But as much as Republicans are blamed for enabling the Trump show, the idea that they abandoned their principles or sold their souls to him is false.
At the heart of the dismay felt by the clique of Never Trumper strategists and mainstream media columnists are notions about class and manners. Trump’s personal style cost Republicans support among women and college-educated voters. But his willingness to stand up for working-class Americans on issues they care about and to which GOP elites were indifferent or hostile—like trade and immigration—reflected exactly the sort of expansion of the traditional Republican base that the party needed.
The hoi polloi that establishment Republicans viewed with contempt—even though many understood that winning back the working-class Democrats who once voted for Ronald Reagan was essential for winning elections—delighted in Trump’s tweaking of the governing and educated classes. But to the elites who spent the last few decades benefiting from the network of GOP institutions that sustained the party establishment, the hostile takeover of the party by Trump was a personal disaster. That it happened at the hands of someone they thought of as an oaf who has as much contempt for them as he did for liberal elites was particularly humiliating.
Many in the party feared that Trump would trash conservatism. But his four years in government proved the contrary.