The country owes the Never Trump conservatives a debt

Yes, many progressives have been uneasy with these unusual allies. They insist that Trump was not some alien imposition on conservatism but rather the product of long-standing trends in Republican politics. Trafficking in racial division and racism, nativism, extremism, conspiracy theories and voter suppression did not start with Trump.

Progressives are entirely right about this. But the Never Trumpers deserve our respect precisely because so many of them stood against these tendencies and, in more cases than not, undertook a deeper critique of their own side…

For those of us arrayed from the center to the left, the awfulness of Trump is so obvious that we can underestimate how hard it is to walk away from the people who were your comrades for so long. In journals progressives don’t pay much attention to, television networks we don’t watch and Twitter feeds we don’t follow, the Never Trumpers were denounced as renegades and traitors — and also saddled with far uglier, unprintable monikers.

True, these rebels-with-a-good-cause were a minority in their camp, but they were far from alone. Exit polls are imperfect, but the Edison survey suggests that perhaps 8 million of President-elect Joe Biden’s more than 81 million votes came from self-described conservatives, and 3 million from Republicans (which doesn’t include those who left the party because of Trump).