There are times that I grapple with how to explain my politics to people. Among other political and media work, my career has contained two Republican presidential campaigns, a Republican gubernatorial campaign, along with a Republican congressional campaign. I worked in the 2021 Republican National Convention and the 58th Presidential Inauguration-yea, Trump's inaugural. However when I tell people I'm a Republican, that's not quite the whole picture.
See, I'm one of those \”Never Trump\” Republicans. Or maybe I'm a \”Limited Trump,\” Republican since i have did give the man a chance in the four months immediately following his election. I needed to be optimistic. I wished for the best.
Instead, we got exactly the same guy who ran for president, only as the commander-in-chief.
So my experiment with \”Limited Trumpism\” ended and I thought about myself as a \”Never Trumper\” again because it was already in the public lexicon and since it was a shorthand way to disassociate myself in the stable genius in the White House
But to be honest, I've never really liked the term \”Never Trump\” Republican. And it's time to retire it.
The phrase “Never Trump” doesn't do justice to Republicans, or former Republicans, or any non-Democrat who speaks out from the lies, immorality, and nefarious activities of Trump's Republican Party. It's an intellectually lazy label born from the clickbait media culture. I guess that's the reason why the Trump cult loves it, and perhaps partially why journalists use it.
But you ask, why is it intellectually lazy?
Because each time Trump, or his sycophants use the term Never Trump, they imply those Republicans who oppose Trump are corrupt and people who are apolitical are part of some sort of conspiracy. And the truth is, there's nothing of the sort. David Frum and George Will and Rick Wilson all come to their antipathy toward Trump for different reasons, none which was for self-gain. The unifying thread is the fact that these people and others, believe that Trump represents such a danger to the Republic that it is vital that you sublimate their careers, their policy preferences, their tribal identities, in order to oppose him.
Calling people like this \”Never Trump\” is just a dumbed-down phrase that anyone can repeat once they get overwhelmed by facts. It's not a category, or a descriptor, so much as an epithet.
Here's President Trump undermining the credibility of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman:
Or Congresswoman Elise Stefanik smearing those who criticized her for her servile performance during the impeachment inquiry:
#NY21 voters will soundly defeat gun-grabbing, Taxin’ Tedra who is now the #1 pro-IMPEACHMENT candidate across the country. Her campaign is led by this NEVER TRUMPER impeachment-obsessed “abusive creep” 👇 https://t.co/ZvOuMKeCF1
— Elise Stefanik (@EliseStefanik) November 17, 2019
Or Cory Lewandowski attacking Jonah Goldberg:
Or President Trump attacking the credibility of an aide to his own vice president and implying that there's a cabal out to get him:
See how that actually works?
Look at example #1, Vindman. Here obama is trying to discredit an Army lieutenant colonel who works for him. The man is a combat veteran. A Purple Heart recipient. He's passed an extensive NSC background-check. And because Trump doesn't know how to grapple with all of that, he simply asserts that Vindman is a \”Never Trumper\” operating in some extra-legal capacity.
I realize that some people wear the Never Trump label as a badge of honor, but after exploring the comments from Trump, Lewandowski, Stefanik, and others during the last couple weeks, I think it's time to become more accurate about what it means to oppose Mr . trump as a Republican.
For three years, President Trump has subjected the nation to an onslaught of lies and hyper-divisive behavior rooted in conspiracy, circus, insult, bigotry, and fear. He has circumvented the U.S. Constitution. He belittles and betrays our allies. He has multiple associates in prison or currently awaiting sentencing.
None of those attributes are normal.
It's important to say that again: Playing footsie with white supremacists isn't normal. Having your campaign manager, personal lawyer, and political guru in prison is not normal. Defending Vladimir Putin by criticizing your personal intelligence agencies is not normal. Calling in a private citizen, dictating a note to him, and then tasking him with delivering the message to your attorney general, is not normal. Paying hush money to some porn star is not normal.
Tweeting all day long, every day, is not normal for any president of the United States.
The heart from the movement to oppose Trump from inside the Republican Party is a refusal to normalize the man's actions. Because to accept his behavior and low character because the new baseline for the nation's chief executive invites danger today and disaster tomorrow.
And this opposition isn't actually about being \”Never Trump.\” It's about putting our country first. Above our tribal loyalties. Above our policy preferences. Above the partisan spoils of politics.
Country First Republican is really a far more accurate label for individuals like me.
Whatever happens after Trump, Country First Republicans will be vital to the national debate, since the current infrastructure of the GOP may have been thoroughly discredited as anything other than an authoritarian-curious personality cult.
If the Democrats take power in 2021, Country First Republicans would be the only ones with the credibility to protect political norms from the right. And as Republicans try to rebuild after the Trump Era, Country First Republicans will be the first constituency the party needs to win back.
And here, it's important to observe that I'm not talking about people active in politics, like me. Maybe we'll be let into the club to help chart a means forward. Maybe we won't. I do not really care about that.
I'm talking about the millions-and millions-of educated, suburban voters who have checked out of the GOP during Trump's tenure. This type of person the real Country First Republicans, and there is no path forward for the Republican Party without them. None.
It's entirely possible that the post-Trump GOP will fully embrace illiberalism, nationalism, and isolationism and be relegated to rural areas. However, if the GOP is to become a national party again, it will be because the party rediscovers its love of liberty, its respect for our allies, its compassion for the needy and the weak, and its willingness to be truthful, even if it is politically inconvenient.
Whether it is using the Grand Ole Party, a new party, or as independents, the Americans who currently contain the label of Country First Republicans will ultimately become national leaders again. And it'll be this group who helps to ensure that governance in America is grounded in fact-based arguments, fiscal responsibility, good sense solutions, free enterprise, free markets, and local coalitions, all without assaulting human dignity or social cohesion.
Because sooner or later, the party is going to have to disavow this shameful period. Otherwise it will cease to exist or become a minor party by having an abhorrent stench that future generations will avoid.