Progressives misunderstand the purpose of ‘Never Trump.’
In order to answer these questions, one has to reiterate what exactly the Never Trump position entailed, as well as remember that it was never a pledge to reject conservatism or to join the Left on the barricades. Rather, it was a description that was applied to those rightward-leaning figures who believed that Donald Trump was a poor choice as the GOP’s nominee, and that he was an unfit candidate for president. Although I rarely used the term myself, it did apply to me as a practical matter: Throughout the primaries and the general election, I argued that Donald Trump was (a) an immoral man, ill-suited to the office of the presidency; (b) a political opportunist, likely to pursue policies that would seriously damage conservatism in the long run; and (c) a wannabe authoritarian who shouldn’t be trusted with power. As a result, I both opposed his nomination during the primaries and concluded during the general that I could not back somebody so manifestly unsuited to his coveted role.
Quite obviously, Trump’s victory rendered much of this moot — not, of course, because his victory has altered his character or because his success has impelled reconciliation, but because the role of Trump’s critics has by necessity been changed. Before November 8, those who opposed Trump were warning that voters should decline to take the risk he represented. That, by definition, involved a binary choice, the material question being: Should Trump be the nominee/president, or should Trump not be the nominee/president? Now that the election is over, that question has dissolved into the clouds. For better or worse, Trump is going to be the president. Progressive hysterics notwithstanding, that matter is done; decided; settled. To pretend that this isn’t true — and so to shout “No! No! No!” in response to everything that he does — would, frankly, be absurd.
So what should I do? Well, I should do precisely the same thing I did with President Obama, whom pretty much all of we Never Trump types also strongly opposed: Criticize him when he’s wrong, praise him when he’s right, and keep a tally of how many of my fears are being realized post-election. Thus far, at least, this is what I see being done. Of course conservatives who opposed Trump are praising some of his cabinet picks; mostly, they’ve been good. Of course conservatives will praise Trump if he signs a bill of which they approve; they would have done so under any president, including Obama. Of course conservatives are pleased that, for now at least, he’s being less vindictive than we feared; we are thankful that this facet of his character has not yet come to the fore.
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