Esteemed talk radio host Dennis Prager argued in a National Review piece earlier this week that Never Trumpers are doing themselves a disservice by refusing to embrace Trump. Hillary Clinton’s presidency would have been disastrous, and Trump was the only Republican candidate who could beat her. Prager writes the following about conservatives who continue to stand against President Trump:
When people you know well and admire, and who share your values, do something you strongly oppose, you have two options: (1) Cease admiring them or (2) try to understand them and change their minds.
Never Trumpers are elites who want Trump to fail, according to Prager. They possess a utopian streak, and are largely moral people who will not compromise their standards. Prager does not want to cease admiring his Never Trump friends, because, as he says, “These conservatives have made so many deposits into their moral bank accounts that, in [his] view, their accounts all remain firmly in the black.” So he says his only option is choice number two, above: he is trying to understand them and to change their minds.
But with all due respect to Dennis Prager, a man I myself have learned from and have admired for many years, there is a tertium quid—a third way. He can respect and accept his Never Trump friends and colleagues, rather than trying to change their minds.
Accept Never Trumpers And Don’t Try To Change Them
I have been and continue to be a Never Trumper, though I may not always be vocal about it. I didn’t vote for Trump, and find him morally defective. Without going any further into his other failings, on those grounds alone I continue to be aloof and ambivalent regarding his presidency. I understand he has done some good, especially regarding Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, and I give him credit for that. But that does not mean I need to “report for duty,” as Prager asks conservatives to do.
There are two reasons I won’t get on the Trump bandwagon, and they are the same reasons that give Prager a third choice to respect and accept Never Trump conservatives.
First, there is a lot to be done culturally and politically for our country right now. Rather than “getting on board” the Trump wagon, we would all be better served if we concentrated on serving our country. Becoming a fanboy of the current president is not a requirement for fighting the “civil war” Prager believes America is in. Prager is making an assumption—that fighting “an existential battle for preserving our nation” can only be done via partisan, political means. But that’s not the case. I’m not disregarding political involvement, but supporting an indefensible president is not the only way to serve our nation.
By all means, let’s preserve our nation. Let’s raise some good kids and love the people in our lives. Let’s bolster mediating institutions. Conservatives should have an honest talk about nationalism, immigrants, health care, education, the poor, and the American blue-collar class. There is much to be done. It is reductionist and short sighted to think that the only good conservatives can do right now is to get behind a president some of us cannot conscientiously support.
Standing On Principle Is A Good And Laudable Thing
Second, no matter what happens to President Trump and his presidency, we need people who are willing to stand on principle, simply because our country needs to see examples of that. Pro-Trump conservatives should support their Never Trump friends, if for no other reason than because they can show our nation that ideals and morality are more important than power, and that there really are people in this day and age who are willing to forego power in order to stand up for what they believe in.
This is something the Left has not been able to do, but we can, and that alone is good for our country. It is good because it models the very ideals America was founded on: self-restraint, moral principle, courage against the corrupting effects of political power. I understand well that there may not be immediate fruit from this, but in the long run it will be good for our souls and for the soul of our nation. And besides, since when are conservatives the slaves of expediency?
Never Trumpers Don’t Represent One Homogenous Camp
I realize I am writing this out of my own experience. I understand that some Never Trumpers—I don’t want to use the word “brand” or “camp” because contra Prager, I don’t believe there’s a tidy set of shared characteristics between those don’t want to get on the Trump bandwagon—use their stance as a bitter political weapon.
Evan McMullin, Mitt Romney, and John McCain are examples of this. Mr. McMullin needs to show some class: being a heckler is unbecoming if you’re trying to distinguish yourself from a vulgar man and want to be taken seriously. Mr. Romney, in my humble opinion, is not politically viable in our current American landscape. For him to try to run against Trump in the 2020 primary will show America that conservatives learned nothing from the Trump upset of the Republican Party. McCain, who happens to be my senator, has established himself as the perpetual thorn in the side of his party. I suppose someone has to do that job. Maybe next time I’ll run against him.
Weaponizing Never Trump is dangerous and unhealthy for our country. That is not what I am advocating here. People involved in intentional destruction should be called out on it. But Mr. Prager, and other conservatives, should also be willing to do at least that—respect and accept their fellow conservatives who continue to be Never Trump.