I was never #NeverTrump, but back during those crazy days of the 2016 GOP primary I had a certain amount of sympathy for those who were. That’s because I respected quite a few of them—and in opposing Donald Trump, they weren’t exactly taking the easy road. Our own Erick Erickson paid a steep price for abiding by his principles, and other writers whom I follow closely—Jonah Goldberg and Jay Nordlinger among them—built a convincing case against Trump’s brand of celebrity populism.
Since I have little use for cult-of-personality politics, and since my own conservatism springs primarily from intellectual and policy roots, I agreed with most of their arguments. I also knew that Trump was not, at heart, a conservative, even if the agenda he proposed largely was. One thing that Trump had going for him, though, was that he really made the GOP establishment nervous. He wasn’t afraid to call them out as creatures of the DC swamp, a little too comfortable with a status quo in which they talked a good game but never actually did anything. Ted Cruz expressed the same sentiments, and the establishment hated them both for it—but since Cruz was the true conservative, I cast my vote for him in the primary.
Trump, however, was the one who prevailed, and I was fine with that. Would I have preferred the nominee to be someone actually schooled in conservative thought and tradition? Sure. And would it have been better for the Republican standard-bearer to be more of a steady hand and less of a character from a WWE pay-per-view special? Absolutely. But even if Trump was a flawed vessel, he talked about issues that the GOP base actually cared about—things like unchecked illegal immigration, which establishment toadies like Jeb! called an act of love. Trump also understood what the Democrats had long known—that politics is a street fight and you don’t win by playing nice. To a guy like me, who was still angry over how a decent man like Mitt Romney had his reputation trashed by a dishonest media and the likes of Harry Reid, this was nothing short of a vindication.
There are some, however, who never quite got over the vulgarity of it all. Like the country clubbers of Bushwood horrified at the antics of Al Czervik, they still can’t believe that man was allowed anywhere near the White House. Count among them Bill Kristol, who was a leading conservative voice and a champion of limited government, but who now defines himself wholly by his resistance to all things Trump.
Obviously strongly prefer normal democratic and constitutional politics. But if it comes to it, prefer the deep state to the Trump state.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) February 14, 2017
I may be a simple blogger, but I can’t find the part of the Constitution that stipulates a strong preference for democratic norms except in cases when the duly elected president is kind of icky. By those standards, Kristol should have advocated a Deep State overthrow of Bill Clinton—but I don’t remember seeing an article like that in the Weekly Standard at the time.
No matter. To Kristol, being #NeverTrump means never having to give the president credit for anything, even when he takes actions that you wholeheartedly agree are good for the country. Or, as he put it in a recent tweet:
I like Gorsuch, decertifying Iran and leaving UNESCO. But they're not worth the degradation of our public life that is the Trump presidency.
— Bill Kristol (@BillKristol) October 17, 2017
For sure, it would have been far better if Hillary had picked the next Supreme Court justice. I mean, our Second Amendment rights would be hanging by a thread and we’d be one court case away from erasing our religious liberties forever—but it would totes be worth it if Bill Kristol didn’t have to say, “Eww!” every time he had to watch a Trump presser. As for Iran getting a nuclear weapon and the UN’s non-stop Israel bashing through UNESCO, would that really be such a large price to pay for not offending Kristol’s delicate sensibilities? We have our standards to maintain, after all.
If you ever needed an illustration of exactly why the GOP establishment has become so hated by its own base, look no further. In essence, Kristol is saying that losing the election and cementing the Obama legacy would have been preferable to the faux pas of Donald Trump. Most voters see it differently. They would rather win and advance their own agenda. If that means putting up with some boorish behavior on the part of the president, then so be it. That’s because they know the alternative is far worse.
Kristol, for his part, doesn’t seem to care. If he can’t have things his way, he’d rather take his ball and go home—no matter how badly the rest of the country suffers. Problem is, the voters are on to his little scam, and now he’s pitching a hissy fit.
It’s really too bad. Kristol is s smart man, and has contributed greatly to the conservative moment over the years—more than I ever will, I’m certain. But right now, his pride seems to be getting the better of him. Rather than try to convince everyone he was right about Trump all along, maybe he should try cutting the administration some slack when it’s deserved. Then, when he calls them out for doing something stupid, his criticism will sound more genuine.