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.
Some of these Trump denouncers know their trek back to relevance will be long, and will begin on their knees.
Not all of them, though.
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.
Amanda Carpenter, joined by the self-anointed conservative purists at RedState set the tone way back in March with an enemies list to blackball, in perpetuity, anyone who endorsed or supported Donald Trump.
Notably, they emphasized Trump supporters “have forever forfeited their right to have their opinion taken seriously,” a proposal to which we’ll return at the conclusion.
More recently, Rick Wilson called for a thorough purge of “the Trumpkins” with their “ignorant and angry primal screams,” and declared his intention to humiliate Trump and teach his “minions” a lesson: “You’re not purging us. We’re purging you.”
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.
First, the number one chorus from all the brats in all the back seats: He’s betraying you!
Next, the hilarious motif of high-minded “moral outrage” a la Moses on the mountainside or Heston on the beach – carried so prominently by many, including Wisconsin’s Master Political Expert And Decipherer-Of-The-Times Charlie Sykes, who warns, like a black cloud “the most extreme and recklessly irresponsible voices on the right” are descending on our fair nation.
Like monkeys throwing poop, they show us what they are.
3. Debased in alliances:
From this gloomy nether world, the kindergartner will reach out to anyone for an accomplice, whether the least-favorite cousin, the 2-year old brother, or the family dog: “Me and Bobo hate all of you and we think you’re all stupid.”
The iron law of political fame whoring is that leftists love conservative traitors. We mention this solely as a point of interest, and not to suggest any of the NeverTrump conservatives are fame whores.
Yes, conservatives get in harmony with the Left often enough that it’s sort of uninteresting, as with NeverTrump conservatives on mainstream media, such as S.E. Cupp, Amanda Carpenter, Tara Setmayer, and many others.
More interesting are those who don’t simply sit down, but lie down with the dogs. Pushing left wing talking points. Reversing one’s conservative positions. Not just softening one’s image but taking sides, feeding intel. Throwing darts.
While it’s almost a truism that NeverTrump social media has become friendly territory for mainstream and left wing “news,” the conversion of once-conservative portals into something that looks quite the opposite, through the transformative magic of NeverTrump obsession, is a sight to behold. A good example can be found in the work of Susan Wright at RedState, Linda Chavez at Newsmax, or Jonah Goldberg at National Review. Although, as a rule, we recommend you do not read RedState, Newsmax, or National Review.
4. Self-absorbed to a psychopathic degree:
The foresaken tyke does not go quietly, even though dejected and allied with the dog. He or she suddenly becomes an expert in how the entire universe has taken a turn for the worse. Muttering, making caustic observations: We note not so much the content, but that the little nuisance won’t shut up about it.
It’s as though the bitter disappointment sparked a new life form that exists only to analyze all of reality as it relates the kindergartner’s dashed hopes.
And here we get to the kernel of never-say-die NeverTrumpism. Following what ought to have been a lesson in humility on the morning of November 9, so many of them, strangely, have an awful lot to say:
“I am unhappy. I have thoughts every single second. The world must know. The. World. Must. Know!”
Reading the NeverTrumpers’ post-election output, you get the same feeling you’d get seeing a man in a bathrobe in line at the grocery store. Like this demented individual is not only embarrassing themselves, but tarnishing our species by showing how low we can sink.
Their world view seems twisted by anger, their criticisms nitpicky. They appear unhealthily obsessed with Trump and Trump’s supporters while at the same time compelled to burnish their own reputations, to the point of needing to re-frame facts to prove that actually, they were right all along.
Arguing you were right, when God and everybody seem to be 100 percent convinced you were wrong, must be an exhausting task, which might explain why all of the NeverTrump commandos seem absolutely wired.
An argument you’ll hear over and over from these tweakers is that everybody – everybody – is wrong, if not corrupted: Sixty million interlopers invaded the GOP. Every evangelical Christian has succumbed to idolatry. The American people were conned en masse.
Having seemingly abandoned any pretense of professionalism, competence, or self-respect, the NeverTrump soldiers come off as shellshocked chatterboxes voicing every thought that arises within their inflamed minds. No observation is too petty, no disparagement too broad, no hot take too juvenile, no projection too transparent.
They seem to think they are becoming more fascinating by the hour, but what they are actually becoming are self-righteous self-parodies. In other words: bores.
If you’re Charlie Sykes, although hinting you’d be taking time off, somehow you keep piping up because, apparently, the world must know.
If you’re Rick Wilson, Evan McMullin remains weirdly relevant.
If you’re Marybeth Glenn, your basic Godliness must shine through.
As a whole, NeverTrump conservatives appear to be going further and further out there.
What to do with our NeverTrump conservatives
Luckily for parents, sullen kids eventually emerge, usually within a few hours, as a result of new conditions or just from accepting the no-win situation.
But here is where the American kindergartner proves to be a superior specimen relative to the NeverTrump conservative:
Like Rambo, the NeverTrump commandos have been pushed too far to ever come back.
Unlike Rambo, they frighten no one.
In fact, the longer they hold out in their caves firing what turn out to be pea shooters into the surrounding forest, the more the townspeople make fun of them.
Psychopathy may be their new normal but “buffoon” is their new public persona.
So what should we do with our NeverTrump demented neighbors, annoying as gnats at a summer picnic? Here again, there are lessons from our kindergartners.
1) We can laugh at them. For these are the precious times, are they not? When an Evan McMullin is still blissfully unaware that the chuckling is now at him?
When Jay Cobb can publicly opine that a “personality cult” of 62 million voters invaded the once-pure Republican electorate to steal the presidency for Donald Trump? (And yes, we have saved a copy of that page).
We just don’t get bumpkins like these anymore, when everyone is so painfully image-conscious. Let us enjoy NeverTrump before they become self-aware and skulk away in abject humiliation.
2) At the same time, we must be willing to ignore them, as most adults are already wont to do: Bratty children don’t earn attention, except to be sat down alone in a corner.
Charlie Sykes isn’t giving himself a time-out so it is up to the grown-ups to do it for him.
Don’t get sucked in by their tantrums nor stoop to argue with them, because in doing so you validate their contorted view of reality. When their noise gets on your nerves, when in doubt about how to answer their accusations, hold onto your attention and simply turn away from NeverTrump conservatives.
3) Finally, we must remember that we are the adults and NeverTrump conservatives are the children. We live in reality as it exists; they live in a different world that revolves around their own mercurial egos.
With children, we must be the ones who set the direction even when they hate it. We must be steadfast even when it costs us short-term affection. We have to know when not to give in and when not to react.
And here is where the analogy falls short, where we treat NeverTrump conservatives differently than kindergartners, because to put them in their place, NeverTrump whiners need to be mocked, which as a rule we should not do to kindergartners, at least not to their faces.
NeverTrumper comments and criticisms, such as they are, are irrelevant to us. Their conclusions follow assumptions with no basis in fact. Whatever expertise they once appeared to have is no longer worthy of our respect.
As their Grand Inquisitors decreed for Trump supporters, so we must now visit upon NeverTrumpers themselves: They shall never be taken seriously again.