Conservatives are a strange lot. The vast majority can’t quote the Conservative Manifesto like Jonah Goldberg, but just like porn in front of SCOTUS, they know it when they see it. What they do innately know, are the points of conservatism that matter to them, and they are stubborn to the core about those.
There are the social christian conservatives, Rockefeller Republicans, NeoCons, fiscal & deficit conservatives, the Rand Paul libertarians, and now the populous nationalistic Make America Great Again with a mixture of social, Christian, libertarian, all mixed together in a dynamic blend. They all have one thing in common, they agree on more than they disagree.
But, what they can’t all agree on, is the President. MAGA Trump supporters adore the President, Never-Trump Republicans can’t abide the the man. Never-Trump Republicans exist in Congress, local politics, and the general population. Dennis Prager examines this point today: (National Review)
I have come to believe that many conservatives possess what I once thought was a left-wing monopoly — a utopian streak. Trump is too far from their ideal leader to be able to support him. There is also a cultural divide. Anti-Trump conservatives are a very refined group of people. Trump doesn’t talk like them. Moreover, the cultural milieu in which the vast majority of anti-Trump conservatives live and/or work means that to support Trump is to render oneself contemptible at all elite dinner parties. In addition, anti-Trump conservatives see themselves as highly moral people (which they often are) who are duty-bound not to compromise themselves by strongly supporting Trump, whom they largely view as morally defective.
The curious thing about this fervent, sometimes rabid, anti-Trump fervor is just about everyone agrees the President’s governance has been by and large outstanding. There have even been respected journalist fairly effusive in their praise : (WSJ)
The result is a surreal situation in which the near-hysterical press coverage of Trump the man (and potential Russian operative) is utterly divorced from the substantive actions his administration takes or the progress it makes. Mr. Trump’s cabinet, which includes some of the best reformers in the conservative world, is methodically implementing a far-reaching deregulatory agenda.
Mr. Prager explains it quite well: (National Review)
The Never Trump conservative argument that Trump is not a conservative — one that I, too, made repeatedly during the Republican primaries — is not only no longer relevant, it is no longer true. Had any Never Trump conservative been told, say in the summer of 2015, that a Republican would win the 2016 election and, within his first few months in office, appoint a conservative to the Supreme Court; begin the process of replacing Obamacare; bomb Russia’s ally Assad after he again used chemical weapons; appoint the most conservative cabinet in modern American history; begin undoing hysteria-based, economy-choking EPA regulations; label the Iranian regime “evil” in front of 50 Muslim heads of state; wear a yarmulke at the Western Wall; appoint a U.N. ambassador who regularly condemns the U.N. for its moral hypocrisy; restore the military budget; and work on lowering corporate tax rates, among other conservative achievements — that Never Trump conservative would have been jumping for joy.
This is what Mr. Prager was building up to:
So, why aren’t anti-Trump conservatives jumping for joy?
I agree with his conclusions and find his first conclusion to be perfectly spot-on:
I have concluded that there are a few reasons that explain conservatives who were Never-Trumpers during the election, and who remain anti-Trump today. The first and, by far, the greatest reason is this: They do not believe that America is engaged in a civil war, with the survival of America as we know it at stake. While they strongly differ with the Left, they do not regard the left–right battle as an existential battle for preserving our nation. On the other hand, I, and other conservative Trump supporters, do. The “fundamental transformation” that candidate Barack Obama promised in 2008 would have been completed by Hillary Clinton in 2016. To my amazement, no anti-Trump conservative writer sees it that way. They all thought during the election, and still think, that while it would not have been a good thing if Hillary Clinton had won, it wouldn’t have been a catastrophe either. That’s it, in a nutshell. Many conservatives, including me, believe that it would have been close to over for America as America if the Republican candidate, who happened to be a flawed man named Donald Trump, had not won. Moreover, I am certain that only Donald Trump would have defeated Hillary Clinton.
His second reason is equally compelling:
There is also a cultural divide. Anti-Trump conservatives are a very refined group of people. Trump doesn’t talk like them. Moreover, the cultural milieu in which the vast majority of anti-Trump conservatives live and/or work means that to support Trump is to render oneself contemptible at all elite dinner parties. In addition, anti-Trump conservatives see themselves as highly moral people (which they often are) who are duty-bound not to compromise themselves by strongly supporting Trump, whom they largely view as morally defective.
His last point might sting a bit, but few can deny it:
Finally, these people are only human: After investing so much energy in opposing Trump’s election, and after predicting his nomination would lead to electoral disaster, it’s hard for them to admit they were wrong. To see him fulfill many of his conservative election promises, again in defiance of predictions, is a bitter pill. But if they hang on to their Never Trumpism and the president falls on his face, they can say they were right all along.
While Mr. Prager correctly assesses why the Never-Trump conservatives feel the way they do, I would add another equally important reason:
Liberals suffer from Trump Derangement Syndrome; but, Never-Trump conservatives suffer from Trump Embarrassment Syndrome
Trump Embarrassment Syndrome comes from the conservative fetish of wanting, no needing, to appear a certain way, and to be perceived in a certain manner in public. Many conservatives equate their public image to be one of the most, if not, the most, important aspects of their life.
If you quiz these very good people on the actual work being done by the Trump Administration, they have to admit very good things are being accomplished. But the fear of our President being an embarrassment is a nagging feeling that won’t go away, and sustains the original anti-Trump emotions.
This might be the reason why most of the polls were so wrong. It is entirely possible there were many Americans who just couldn’t pull the trigger for Hillary, but at the same time would not admit they would pull the lever for Candidate Trump. Perhaps, this was a shameful admission that went a step too far.
Some of these never-Trump conservatives may never change, If the facts that America’s pre-born are now being protected, the pro-life movement being promoted on a global scale, the rule of law regaining primacy, our borders being protected, and if the fact that we now can confidently see a very conservative Supreme Court majority on the horizon doesn’t persuade them, I don’t know what will.
So, while good things are happening for the Republican Party across the U.S., Trump conservatives are happy, liberals are deranged, and some anti-trumpers are embarrassed. One thing is for certain, liberal anger and hatred surrounds us daily, we do have that in common. There’s that at least.