As we draw closer to the November election, and Donald Trump is reportedly once again behind in the polls, public intellectuals on the right have already moved on to discussing what will happen after the Trump era closes. If you think this seems premature, you’d be right.
But one specific group is seeing the current polling environment not just as a chance to get rid of Donald Trump, but to discard all conservatives.
And no, I’m not referring to Democrats. However, you’d be excused for thinking that on a first pass.
No, I’m referring to people claiming to be true conservatives, but whose actions suggest otherwise.
It’s groups like the Lincoln Project, or websites like the Bulwark and related entities. Places where it’s not enough to be #NeverTrump — one must be #NeverGOP. They don’t want to rid the GOP of just Trumpian influences — they want to rid it of every Republican. They claim that everyone in the party aids Trump in his agenda — whether it’s the moderate Sen. Susan Collins of Maine or Sen. Cory Gardner of Colorado.
Simply put, they want to burn the entire Republican Party down. That’s not hyperbole on my part, it’s the stated goal of Charlie Sykes at the Bulwark and his friends at the Lincoln Project.
The irony of this idiotic strategy is that it only entrenches those politicians most attached to Trumpism, as Jonah Goldberg points out:
To the extent that the Lincoln Project folks have the power to do anything to Republicans, most of the Republicans they can actually take down aren’t the Trumpiest ones. They’re the least Trumpy. … Let’s say they succeed in getting rid of Collins and those like her. Will that make the GOP more or less Trumpy? The answer is more.
There’s nothing principled about this, nor is there anything politically astute about it. These people hold some kind of belief that the Republicans currently in office will make the GOP a bastion of Trumpism forever. Everything that follows, as they see it, must be a sort of punishment meted out for electing Donald Trump in the first place.
The trouble with that belief is that it does not hold up under historical scrutiny.
It’s akin to claiming the Democratic Party was done after the Civil War. Rather, it went on to dominate the post-Reconstruction era (in many southern states well into the 21st century). Or it is like believing that Republicans would never recover from FDR’s tenure in office, yet the GOP answered with Eisenhower and the prosperity of the 1950s. Many thought the Republican Party was essentially finished after Nixon resigned, but then Reagan carried the party to victory a few years later.
A more recent example can be seen in what happened when, amid the fallout from the Great Recession, Barack Obama swept into power with both the House and Senate under Democratic control. Two years later, however, the GOP began the march back into power with the Tea Party revolt.
No coalition lasts forever; nothing in politics remains static. Everything is continually moving and shifting in American politics.
It is, as Peggy Noonan writes in the Wall Street Journal, “another form of nihilism.” These voices — supposedly from the right — want destruction and retribution for its own sake. Uninterested in ideas, people, or principles, they only want political revenge against Trump. As Noonan puts it, they are everything they claim to hate about Trump:
Never Trumpers never seem to judge themselves. Many of them, when they were profiting through past identities as Republicans or conservatives, supported or gave strategic cover to the wars that were such a calamity, and attacked those who dissented. Many showed no respect to those anxious about illegal immigration and privately, sometimes publicly, denounced them as bigots. Never Trumpers eloquently decry the vulgarization of politics and say the Presidency is lowered by a man like Mr. Trump, and it is. But they invented Sarah Palin and unrelentingly attacked her critics. They often did it in the name of party loyalty.
The real rub beyond the blatant hypocrisy is the fact that post-Trump, there will likely be no Republican candidate who will be acceptable to this faction. Some of these people don’t even care for Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT). It seems doubtful there will be many conservative politicians they will readily choose over a garden-variety Democrat.
In Tennessee for instance, the Republican Senate primary race to replace Bob Corker features two conservatives. Bill Hagerty received a full-on endorsement from Donald Trump. His upstart challenger, the equally conservative Manny Sethi, has received support from Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Rand Paul (R-KY). If you have principles that lead you to oppose Trump, Sethi is the obvious choice here. But no one on the burn-it-down side of the party will even support the chance to bring a fresh, conservative voice to the Senate.
When someone wants to effectively burn a party to the ground, opposes all of its political candidates — including newcomers who have nothing to do with the current environment — they can’t credibly claim allegiance to the principles of that party. These burn-it-down types aren’t Republicans, they aren’t conservatives, and they aren’t really principled in any appreciable way.
It’s a pure revenge play by people so nihilistic about politics, so consumed by hatred for the party of which they once sat high in the roost, that they don’t care about the consequences of their actions. Noonan is right, and these people are indeed nihilists who have forgotten any semblance of an ideal they claim to hold.
They are the arsonists they claim to hate, and they should be cast out of political discourse. There’s a reason only Democrats are funding their efforts.
In essence, the burn-it-down faction is made of people who are really just establishment types who lie about their commitment to conservative ideals. We have a name for that: Democrats. Take them at their word because they’ll never support a truly conservative candidate.
Somewhere down the road, these so-called conservatives may write about their newfound respect for Trump once he undergoes the usual rehabilitation past Republican presidents eventually tend to receive, but that does not erase the damage they are attempting to cause right now. The strange new respect for Trump likely to emerge in the future will be just as phony as the current revenge tour on which these folks have embarked.