[Rushtalk] Never Trumpers Never Mattered

Carl Spitzer {C Juno} cwsiv at juno.com
Wed May 30 09:55:00 MDT 2018

Never Trumpers Never Mattered

They’re all over the media, but they’re politically insignificant.

By Eric AltermanTwitter

May 3, 2018  

New York Times columnist David Brooks recently expressed his concern
that “the anti-Trump movement is a failure…. We have persuaded no one….
We have not hindered him…. We have not dislodged him…. We have not
contained him.” Brooks then went on to note that “Trump’s takeover of
the Republican Party is complete. Eighty-nine percent of Republicans
have a positive impression of the man. According to an NBC News/Wall
Street Journal poll, 59 percent of Republicans consider themselves more
a supporter of Trump than of the Republican Party.” A recent paper by
Vanderbilt University political scientist Larry Bartels reveals a party
that is thoroughly united behind Trump’s agenda of “antipathy toward
Muslims, immigrants, atheists, and gays and lesbians, and racial
resentment and concerns about discrimination against whites.”1 

Ad Policy 

Herein lies a significant paradox of our politics. The “Never Trump”
brand of Republicanism, especially its neoconservative component,
occupies a preeminent place in our political media. Yet supporters of
Bernie Sanders–style social democracy with a gig at a mainstream
newspaper, newsmagazine, or cable- or broadcast-news station are about
as rare as Republican folk singers—despite the fact that Sanders is
among the most popular politicians in America. By Brooks’s own
estimation, he and his fellow anti-Trump conservatives represent a
politically insignificant splinter of the Republican Party. And yet
their number includes not only Brooks, but Bret Stephens and Ross
Douthat on the Times’ op-ed page; Michael Gerson, Jennifer Rubin, Max
Boot, Charles Krauthammer, Kathleen Parker, and George Will on The
Washington Post’s op-ed page; Will, Stephens, Michael Steele, Joe
Scarborough, Nicolle Wallace, and Peggy Noonan on MSNBC; Brooks, Gerson,
Amy Holmes, and, soon, Margaret Hoover (who will be hosting a new
edition of William F. Buckley Jr.’s Firing Line) on PBS; as well as Max
Boot, S.E. Cupp, and too many others to mention on CNN.2

Another paradox lies in the fact that Trumpism represents a rather minor
modification of what the Never Trumpers were selling before Trump took
over the party. Indeed, most of the differences are matters of style.
Rich Lowry, editor in chief of National Review and presumed author of
its famous “Against Trump” editorial, recognizes this and explains: “One
of the giant ironies of this whole phenomenon for us is that Trump
represents a cartoonish, often exaggerated, version of the direction we
wanted to see the party go in.”3 

Supporters of Sanders-style social democracy with a gig in the
mainstream media are about as rare as Republican folk singers.

Lowry was talking about policy, but a better indicator, as libertarian
Conor Friedersdorf notes, was the silence of the now–Never Trumpers
when, in the recent past, “hugely popular intellectual leaders abandoned
the most basic norms of decency.” The inimitable Charles P. Pierce had
some serious fun with this weakness when, on Esquire’s website, he
offered up a quiz, asking the likes of William Kristol and others where
they were when, for instance, Ronald Reagan called Michael Dukakis a
“mental patient.” Or when The Wall Street Journal’s editors all but
accused Bill (or was it Hillary?) Clinton of having murdered Vince
Foster. Where were the condemnations of the “Swift-boating” of John
Kerry? I’d go further, asking if they remember when Newt Gingrich swore
that “People like me are what stand between us and Auschwitz”? How about
the naked voter suppression that has characterized the Republicans’
electoral strategy since Florida in 2000 (including their celebrated
“Brooks Brothers riot,” in which paid GOP operatives protested the
state’s recount)? Former Fox News pundits had no problem cashing their
paychecks when, for instance, Glenn Beck insisted that President Obama
had “a deep-seated hatred for white people,” and Rupert Murdoch admitted
that, sadly, he was right. And let us not forget that it was Kristol,
together with Never Trumper hero John McCain, who elevated Sarah
(“obviously, we’ve got to stand with our North Korean allies”) Palin.4 

The Rot Inside the Republican Party

The Nation

The Rot Inside the Republican Party

Eric Alterman

Again, one could go on indefinitely, but let’s be honest: Given the fact
that it’s nearly impossible to be both pro-Trump and pro-fact, Never
Trumpism was a good career move for pundits. But let us recall that
barely any of this crew took the one step that might have helped prevent
Trump from coming to power—that is, endorse his opponent, Hillary
Clinton. This leaves their opposition to Trump in 2016 looking like so
much moral preening.5

Moreover, as debased as Trumpism has turned our political discourse, the
center of political gravity remains in the “both sides do it” zone. Look
at the outrage from the likes of journalists Maggie Haberman and Andrea
Mitchell directed against the comedian Michelle Wolf for her genteel
grilling of Trump press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders at the White
House Correspondents’ Dinner—at the very same moment that the president
of the United States, speaking at a Nuremberg-style rally, was
screeching: “The laws are so corrupt! They are so corrupt!” On a more
elevated level, former Bill Clinton adviser Bill Galston, a smart
political scientist and member in good standing of what remains of the
centrist establishment, recently published a book-length study called
Anti-Pluralism: The Populist Threat to Liberal Democracy. Repeatedly,
Galston condemns what he diagnoses as mere “partisanship” or “gridlock”
that “has blocked policy responses to core public problems.” Sorry, Bill
—the real problem is the deeply diseased, potentially protofascist
Republican Party. Trump is the symptom, not the cause. There is only one
cure, and that is to defeat it. There is only one way to do that, and
that is by supporting its opposition: the Democratic Party. Its conquest
of the punditocracy notwithstanding, “Never Trump” Republicanism is
about as meaningful an opposition as Jill Stein’s effectively pro-Trump
Green Party. Let’s hope CNN isn’t ready to make her an offer as well.6 

Eric AltermanTwitterNation columnist Eric Alterman has been writing for
the magazine since 1983.


We Say Goodbye To Lara Spencer
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