Imagine for a moment that it’s 2020. (Or, more likely very early in 2019.) The midterms are over and people are lining up to formalize their bid for the presidency. The Democrats, having been out of power for years, have completed whatever form of post-election autopsy they decided to perform and a number of them are scrambling for position. Assuming that President Donald Trump intends to run for a second term (which is a big assumption, I know…), what of #NeverTrump?
Over the course of the general election this year when various discussions arose on the subject of support, the most common retort sent my way by some of my conservative NeverTrump friends and associates was along the lines of, “never means never.” Or sometimes, “what part of ‘never’ didn’t you understand?”
Fair enough. By this line of thinking it’s not unfair to assume that even if President Trump appoints a Supreme Court Justice (or more than one) of generally accepted conservative timbre, repeals regulations, supports a conservative agenda from Congress and at least starts building a wall, our NeverTrump friends will still not be lining up to vote for another term. But what to do? Would you push for an insurgent candidate in the primary? Simply sit out the election? Or in the most radical cases, would you begin backing the least objectionable Democrat in the primary and vote for them? We had a few on my list who actually did vote for Hillary – or at least said they were going to – so it’s not beyond the realm of possibility. If you were willing to vote for her all bets are off when it comes to some other Democrats.
Over the course of a few days this week I put that question to some of the conservative NeverTrumpers on my list of friends and contacts to get a feel for what we might be in for. While some didn’t reply, I received a number of helpful, thoughtful answers (along with a mixture of some rather curt ones and a few which suggested anatomically impossible feats on my part) and I wanted to share just a few of them (with permission).
My friend and fellow horseradish aficionado Nathan Wurtzel had this to offer.
I’m an American first, a Never Trump guy second. As an American, I have to root for him to succeed. I am encouraged by some of his choices for roles in his Administration, less enthused by a few others. I voted for Evan McMullin; it never occurred to me for a second to vote for Hillary Clinton, and at this point I see no national Democrat who could win their nomination who I could possibly support.
As far as I am concerned, the 2016 election is over – the American people have decided. I have no thoughts about 2020 at the present, but I would point out both Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan knew what to do when faced with what they considered failed presidencies in their own party. We’ll leave it there for now and rightly give the President-elect a chance to do right by America.
Jim Geraghty of National Review had plenty to say on the topic. I would have trimmed it down, but the guy is such a phenomenal writer that it wouldn’t do him justice. Here’s his take on it:
I don’t think we NeverTrump-ers should spend the next four years fuming relentlessly and and start thinking already about who could replace him. We ought to applaud him when we think he’s right and argue against him when we think he’s wrong, as we would do for any other president. As a traditional conservative, I don’t see a lot of signs that the modern Democratic party could generate a nominee that would be much of an improvement than Trump, warts and all. It would have to be a figure who’s astonishingly different from most of what the Party has stood for since the millennium.
The Democratic Party has experienced a lot of changes since the Bill Clinton years. It’s bizarrely simultaneously both more hostile to the world of business and more intertwined with its favorite business entities. It will denounce corporate greed one day and subsidize Solyndra the next; they’ll denounce Mitt Romney as a greedy, corrupt plutocrat one year and embrace Terry McAuliffe the next. It is functionally willing to accept quiet war on the cheap with drones in far-off places like Pakistan, Yemen and Libya, and yet the grassroots has deep pacifist and isolationist streaks. They’ll shrug at Russia invading Crimea but go to DefCon One over hacking the DNC’s e-mails. They only feel the national interest is threatened when their partisan interest is threatened. They don’t merely “stand for” ideas like gay marriage, transsexual rights, abortion rights, gun rights, etcetera, they seethe with contempt for anyone who thinks differently.
If you’re free-market, strong defense, traditional values, then there just isn’t much of an entry point. I suppose the first step for the Democrats would be to find a potential nominee who doesn’t embody or project this seething contempt for non-progressives. Out of the names you mentioned, Cory Booker probably does that best.
Caleb Howe, the managing editor at our sister site, RedState, doesn’t see much hope for the Democrats changing their stripes.
I expect Democrats to be idiots and go with a run of the mill liberal Dem, with some kind of backstory or identity group, Maybe a Castro brother? Tough to see right now, but whomever they choose will be as terrible and wrong for America as usual. I despised Hillary and wrote many, many articles opposed to her as a candidate and against her character, honesty, and decency. I fully expect the Democrats will put someone up about whom I feel exactly the same. As we see from the election results, I don’t think they are capable of nominating someone who can appeal to republicans in significant numbers, even if they are opposed to Trump’s clearly democrat ideals, sensibilities, and goals. Since he seems intent on governing as a dem, (or dem-lite), it will even be hard for them to make a distinction between their platform and his, although I’m sure they’ll simply run on the idea of being “not a racist like those racists who are racist” or however they will phrase it. But you never know, he could prove me wrong. I don’t rule it out.
IF Trump runs again in 2020, and I do think that’s a big if, and assuming he doesn’t change, which is a pretty good assumption, I hope, as I did this year, the opposition is fierce, successful and Republican.
One of the last of the answers I’ll include was a very short and explicit entry from my friend Mickey White (who is also writing at RedState these days, by the way). She’s never been one to mince words.
I’m probably the wrong “Never Trump” person to ask. My duty ended when I didn’t vote for him. As for 2020, I’d prefer if we ran someone against him in the primaries or he didn’t seek re-election at this point. I wouldn’t support a Democrat in 2020, just as I wouldn’t vote for Hillary this year.
So I’m definitely sensing a theme here. If Trump somehow winds up governing like the Manchurian Democrat many still suspect him to be, there will no doubt be a strong movement to mount a conservative primary challenge. I somehow doubt they’ll be alone in that movement and if things are really going down the tubes for the conservative agenda I’ll mostly likely be out there with them. But, as I suggested is possible above, if The Donald winds up being at least a nominally successful president, conditions in the country are on an upswing and he keeps (or at least attempts to keep) the majority of his promises to the base, I don’t see a serious primary effort developing. And if that’s the case I definitely wouldn’t support one. Changing horses mid-stream is a tough act to pull off and you surrender the power of incumbency for your candidate. For the most part, I’m with Jim Geraghty on this one. I hope we can praise and support Trump where he does well and urge Congress to keep him in check should he go astray. (Yes, there’s not much you can do about executive orders and cabinet level regulations in that regard, but you do what you can.)
Overall I want to give him time and see just how well this horse runs down the stretch. I went with Cruz in the primary, but I voted for Trump in November because Job One was not having Hillary Clinton in office and appointing the replacement for Antonin Scalia, along with all the other mischief she’d have gotten up to. That job is done. Now the long slog begins, and if Trump is at least mostly good to his word he’ll have my support, both now and in 2020. Of course, I agree with Caleb that The Donald actually wanting another term after four years in that thankless office is nothing to take for granted. But if he decides he doesn’t want the job anymore, we may be off to fairly clean start with Mike Pence running as a sitting VP.