It’s Not “Never Trump.” It’s “Country First.”

Nicholas Connors

November 21, 2019

There are times that I grapple with how to explain my politics to people. Among other political and media work, my career has consisted of two Republican presidential campaigns, a Republican gubernatorial campaign, and a Republican congressional campaign. I worked at the 2016 Republican National Convention and the 58th Presidential Inauguration—yea, Trump’s inaugural. But when I tell people I’m a Republican, that’s not quite the whole picture.

See, I’m one of those “Never Trump” Republicans. Or maybe I’m a “Limited Trump,” Republican since I did give the man a chance in the four months immediately following his election. I wanted to be optimistic. I hoped for the best.

Instead, we got exactly the same guy who ran for president, only as the commander-in-chief.

So my experiment with “Limited Trumpism” ended and I thought about myself as a “Never Trumper” again because it was already in the public lexicon and because it was a shorthand way to disassociate myself from the stable genius in the White House.

But to be honest, I’ve never really liked the term “Never Trump” Republican. And it’s time to retire it.

The phrase “Never Trump” doesn’t do justice to Republicans, or former Republicans, or any non-Democrat who speaks out against the lies, immorality, and nefarious activities of Trump’s Republican Party. It’s an intellectually lazy label born of the clickbait media culture. I guess that’s the reason why the Trump cult loves it, and maybe partially why journalists use it.

But you ask, why is it intellectually lazy?

Because every time Trump, or his sycophants use the term Never Trump, they imply that those Republicans who oppose Trump are corrupt and those who are apolitical are part of some sort of conspiracy. And the truth is, there’s nothing of the sort. David Frum and George Will and Rick Wilson all come to their antipathy toward Trump for different reasons, none of which was for self-gain. The unifying thread is that these people and others, believe that Trump represents such a danger to the Republic that it is important to sublimate their careers, their policy preferences, their tribal identities, in an effort to oppose him.

Calling people like this “Never Trump” is just a dumbed-down phrase that anyone can repeat when they get overwhelmed by facts. It’s not a category, or a descriptor, so much as an epithet. Some examples.

Here’s President Trump undermining the credibility of Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman:

Or Congresswoman Elise Stefanik smearing those who criticized her for her servile performance during the impeachment inquiry:

Or Cory Lewandowski attacking Jonah Goldberg:

Or President Trump (again) attacking the credibility of an aide to his own vice president and implying that there is a cabal out to get him:

See how that works?

Look at example #1, Vindman. Here the president is trying to discredit an Army lieutenant colonel who works for him. The man is a combat veteran. A Purple Heart recipient. He has passed an extensive NSC background-check. And because Trump doesn’t know how to grapple with all of that, he simply asserts that Vindman is a “Never Trumper” operating in some extra-legal capacity.

I realize that some people wear the Never Trump label as a badge of honor, but after looking at the comments from Trump, Lewandowski, Stefanik, and others over the last couple weeks, I think it’s time to be more accurate about what it means to oppose Donald Trump as a Republican.

For three years, President Trump has subjected the country to an onslaught of lies and hyper-divisive behavior rooted in conspiracy, circus, insult, bigotry, and fear. He has circumvented the U.S. Constitution. He belittles and betrays our allies. He has multiple associates in prison or currently awaiting sentencing.

None of these attributes are normal.

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