The never-Trumpers are having an interesting debate over the question, Is it time to leave the Republican Party? George Will and Steve Schmidt say yes: The Trumpian rot is all the way down. Bill Kristol says not so fast: Once Donald Trump falls, the party could be brought back to health, and the fight has to be within the party as well as without it.
My instinct is that we can clarify this debate by returning to first principles. Everybody in the conversation is conservative. Where do conservative loyalties lie? How can we serve those loyalties in these circumstances?
Conservatism, as Roger Scruton reminds us, was founded during the 18th-century Enlightenment. In France, Britain and the American colonies, Enlightenment thinkers were throwing off monarchic power and seeking to build an order based on reason and consent of the governed. Society is best seen as a social contract, these Enlightenment thinkers said. Free individuals get together and contract with one another to create order.