Saturday, September 08, 2018


In The National Interest, Daniel McCarthy offers a rationale for that anonymous New York Times op-ed:
The op-ed is part of a strategy. “Never Trump” Republicans are setting themselves up to claim victory when the Trump GOP loses control of the House of Representatives later this year, a turn that looks almost inevitable.
McCarthy says it isn't going to work:
But it won’t matter because the practical effect of shrinking the Republican Party will be to accelerate the change within it. The same thing happened after the GOP’s crushing defeats at the tail end of the George W. Bush years in 2006 and 2008. Far from emerging chastened and more moderate, ... the GOP that rose from the ashes of the Bush debacle was one in which the House Freedom Caucus was stronger than ever. The party was more populist and aggressively right-wing, as seen first in the Tea Party and then in Trump campaign.
That's plausible. The more extreme Republicans -- the ones in the reddest districts -- will survive. The Republicans who'll be defeated are the slightly more moderate ones in purplish districts.

So does that mean the Never Trumpers will wander forever in the wilderness, or form a third party, or try to join the Democrats?

McCarthy seems to think so, but I don't. He thinks the Never Trumpers are relics, and traitors to True Conservatism -- "as far as the party’s base is concerned, there is nothing conservative or right-wing in the least about global trade agreements, liberalized immigration policies, and nation-building abroad." But the base didn't get worked up about trade agreements during George W. Bush's time in office because for much of his presidency he was Owning The Libs with his wars and his tax cuts. Initially the base embraced the nation-building enthusiastically, because the Iraq War really seemed to Own The Libs.

The only serious problem the conservative base has with the traditional conservatism of the Never Trumpers is on the subject of immigration.

Which is why the Never Trumpers won't have to be gone for long. Before we know it, the GOP will be a fully reconstituted party led by people who Own The Libs, but with less ignorance and less crude bluster than Trump. They can be trade skeptics or free traders -- the base won't care. They can be isolationists or saber-rattlers -- Trump is both -- and the base will be cool with either. They just have to be Trumpian on immigration, if a smidge less tacky (no family separations). I think mainstream conservatives will find a way to intellectualize and then endorse this policy shift.

Our job will be to point out that the new, less bombastic, slicker party (probably led by Tom Cotton or some similar political pro) is still really bad. It will be a party that can function in polite society and that's no longer led by someone who insults political enemies on social media using schoolyard nicknames. The Never Trumpers will be comfortable in it. And it will be godawful for America.

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