[A few thoughts inspired by the sad implosion that is Marybeth Glenn] — Dear conservative NeverTrump diehards, who denounced Donald Trump throughout 2016 and cannot quiet your chatterbox brains long enough to understand what just happened in America:
We who have not suffered neurological short-circuits almost feel sorry for you, and if not for your willful ignorance we’d probably promote public sympathy for you with tender entreaties and pictures of teddy bears.
But because you insist on being so loud and dumb we’re going in a different direction.
They think they are the conservative movement’s “remnant church,” the keepers of the flame of truth, when in fact they are the conservative movement’s crazy uncle.
They wear their bitterness like a soup-stained shirt. Their worldview, an alternate reality where everything Trump does is the Worst Thing Ever, becomes more tiresome each day.
When they talk, people don’t listen. What they write goes unread. They are the ones who fancy themselves kingly raconteurs of Facebook, but have long been unfollowed by most friends and left fulminating into the ether.
The NeverTrump lecturers share the familiar unhinged perspective that poses magical solutions to other people’s real-world problems, much like libertarians, Christian Reconstructionists, and other varieties of sociopathic egotists.
Of course, the world is full of Democrat kooks who will make surreal claims about any Republican, and whom many Americans find easy to ignore. But the NeverTrump crazies, we must admit, are actually knowledgeable about American politics and they present themselves as having a degree of expertise in their unending castigation of Trump.
They should, and probably do, know better.
They know that most presidents have made mistakes that have harmed the country. With presidents, we get problems. A Hillary Clinton presidency would have brought immense problems solely on the basis of what she said she would do, apart from the unintended or unstated consequences.
The NeverTrump conservatives know these things. They also know, therefore, that as far as we can tell at this point, Donald Trump could easily become one of the better conservative presidents. Might not happen, but it might. His cabinet appointments so far are promising. He might be better on immigration and federal spending than Reagan was. He might appoint better Supreme Court justices than did George H. Bush or his son. Could certainly be better than Nixon in many areas. And Trump surely may be better in every respect than every Democratic president going back half a century or longer.
From what we can see so far, there is no reason on earth to be pessimistic about Trump based on our experience with the Bushes or any other president of the past fifty years.
Yet, somehow, with Trump still weeks away from taking office, the NeverTrump critics – often boasting a mantle of Godly righteousness – find it worthwhile to expend effort tearing down his every move. They spend far more time on this than any of them spent criticizing Hillary Clinton – or, for that matter, Barack Obama, during the past few years.
Unlike Trump whom the NeverTrump egotists predict will fail, the Republican Congress has in fact failed miserably in living up to their pre-election promises for several elections now but, oddly, NeverTrump conservatives are willing to give that record a thorough whitewash.
An impartial observer would have to say that is some pretty nasty BS you are trying to dump on Americans.
So to you, dear conservative NeverTrump has-beens, let us say: We have you figured out. And your predicament is not complicated.
You are on the outside looking in. Your opportunities for greater fame, money, and especially influence, vanished on the morning of November 9. Your subsequent humiliation, and need to basically find a new reason for anyone to pay attention, signal your descent into irrelevance.
You bet on the wrong horse.
We get it: To any self-imagined conservative hotshot, this is Hell. And nobody should listen to the voices from the outer darkness.
Today Charlie Sykes exits the Wisconsin radio hosting job he held for many years. Undoubtedly some of his fans will miss him, as will the few Republicans and conservatives whom Charlie has not written off as “broken” or “deeply compromised.”
For the vast majority of Americans, Sykes’ departure from the public stage will be met with a heartfelt “Charlie who?”
A vocal #NeverTrump conservative, Sykes is one of the diehard commandos who donned the cloak of self-righteousness when other observers began to take a realistic view of the Trump phenomenon.
Fitting perfectly the template of self-absorbed kindergartner, Sykes early on and after the election explained away “Trumpism” as the degradation of righteousness and character on a massive scale, afflicting everyone supporting the Republican presidential ticket.
Apart from a tiny group – a “small desert island” – of intact believers on the Right, including himself, Sykes sees conservatism itself as “damaged.”
A regular, unsurprisingly, on MSNBC, Sykes used the liberal platform of the New York Times to remind everyone that we was making good on his promise to take his dolly and dishes and bid the Party adieu.
I was under the impression that conservatives actually believed things about free trade, balanced budgets, character and respect for constitutional rights. Then along came this campaign.
I thought that I was well within the mainstream of conservative thought — only to find conservative Trump critics denounced for apostasy by a right that decided that it was comfortable with embracing Trumpism.
The American people, you see, have let Charlie Sykes down.
Which, incidentally, vaguely reminds us of someone else – we can’t quite put our finger on whom – whose grandiose sense of self seems almost like a learning disorder, causing him to vastly overrate his own competence to the point of being unable to acknowledge his own failures.
The future that Charlie sees is a frightening one, with a “weaponized media” aimed at Donald Trump’s critics – which sounds scary until one gives it a nanosecond of thought, whereupon one realizes that Charlie the media guy is actually projecting a teeny bit. After all, Charlie himself and his doggedly anti-Trump website served pretty consistent artillary duty attacking Trump and Trump’s supporters throughout 2016.
We’ll continue to read Charlie as a psychological case study, but we believe that America and the conservative movement will be fairly unaffected by his exit from the radio waves. We predict he will be found on MSNBC or similar left-wing media outlets with ongoing regularity. He may prove us wrong, but in our experience the narcissist requires an audience.
Shortly after the November 8 presidential election in which Donald Trump lost the state of Virginia, Bearing Drift’s Shaun Kenney wrote a howler of a blog post essentially blaming Corey Stewart for the 2016 Virginia Republican loss – despite the fact an obvious case could be made that in fact Bearing Drift lost Virginia for the Republicans.
Corey Stewart is running for the 2017 Republican nomination for Virginia governor against, among others, Kenney’s former boss, Ed Gillespie.
It was an interesting argument for Kenney to make because, first, it may signal an ongoing NeverTrump proxy war in Virginia throughout 2017, but also because we think it denoted Shaun Kenney’s “Oh shit” moment upon realizing the full import of the November 8 results.
One could argue that several Bearing Drift writers played a key role in helping Republicans lose Virginia in 2016, by encouraging people not to vote for the Republican presidential ticket.
There is no need to even build a case that Bearing Drift was a major source of anti-Trump vitriol beginning at least last December. In our view, Bearing Drift owned the Republican anti-Trump propaganda effort in the state.
Instead of listing all their broadsides, therefore, let’s just review some of the impact. After all, Bearing Drift proudly bills itself as “Virginia’s loudest and most read conservative website” and “one of the leading voices of Republicans in Virginia.” Lest any doubts remain about their GOP pedigree, they profess dedication to upholding the state Party’s “Republican Creed.”
For many Virginia voters still unacquainted with Donald Trump as a politician, this forceful condemnation referencing the Constitution by prominent Republicans likely helped define the candidate very early in the process. It was an unfortunate role for an ostensibly “Republican” website to take, since U.S. law gives the president authority, literally, to keep out of the country anyone he wants to keep out. It’s all right there in 8 USC §1182. The Bearing Drift attack was based on a misreading of the Constitution and the law.
Here’s what Shaun Kenney, the respected former Executive Director of the Republican Party of Virginia, recently declared he would do if Donald Trump is the Republican presidential nominee:
“I will work actively against him to ensure his defeat in the general election should he obtain the Republican nomination. In this, I am not alone. Millions of Americans will not pull the lever for Trump. Millions more are absolutely sickened by the jackbooted tactics of a militated few.”
This is an uncommonly blunt declaration for a prominent party operative to make about his own party’s likely Presidential nominee.
Yes, it certainly was uncommon, and you can bet that Republican and center-right voters who normally might not have read the Bearing Drift blog took notice when Kenney’s educational lesson was published by the city paper.
At the other corner of the state, in a September story reprinted in the Washington Post, the major daily noted Bearing Drift’s “deluge of anti-Trump postings” to support the paper’s claim of “damage Trump has wrought in Virginia.”
When one of America’s most vocal NeverTrump Republicans, Liz Mair, was building the case for Republicans to vote for the Libertarian candidate for president, Gary Johnson, she invoked a Bearing Drift poll which actually only comprised a paltry 207 responses – but goes to show how Bearing Drift’s anti-Trump message spread through the force multiplier effect of other web channels.
Kenney was also the Democrats’ hero when Virginia’s most influential progressive blog, Blue Virginia, featured two Bearing Drift columns to paint the picture of decent Republicans turning against Donald Trump.
The Democrat blogger was referring to this Shaun Kenney post tearing into colleagues at Bearing Drift for having the temerity to suggest there might be rationales for voting for Donald Trump and for insisting on the quite traditional belief that Party membership requires a certain degree of loyalty to its candidates over non-Republicans.
And this latter example of giving aid and comfort to the enemy illustrates why we think Bearing Drift occupies such a dubious role in the Republican community: We believe that Bearing Drift lost Virginia on November 8, 2016. But it was a greater offense – a worse act of sabotage, in our opinion – that a prominent, “respected” Republican was so bitterly critical of other Republicans who were attempting to follow the Party rules in good faith.
In our view, that is execrable behavior within the Party, albeit called “heroic” by Leftists.
Throughout 2016, Bearing Drift produced a constant stream of articles denouncing Trump and Trump’s supporters, feeding the narrative that Trump would lose, and most importantly, giving voters reasons not to vote for the Republican presidential candidate.
Chief among these posts that in our opinion served as powerful Republican vote suppressors was Brian Schoeneman’s argument that fear of Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court appointments was no reason to vote Republican. If there were any dominant argument proffered by the GOP to vote for Trump, nationwide, it was to raise the specter of a liberal Supreme Court for the next 30 years. In approximately 5,000 words, Schoeneman basically says: There is no proof a Clinton Supreme Court would be terrible.
Less loud but equally fervent, and possibly the most influential of the Bearing Drift anti-Republican activists during the 2016 presidential election, Jim Hoeft did not couch his plea to vote against the Republican ticket in complex or lengthy rhetoric. Yes, he promoted the bad news for Trump but he mainly stuck to the simple argument that: The 2016 election was NOT actually a binary choice – for the Godly conservative – voting for a third-party was both defensible and righteous – and therefore the “only two options for president” were Gary Johnson and Evan McMullin. Published exactly one month prior to the election, the column by Hoeft probably sealed the deal for a number of Virginia voters who were worried a third-party vote was a wasted vote.
Amid the flurry of biased news reports and amazingly inaccurate polling analyses prior to the presidential election, Schoeneman, Kenney, and Hoeft gave Virginia voters numerous rationales not to vote for the Republican presidential ticket. These recognized conservative voices with decent (we admit) persuasive writing skills undoubtedly swayed voters – and we believe made a crucial difference in the final vote.
Hillary Clinton vote margin over Donald Trump:
Some may argue that the third-party total includes votes – especially for Jill Stein, and write-ins – that may have had nothing to do with Bearing Drift’s pleas to Republicans. We would agree we can’t blame all defections on Bearing Drift.
But we have not addressed the additional important, but murky, area of Republican voters persuaded by Bearing Drift not to vote third-party, but to positively vote for Hillary Clinton.
So who really lost the state for the Republicans? We believe Bearing Drift lost Virginia.
And Corey Stewart might invite the Godly conservatives to take a hike up Old Rag to seek a vision or burning bush or other such humbling encounter.
In any case, we think it’s laughable to lay the blame on Corey Stewart, who actually supported the Trump ticket – although we understand why Shaun Kenney would wish to do so. When one is supposedly an influential Republican and a more-righteous-than-thou conservative in the commentary and consulting world, being proven devastatingly wrong, is a Very Bad Place To Be. The fault must be deflected, pronto.
In fact, judging by both pre- and post-election commentary at Bearing Drift, our entire Kindergartner post probably could have been constructed with examples from Schoeneman, Kenney, and Hoeft.
Rude, thuggish, debased, self-absorbed: Bearing Drift has shown it all in 2016.
But one more bit of weirdness they demonstrate which also seems endemic to NeverTrump “conservatives” is a bizarre degree of self-regard.
Minor provocations, it seems, are all it takes for Kenney and Hoeft in particular to break out their own renditions of the superiority dance. Whether as “conservatives” or “Republicans” or Godly men after the old, old – and by “old” we mean in the “Testament” sense – fashion, they can hold forth like nobody’s business.
We’re not ready to say they are completely full of themselves, but most Bearing Drift columns give the impression of being written under the watchful gaze of a painting of the Bearing Drift writer.
You can often sense a geyser of self-righteous fulmination bubbling just beneath the surface.
In what seems like every third post, the bloggers launch into tirades in an authorial style we call “Vomit of Pharisaical Cliches,” a word salad composed of digested truisms, catch phrases, essays, and sermons, coming back up all over your screen, along with spittle, bile, and unctuous fluids of self-anointing.
Don’t look too hard for meaning or even logical sentences, because the discharge is mainly self-serving sophistry predicated on the writer’s own righteousness. Words pour forth with heavenly fury that neither reason nor Fowler’s nor Strunk & White shall hinder.
While Kenney appears to have scaled back his blogging since the election (but is still listed as an editor), we will continue to follow Mssrs Schoeneman and Hoeft in the coming year as the Virginia race for governor takes shape. A cursory review of Bearing Drift indicates they are not overly friendly to Corey Stewart, the Trump supporter, although that stance may change as the Trump administration becomes a reality.
We would hope to be able to report, in the future, that despite the fact Bearing Drift lost Virginia in 2016, the writers learn something from the failure besides doubling down in self-defensive self-righteousness.
As The Hill reported recently, a few former NeverTrump conservatives are quietly transitioning to “I didn’t mean NEVER Trump,” possibly to salvage their careers on the assumption that everyone they spent 2016 spouting off to will have short memories.
A dedicated corps of NeverTrump true believers refuses to accept the war is over. They’ve slathered themselves in mud, donned the boots they will die in, and fire volleys from their caves, seemingly following orders from long ago.
Let us note that out in the wilderness is a very bad place to be for political movers and shakers which, in their own minds at least, likely describes every single NeverTrumper. We offer this observation to explain what appears to be a mass descent into madness.
Their careers likely are wound up with their self-images as indispensable political experts, but they have just proven to be not only quite dispensable, but also laughable. Once the Trump Administration is in the White House, these formerly influential Republicans will no longer be the jokers, but the butts-of-jokes.
They have not been merely mistaken about the 2016 election, but have been so flamboyantly and persistently wrong they’re sort of hard to figure out.
Reading their bizarre post-election statements, one has to ask “Who could take this crap seriously?”
The answer is: no one with a brain.
But NeverTrump conservatives, who at one time were each viewed as intelligent people, seem unaware that when your sphere of influence is a circle of fools, you are probably seen as not too bright yourself.
To understand these odd ducks, these eternal soldiers of the petulant mind, we need look not to the Japanese Lubang holdouts but, much closer to home, to the kindergartner in the back seat of the car.
Psychologically, the NeverTrump conservative and the American 5-year old are the same person. Here are the key signs to look for:
1. Rude in victory:
If you’ve spent any time with the average kindergartner, you know that when they get their way, they’re happy but it’s a giddy sort of joy, frequently boisterous and graceless toward those who wanted something different.
In the run-up to the 2016 election, NeverTrump conservatives were champagne-popping dictators-in-waiting, as well as budding Torquemadas, obviously planning for a Trump shellacking and power vacuum in the Republican Party. They began celebrating and leveling insults, and announced purges, punishments, and blacklists, before the first votes were counted.
David Frum promised “a scorched earth period of recrimination” in the Republican Party against Trump supporters.
With a dark warning of plans for “holding current and future Republican leaders accountable for their acceptance of Trump and other non-Republican con artists,” a group of anti-Trump Republicans unveiled their agenda to clean house at the GOP.
Displaying that same vengeance fever, Marybeth Glenn, the Angriest Christian In Wisconsin, promised such a “hostile environment” for that “subset of the GOP” after Trump’s upcoming loss, that they would either change or leave – but would never be trusted: “Forgive those who messed up, but don’t let them forget it.”
Retribution and mockery were the drivers of #NeverTrump social media:
2. Thuggish in defeat:
But when someone else gets their way, watch out. The kid who lost out often retreats into an irrationally gloomy world, with the menacing portent: “It’s going to be TERRIBLE now.”
As we now know, Trump supporters chose wisely, causing the denouncers to look like fools themselves. Donald Trump is the top figure in the Republican Party, soon to be commander-in-chief. His wife and son will reflect on the insults as the First Family. And generally, those who did the threatening and premature grave dancing have a long, maybe impossible, journey back to credibility.
Unlike those who after the election sought forgiveness, the NeverTrump holdouts have doubled down, declaring how awful everything will now be, how every rumor and every Trump decision signal a disastrous and totally non-“conservative” presidency.
Having no historical basis to justify their portentous claims, since the last two Republican presidents were themselves pretty atrocious “conservatives,” the NeverTrump conservatives apparently intend to sway us with their moral authority and their credibility.
It has been so frankly surreal we could fill volumes, and likely will in the future. For now, a wafting from their burning heads will suffice.
If you’re anything like us, you frequently find yourself reading or listening to some person’s ideas about current affairs and then immediately asking yourself, “Why do I pay attention to these idiots?” Our conclusion is, we allow ourselves to be robbed. This habit of surrendering attention underlies a lot that is wrong with our world today.
David Frum not only has not been derided into quiet irrelevance, but he commands an influential position as senior editor of The Atlantic, and apparently never shuts up. He has 214,000 Twitter followers.
Wilson’s output since the election has devolved into schoolyard insults and a staccato outpouring of predictions and spittle. But he’s still got over 73,000 followers and still gets to appear on second-tier television programs now and then. If you follow political news, you’re likely to see his name come up in contexts other than raucus hysteria.
The common themes are, first, that each of these individuals deserves to be laughed at so hard that nobody who values an audience would ever allow them a public platform again. Second, despite being proven egregiously wrong, these bozos and plenty of others like them shrug it off and come right back at us, fulminating and lecturing, as though nothing had happened, and certainly not chastened nor hampered by self-reflection. Third, as though cogs in their machine, we continue surrendering attention to them.
Why do we, the audience, allow this plunder to go on?