What exactly is a “NeverTrumper?”
Not everyone who opposes Donald Trump’s candidacy is a NeverTrumper.
A NeverTrumper, first of all, must be a Republican. Secondly, he or she must oppose Trump.
For example, “libertarians” like Ron Paul refuse to endorse Trump, but this is only because they refuse to endorse any candidate who they believe will further the cause of Big Government—and Trump they believe, quite plausibly, will further this cause.
NeverTrumpers, in contrast, are Republicans who self-identify, not as libertarian, but as “conservative.” They too claim to resist Trump because of the threat that he allegedly poses to “limited government,” the Constitution, and all things “conservative.”
Tellingly, they loathe “libertarians” like Ron Paul at least as much as they loathe Trump. These Chicken Littles who now scream about the death of constitutional government in the event of a Trump presidency not only didn’t back Paul when he ran as a Republican for their party’s nomination in 2008 and 2012; they oscillated between treating him as a non-entity and demonizing him as a nut and worse.
Moreover, NeverTrumpers who wail about the destruction that Trump promises to visit upon “conservatism” and “limited government” and who insist that he is a fake are the same scribblers and chatterers who have resoundingly endorsed George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney—proponents of Limitless Government all of them. This brings us to our next point:
While liberty-lovers like Paul refuse to endorse Trump, NeverTrumpers are anti-Trump. While folks like Paul are anti-Big Government, NeverTrumpers are anti-Trump. The latter exhibit infinitely more passion and commitment to stopping Trump than they’ve ever shown with respect to stopping either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton. In fact, it is not a stretch to describe their attitude toward Trump as obsessive, even fanatical, for they not only want for him to lose; they want for him to lose in a landslide.
Most disturbingly, NeverTrumpers seek the total humiliation of Trump and all of the Republicans, both old and new, who support him in unprecedented numbers.
I think that there are two reasons for this, one political, the other personal—very, very personal.
Politically speaking, Trump’s positions on such big topics as immigration, trade, and foreign policy clash in important respects with those taken by NeverTrumpers. It isn’t, though, that they clash with conservatism. Though they won’t tell you this, though they will have you think otherwise, the problem, as far as NeverTrumpers are concerned, is that Trump’s views on these matters clash with their neo-conservatism.
And, as has been often pointed out by students of the conservative intellectual tradition in Europe and America, not only is neo-conservatism not a species of conservatism; in many critical respects, it is essentially of a piece with the leftist progressivism that it purports to resist—even if it is a more moderate leftism.
This is correct: NeverTrumpers are not genuinely conservative.
Of course, that they aren’t conservative doesn’t imply that Trump is. He is not. But those of his positions that really seem to elicit the ire of neocon NeverTrumpers approximate much more closely the perspective of an older American right than anything that the NeverTrumpers have ever offered in the name of “conservatism.”
It is at this point that the political and the personal intersect.
Trump has exposed neo-conservatism for the faux conservatism that it has always been. In the process, he has exposed them as the frauds that they have always been. The neocon brand and its advertisers have been severely damaged (whether they have been irrevocably damaged is another question).
Yet Trump has continually left neocon politicians and their media apologists with eggs on their faces:
In a 17-person GOP presidential contest, Trump came from nowhere to crush the best, brightest, and most skilled that the party had to offer—all the while drawing in record numbers of primary voters. From the moment that he entered the race throughout the better part of the year, those who for decades had been regarded as “conservative movement” oracles and gurus, writers and talking heads on television and radio, repeatedly assured us that Trump’s demise was imminent, even as he just as often proved them wrong—spectacularly, epically wrong.
Trump further reinforced the impression of incompetence and dishonesty on the part of neoconservatives when he expressly, unabashedly called out their Iraq War for the catastrophic failure that time has shown it to be. He went beyond this, however, to name names and specifically charge “conservative” President George W. Bush and his administration with having lied in order to drag America overseas.
And Trump did all of this in the midst of a primary debate in, of all places, South Carolina, a state in which Bush continued to enjoy considerable popularity and whose most well-known elected representatives openly endorsed Marco Rubio.
Still, Trump prevailed with ease in the Palmetto State.
While they make effort after effort to shame Trump, Trump’s record of successes has continually shamed the NeverTrumpers. He has put their very integrity, to say nothing of relevance, into radical question. Thus, his neocon critics are aching for him to lose royally in November so that they can have the satisfaction, at long last, of saying, after nearly 18 months of being wrong, that they were right.
Of course, even if Trump loses, only arrogance that is as invincible as the ignorance that they have shown up to this point could permit them to claim that they knew he would lose.
But such is the frame of the mind of a neocon NeverTrumper.