I got into a Twitter conversation with Tom Van Dyke about the holdouts on Donald Trump. He took issue with Michael Medved, who said that being anti-Trump is a courageous stance. Tom does not personally care much for Trump, but he supports him as a nominee that is superior to Hillary Clinton. He is, in fact, the only person I know who has waved the #NeverTrump banner and turned. A number of Trump critics have turned, giving those who have said “They will all fall into line” reason to smugly declare themselves prescient. But there is also a historically unprecedented reluctance to endorse the nominee. Enough so that some people, including TVD, are getting frustrated with it.

I am not sure I ever waved the #NeverTrump banner on an official basis. Anyone who has read my writing here or Over There knows, however, that I’m on board with the concept. You never say never, but I cannot imagine any circumstances under which I would vote for the man. My views on the matter are really quite extreme. It’s not that I know he would be a tyrant, but I consider it a non-trivial possibility that he will simply ignore all of the institutional controls we have because because he doesn’t respect them. That sounds like rhetorical excess, but I see no reason to believe he would not simply ignore unfovarable Supreme Court rulings, and almost always involving his ability to act independently of congress. A number of Democrats look at Cruz, and Republicans look at Hillary, and say “Actually, they’d be worse because…” and I reject those arguments.

I recognize, however, that my views on this are not normal. And I could be wrong. While I see a tyrant, other people see other things. A number of people on the left have done the thing where they say “If you really believe this about Trump, you would take it to its most logical conclusion” (with the logical conclusion being some combination of never supporting another Republican ever again, and/or disavowing any views on race and politics that liberals find unacceptable, and/or declaring yourself a moral cretin who has been wrong about everything he’s ever said in his entire life). There is some truth to some that, but only if I’m 100% sure I’m right and I’m not 100% sure about much of anything.

Which means that there is, in fact, wiggle room. This cycle, I am not going to be voting for anyone that has directly aided and abetted Trump, or that endorses him. Including those who endorse “the nominee” without naming him. But they’re not blacklisted for life in my mind. My Trumper friends are not going to be disowned. Politicians that make mistakes this cycle will be forgiven with time. This is life in a pluralistic society.

And when it comes to politicians in particular, they have a different vantage point than I do. I am a firm believer that we see in life what our circumstances allow us to see, and many of them are looking down the barrels of the rest of their careers and lives. As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

And beyond that, talk is cheap. I may believe that Trump is dangerous, but it’s also easy for me to believe it. It’s also easy for me to believe, as I do, that the politics line up with my personal preferences and that doing anything but distancing themselves from Trump as much as they can will hurt them in direct proportion to how much they fail to so. If I get a false positive, or if I am wrong, I face very little harm. They have reason to ask themselves “Are you sure?” over and over again. I don’t. I want to scream “It’s not that hard, people!”… but it apparently is. If it was as easy, and obvious, as it looks to me, more of them would be doing it.

That brings me to TVD, Medved, and the bravery (or lack thereof) of #NeverTrump. It also helps explain why I grade people on a sliding scale. The more that seeing Donald Trump as I do affects your ability to succeed, the less I expect you to see it.

If you’re an independent commentator, like I am, then #NeverTrump is usually not terribly difficult position to take. Especially for someone like me. It is not a threat to my social circles. It doesn’t threaten my wife’s job. It doesn’t mean that I’m going to be on the outs with my family. There are a number of commentators whose audience is unlikely to punish them for it. The National Review can afford to be anti-Trump. There are other cases, however, where it may indeed be hurting them. There are indications that the Washington Free Beacon, for example, has paid a pretty steep price in terms of readership.

Politicians are a different matter, and not just because I expect less of them generally. Rather, that’s where the consequences become serious. Depending on who you are and who your constituency is, refusing to support your presidential nominee really is a big deal. It is not something that can be done lightly. It’s something almost never done, except by someone with one foot already out the door. Any politician who does that has my respect in spades. It’s the sort of thing I’m not going to forget, even as I have to forgive and forget most of those who do go over the dark side.

The easiest position for a politician to take is to support “the nominee.” If you’re pro-unity, you can look at what Rick Perry is doing and be kind of impressed that he’s eating his own words so vigorously. If someone says that takes guts, I… can’t actually disagree with that. Likewise, I couldn’t be more impressed with Paul Ryan right now. While I appreciate Romney and the Bush family and others, their skin in the game is pretty limited. However much Ryan, Flake, Sasse, and the rest of The Hamilton List can manage to hold out (and I fear they may not, indefinitely), I will appreciate. Too few are. It does take bravery, and that’s in somewhat short supply.

Category: Newsroom

About the Author

17 Responses to Is #NeverTrump Brave?

  1. ppnl says:

    Meh – Trump isn’t the problem. Trump is a reality show monkey that is just filling the role ready made for him. He will do anything or say anything in order to create the reality show false drama that he feeds on.

    The problem is the republican base that the republican party has been cultivating for so many decades now. They lost control of it and were gored by their own monster.

    The only solution is to somehow deconstruct the monster and the #nevertrump people are the only people trying. I wish them luck because we desperately need a healthy republican party.

    • trumwill says:

      I frame it as the GOP having a rather weak immune system from all of the cigarettes, Cheetos, and grape juice it’s been subsisting on for the last several years… and Trump is the virus. If it weren’t Trump it would be someone else, but something at least a little less virulent like Cruz.

  2. CK MacLeod says:

    If you’re pro-unity, you can look at what Rick Perry is doing and be kind of impressed that he’s eating his own words so vigorously.

    Re the above, also following up our exchange on Twitter: Here is one of the two or three places where I find Donald J Trump superior to many of his former rivals.

    I’m thinking of when he said he didn’t really want Cruz’s endorsement if it was going to be so difficult for him to give it. Now, I consider Trump’s prior conduct toward Cruz – and others – simply inexcusable, and for other reasons I wouldn’t support Trump regardless, so the fact that I appreciate his position in this regard doesn’t change my basic position on him or his candidacy. I’m more interested in what the reversals to endorse say about some of the others.

    It is hard to imagine what Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal could have said last year that would have amounted to a stronger condemnation of Donald Trump, that “cancer” that “must be stopped” and could not be trusted with the nuclear codes, and so on. To reverse yourself on such statements and somehow to expect your current and future statements to carry any weight at all is to demonstrate a depraved indifference to the bases of honest discourse – among other things, that people say what they mean and will stand by it until presented with a logical basis for changing their minds, in a way that can be rationally explained.

    Pathetically, Perry instead sought to minimize his prior statements. Jindal acted as though he had mostly forgotten them – indicating that they were meaningless to him. Why should I listen to people given to pretending?

    It’s all very sad for them and for the people who may have believed in them, but the fact remains that their ever earning my trust again, or the trust of anyone who is not truth- and honor-blind, will be highly unlikely. They, as much as anyone or anything else, are the problem that makes someone like Donald Trump appear to many to be a solution, or no worse than any other solution. It should go without saying that their endorsements will be virtually worthless to Trump, except possibly as a further indication of how hollow the party he had destroyed had become – so, less to hold against him.

    I’m surprised that among the candidate holdouts, none has strongly made the “retraction for cause” argument regarding the famous pledge, though I suppose that doing so would require them not just to back out, but to prosecute the case further. Graham has come closest, but no one much cares what Graham says, it seems. Rubio, who has spoken up a bit more than perhaps he really needed to, said something like “I don’t want to spend the next six months as Donald Trump’s chief critic.” Given all of the very strong and bracing things Rubio said about Trump, and would have had us believe he honestly meant, why not? Why wouldn’t that be fulfillment of his oaths to the people of the US and Florida, or a requirement of his self-respect, and so on?

    Trump, at least, seems aware of this all viscerally, as the Bushes and Romney also seem to be in their ways. For the likes of John McCain and Dick Cheney, those unbound by any pledge, but who have chosen to overlook personal and other offenses, we need other explanations. I’ll be curious to see how Cruz and Ryan finally square their own circles, if they do. I’m not very optimistic.

    • trumwill says:

      What do the Bushes, Romney, and apparently Quayle have in common that they do not have in common with the others? That they’re done. I don’t mean to minimize their moral stance – it’s one Cheney and Dole notably did not take – but I don’t think the distinction is exactly awareness. It’s freedom.

      Everybody else has to do a balancing act. It is my view that they are – with the tentative exception of Ryan, the exception of Graham, Sasse, and others – falling on the wrong side both morally and tactically, but would the Bushes, Mitt, and the others do differently if they faced the same calculations? Which of the Democrats would if we could somehow construe a reverse scenario?

      As a practical matter, Rick Perry and Bobby Jindal are dead to me. I may credit Perry with taking a bolder stance than he had to, but it was the wrong stance and given the givens actually represents its own sort of spinelessness in my view. But TVD and others would likely disagree with that. They’d say adjusting circumstances require an evolving response. Perhaps that they had to come down as hard as they could during the primary to try to have an impact even if it was over-the-top, but now they have to back Trump because Hillary is just that dangerous.

      I get off the bus with the “Hillary is just that dangerous” part. Which is a matter of perspective, not morality. If I did view Trump as a cancer on conservatism, and Hillary as an existential threat to this country, I could probably muster up a rationale to do what Perry did. For the good of the country. For the good of the party.

      But it’s a bullet that once fired can’t be unfired. Or can’t be so easily. And I doubt that’s what’s going on. Rick Perry revealed himself to be who I thought he was but had hoped, briefly, was the wrong read on him. Whatever respect I had for Jindal in terms of fealty to his own words was long-since gone. I would just have preferred he put himself out for the better cause.

      I don’t know what Cruz is going to do. To be honest, even if he comes out on the right side of this, I will likely believe that he did so simply by reading the tea leaves differently than Rubio did or – I’m coming to believe – in response to Rubio and the reaction to Rubio. This is circular reasoning on my part (I mistrust Cruz, therefore I assume the worst, which in turn justified more mistrust), but it is what it is.

      Rubio deserves to suffer for his sin, though I fear that he is going to carry the burden for all of this from people who will turn around and endorse Walker or someone else who also folded the next time around. Given the harsh words that Rubio put out there, maybe that is just. From my perspective, he’s playing in a minefield that we all created. I’m going to hold this against him in 2020, but the likelihood is that the choice will be between people who all made the wrong choice, and chances are that Rubio will have made the wrong choice less dramatically than most of the alternatives. Except Cruz, if he doesn’t cave (40% chance he holds firm, I’m thinking).

      After the Civil War, the North had to look at people who served in the Confederacy and decide what do to with them. They couldn’t hang the entire military up for treason. Maybe they should have come down harder than they did on more people, but there is a degree of triage. What I’m trying to do is sort out who goes where. A lot of people are acting like they’re going to be able to hang everybody, but that’s not feasible. As pleasant a thought as it is, frankly.

      I’m still not sure where this leaves me. Other than likely voting straight-ticket Democrat in 2016.

      • Brandon Berg says:

        Why straight-ticket? Probably the best outcome we can hope for at this point is Clinton with a strongly Republican Congress. Which worked out pretty well the last time.

        • trumwill says:

          The long and short of it is that I can’t vote for anyone that backs Trump, no matter how tepidly. If any local Republicans go Sasse, I’ll vote for them. I just don’t expect it to happen.

  3. RTod says:

    I think CK sums up my POV to a T, especially in the first part of his post here.

    If you tell me you are sincere in your belief about X, and that I should support you because of your honesty and honor, then hey, feel free to tell me later that all of that was an act to get my attention. Free country and yadda yadda yadda.

    But next time you have something to say, dont be surprised when I assume it’s not really worth Tami g seriously.

    • trumwill says:

      As a general rule, never assume strict sincerity.

      • CK MacLeod says:

        Or in Trump’s case always assume the opposite – as I should have done when stating my sympathy for his remarks about the pledge to endorse – now, typically, reversed:


        So, of course, he doesn’t stand by a prior statement when he senses a tactical advantage in reversing himself. In terms of dishonesty this is beyond Bill Clinton’s finger-wagging denial of a personal indiscretion, which, though inexcusable, at least occurred within a verbal universe in which responsibility was possible at all.

        No issue or calculation about issues – Hillary will nominate anti-2nd Amendment judges! – can override the fundamental depravity of such a candidate as a concern. There is no constitutional order at all in a world where words have no meaning.

        As for forgiveness of the Confederates by the Union, these two situations do not compare. The Union position was that the Confederacy was impossible, not that it was “treason.” (Such a position on “treason” would have voided the American Revolution, too.) The dispute about that question was settled by the war. Those who conducted themselves honorably were treated with honor. (Did you ever happen to read Grant’s journal entries concerning Lee at Appomattox?) This isn’t a question about accepting Trump supporters back into the Union. This is a question among others about a political party and what it can possibly stand for, and secondly about the commitments essential to civilized life at all. Trump isn’t just vulgar: He’s a barbarian. He’s the justification for TVD’s friends to be so worried about their guns in the first place.

        • trumwill says:

          I didn’t comment on that part of your comment because most of what I’d heard was that Trump was taking the opposite tack, so I was confused. But then I thought maybe you heard him in minutes ending in even numbers and I heard him in minutes with odd hours and ne’er the twain shall meet.

          My mind is dancing around something that I saw and read at some point, wherein a comedic cast was basically treating some feral beast (maybe a monster, maybe Cthulu in a business suit or something) as though it belonged and was normal, despite the feral thing being… well… feral.

          That’s sort of how this looks to me. Especially since Trump started winning primaries, there has been a gravitational force towards trying to treat him like he’s normal. People on the right, left, and center have done it.

          “Really, Trump’s better than Rubio because of his views on X.”

          “As soon as Trump wins some primaries, everyone will rally behind him the same way they always have because that’s how it goes.”

          “If Trump gets a plurality, the party has to treat him the same way that they would treat Mitt because to do otherwise would be unfair.”

          “Most other Republicans are really just Trump with a different name.”

          And, I mean, things have at least partially worked out this way, due somewhat to a self-fulfilling prophecy. It happened because everyone assumed it must. Attempts to normalize Trump remain ongoing. Unsuccessful to my eye, however, because he’s feral.

          Unfortunately, the experiment persists. The belief that the party has to be “fair” persists. I hate it, but it’s an argument that I have apparently lost. That’s a reality that I have to adjust to.

          Since I rather suspected that this phase of the game would unfold as it did (endorsements amidst turmoil and division) I’ve had a while to do so. I still don’t know where this is ultimately going to leave me, but other than becoming a non-voting monk, I suspect it’s going to involve a degree of triage in separating those who came out on the wrong side of this.

        • CK MacLeod says:

          FYI: In the following clip Trump backs out of “the pledge” on his own (for his own petty self-serving reasons, natch). At the very beginning he is referencing the just prior comments to which I referred above, about now wanting the endorsements of Cruz and others:


        • CK MacLeod says:

          Ack! Typo: Not “now wanting the endorsements…”: “NOT wanting the endorsements”

        • CK MacLeod says:

          And while we’re at it, the clip came from a RedState post in which Jay Caruso gives an example of the “retraction for cause” argument. I can’t help but see the difficulty people have in stating what I think should be obvious and basic as indicative of our social-political problem.

          The “fairness” question is another iteration of the same very basic problem for any pure “liberal” theory of government. We want to believe that we can lift ourselves up by the bootstraps of reason – actualized as “fair play” – even when dealing with an unreasonable threat or unfair adversary. This is the Weimar moment (which isn’t to say we are totally Weimarized… yet), when the partisans of liberal government expose the very incapacity to defend themselves that is the chief justification, in the eyes of the “negative parties,” for upending the liberal order. “We cannot entrust our fates to such weaklings!” say the Nazis and Bolsheviks. For that very same reason every contract or constitution contains an escape clause.

          There is no obligation to act on obligation to those who violate, because they fundamentally refuse or are unable even to acknowledge, their obligations – or who otherwise violate the very bases of our moral order. There is instead the reverse obligation: To deny and exclude such people, by whatever means necessary, up to and including barring them from participation – or making war on them.

          There’s no perfect, entirely logically consistent – perfectly “fair” – rationale, knowable before the fact and applicable in all cases, for separating that which much be opposed at all costs from that which should be worked with. Hoping for such may arguably become just another form of dangerous extremism, or the path to surrender before it. In the case of Trump and the likes of Trump, however, it’s not a close call, in my opinion.

        • trumwill says:

          When The Pledge first happened, I thought it was dumb largely because it was apparent Trump had no intention of abiding by it, so it was unilateral disarmament by those with “honor.”

          I later hated it because I thought that it was preventing certain candidates from saying they wouldn’t support Trump.

          I eventually resigned myself to where I am now: I hate it because it has given them an excuse not to withhold support. Which is to say that I don’t think it has changed anyone’s behavior. I’d like to think I’m wrong about that, but I think it’s all that f*cked up.

          Regarding “fairness” I completely agree. This isn’t a NASCAR competition.

  4. ppnl says:

    After this –


    If Cruz changes his mind it isn’t about “strict sincerity” anymore. At some point there is no sincerity at all. And that is the problem the republican party has to face.

    Sincerity can be hard to find in any political conflict but if we the voters stop looking for it then who wins simply does not matter. It will be Trump by whatever name.

  5. On a tangent: I often realize how easy it is for me to take “courageous” positions online as a pseudonymous author, and sometimes even with that safety, I don’t take the “courageous” stance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

If you are interested in subscribing to new post notifications,
please enter your email address on this page.