For nearly five years most of our nation’s largest and most powerful news media outlets have given so-called NeverTrump conservative pundits an outsized voice in our political landscape. Figures such as Bill Kristol, Max Boot, Tom Nichols, Jennifer Rubin, Ana Navarro, and Rick Wilson do their turns on TV creating the illusion that there is some huge constituency of anti-Trump conservatives. There is not. In fact, these people are no longer conservatives in any real sense.
Almost all of these pundits are now mainstream Democrats. They support Joe Biden, and many support voting a straight Democratic ticket. Many are involved with the Lincoln Project and its bizarre psychological warfare TV ads that they are certain get under Trump’s skin. And they almost never wholeheartedly support anything that the vast majority of American conservatives do.
And that’s fine. People change political stripes all the time, and in many ways it is a sign of an open mind. But for news outlets to continue pretending that these people are conservative is a great disservice to their audiences and the nation’s political dialogue.
The fact is that nearly all conservative commentators were at some point NeverTrump. In February of 2016, National Review, the bible of the conservative movement, ran a NeverTrump issue, in which a broad array of conservatives condemned Trump’s candidacy. Over the course of his presidency though, most became either Trump supportive or at least tolerant of Trump.
The basic reason for this change of heart, and it is essentially a change of heart, not a change of political philosophy, was that the sky did not fall under 45’s leadership. Conservatives racked up wins on judges, taxes, regulations, foreign policy and immigration. They learned to accept the president’s abrasiveness.
The people who have actually changed their political philosophies are the still die hard NeverTrumpers. About the only thing they have stayed loyal to is their disdain of Trump and their trust in a neoliberal world order that Trump threatens. But on a host of issues such as gun rights, race, abuses of power by the Obama administration and many others, the NeverTrumpers have essentially come around to thinking the Democrats have been right all along.
This is why Boot’s book is called “The Corrosion of Conservatism: Why I Left the Right.” It’s not why I left the Republican Party, but why I left the Right. This is at least honest, but at this point Boot’s politics are essentially a carbon copy of those of every member of NeverTrump. Put simply, these people are not conservative anymore.
NeverTrumpers have a fantasy that Trump will lose badly in November and they will purge the GOP of all of his sycophantic enablers, but in their eyes that’s basically every politician not named Romney or Amash. So that’s not ever going to happen. If Republicans lose the White House they will not reward the ex-conservatives who helped it happen with leadership in the party.
So the natural political home for the NeverTrumpers at this point is obviously the Democratic Party. As the presidential primary showed us, there are few actual moderate voices in the party, which has been given over to Green New Deals and “Medicare for All.” Perhaps the NeverTrumpers can help create a wing of the Democratic Party less friendly to socialism.
But in the meantime they are supporting a wildly left wing Democratic Party. You can’t be a Yankees fan who wants them to lose in the playoffs to the Red Sox. If you are a well-known political pundit working to elect Democrats, you are a Democrat. You’re not politically homeless; you’ve just chosen a new home.
I understand that NeverTrumpers will lose a good deal of cache if we all just acknowledge that they aren’t conservatives anymore. The initial source of their relevance was that they were going against their own team. But it’s not their team anymore. Surely they are talented enough writers and thinkers that they can do more than ride that one-trick pony forever.
Whatever happens in November, the GOP is never going to return to being the party of Bush and Romney. NeverTrump dreams of expelling every drop of populism and nationalism, but that isn’t going to happen. You’d have to expel almost everyone at this point.
So let’s just please call them what they are. They are liberal Democrats. That they may have once been conservatives is unremarkable, and at this point no longer implies any special significance to their standard, run of the mill Democratic talking points. NeverTrump is no longer a thing, and we should really stop pretending that it is.