In a recent interview with Guy Benson from Fox’s radio show “Benson and Harf,” Ben Shapiro, editor in chief of The Daily Wire, said he would be “much more apt to vote for President Trump in 2020 than [he] was in 2016” and that attempts to primary Trump would be a “major mistake.”
During the 2016 election, Shapiro had been vocally Never Trump, professing on his podcast that he had voted for neither Trump nor opponent Hillary Clinton while communicating an understanding of those who had opted to vote for the outspoken New York City real estate mogul. Shapiro alluded to the need for modern conservatism to maintain and better convey its immutable tenets in the face of a less principled Trumpism, especially as young conservatives search for the appropriate philosophical footholds within the movement.
Shapiro admits that Trump’s personal behavior, in contrast to his policy accomplishments, has been what many predicted, “toxifying politics.” But Shapiro also emphasized Trump’s better-than-expected conservative track record, suggesting that Trump governed as conservatively as Vice President Mike Pence might have as president.
As Shapiro notes, from Trump’s shrinking of the regulatory state to his successful completion of tax reform to his much-improved approach to the Middle East, the president has shown himself to be a stronger promoter of conservatism than many had anticipated, albeit unfortunately quite the spender.
Given Trump’s policy achievements and the likelihood of Trump being challenged by a radical Democrat, Shapiro affirmed that he would be much more likely to vote for Trump in 2020. Shapiro doesn’t believe his initial reservations have disappeared, however. He said he has “to measure the fact that a bunch of things that [he] thought would happen have already happened and are not going to be cured by avoiding voting for him.” That is to say, Trump hasn’t changed — but the landscape has.
Finally, Shapiro noted that primarying Trump would be not only a “waste of time” but a pursuit highly likely to “backfire,” given Trump’s current approval rating within the Republican Party is over 90 percent. Shapiro pointed out the possibility that primarying Trump could cause certain conservative principles to become less popular, if they are being touted by someone opposing Trump and if Trump doesn’t seem overly keen to preserve those principles in the first place. Therefore, primarying Trump could cannibalize party principles.
Benson’s interview with Shapiro highlights the impending “fork in the road” for Never Trumpers, who will be forced to weight the policy gains of the Trump administration against the president’s less-than-savory personal idiosyncrasies. Furthermore, as progressives push the Democratic Party further leftward, the likelihood of the Democratic platform remaining remotely palatable to disgruntled conservatives seems evermore slim, a point Shapiro encapsulated neatly with the mere term “radical.”
Shapiro’s interview also brings to light the dark underbelly of primarying Trump — a pipe dream or a feasible avenue, depending upon whom you ask. For some Never Trumpers who felt particularly rattled by Trump’s ascendancy, allowing him to remain in the GOP unchallenged may seem reasonable, but points to more destruction of their principles.
As 2020 approaches, many will assess Trump’s performance through a different lens than they did in 2016, a lens colored by the policy achievements that optimists predicted but of which many (rightfully) remained skeptical. While the personal scandals revealed during Trump’s first term have been damaging, Trump has benefited tremendously from the chance to display his “GOP chops” and accrue a conservative track record of governance.
While Shapiro is still not entirely sold on Trump and the gap between Trump and Never Trump remains significant, Shapiro’s interview suggests there might be hope for common ground between the two camps. Let’s hope it’s found by 2020.