’s base was fighting a war; these guys were sipping tea.

The ring of that slap was loud enough to echo all the way over here. He gets in another good one on Will (a “sterile hybrid”) a little further in, and then…oh, just go read it yourself already. You’ll be glad you did.

Update! Robinson also mentions an old TuCa piece, parts of which read like true clairvoyance now.

Trump is in part a reaction to the intellectual corruption of the Republican Party. That ought to be obvious to his critics, yet somehow it isn’t.

Pretty embarrassing. And yet they’re not embarrassed. Many of those same overpaid, underperforming tax-exempt sinecure-holders are now demanding that Trump be stopped. Why? Because, as his critics have noted in a rising chorus of hysteria, Trump represents “an existential threat to conservatism.”

Let that sink in. Conservative voters are being scolded for supporting a candidate they consider conservative because it would be bad for conservatism? And by the way, the people doing the scolding? They’re the ones who’ve been advocating for open borders, and nation-building in countries whose populations hate us, and trade deals that eliminated jobs while enriching their donors, all while implicitly mocking the base for its worries about abortion and gay marriage and the pace of demographic change. Now they’re telling their voters to shut up and obey, and if they don’t, they’re liberal.

It turns out the GOP wasn’t simply out of touch with its voters; the party had no idea who its voters were or what they believed. For decades, party leaders and intellectuals imagined that most Republicans were broadly libertarian on economics and basically neoconservative on foreign policy. That may sound absurd now, after Trump has attacked nearly the entire Republican catechism (he savaged the Iraq War and hedge fund managers in the same debate) and been greatly rewarded for it, but that was the assumption the GOP brain trust operated under. They had no way of knowing otherwise. The only Republicans they talked to read the Wall Street Journal too.

Even more amazing (and damning) is how many of them were willing not just to endure Hillary!™, but actually endorse her. Tucker’s article is another one you’re going to want to read if you missed it the first time ’round like I did. His closer is a real killer, too.

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2 thoughts on ““The Collapse of the Never-Trump Conservatives”

  1. Thanks for making my day with that Robinson article. I now will have everyone wondering why I have this face hurting grin today…

  2. Wow, what a pair of blockbuster articles! Excellent post!

    Somehow I had indeed missed that Tucker Carlson piece (didn’t read much Politico then… or now, come to think of it,) but he sure got a clear look into the crystal ball, didn’t he! Very prophetic.

    Have a wonderful 4th of July, I sure will!

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