Although the “Never Trump” movement was not successful in preventing Donald J. Trump from being inaugurated President of the
United States of America,
it was successful in some respects and remains at the vanguard of liberty and
representative government. Already
having been vindicated before Trump is even sworn into office, it is now well-positioned
to lead the resistance to authoritarianism and to promote good government.
The Never Trump efforts afforded an opportunity for principled constitutional conservatives to preserve their honor and integrity by taking a public stand against Trump and to force those who favored him to make a public stand in support of him, as well as to allow many on the center-right who opposed Trump to vote for a principled conservative without having to violate their consciences. Moreover, the Never Trump movement accomplished two more significant political goals.
The first goal the Never Trump movement was successful in achieving was in drawing a clear distinction between Trumpism (i.e. populism, protectionism, nativism/white nationalism, isolationism, authoritarianism) and conservatism. Related to making this ideological distinction was maintaining consistency between conservative beliefs and practices through adherence to the conservative belief that public servants must be of good character by opposing a candidate who was morally unfit.
The second political achievement of the Never Trump efforts was to deny Trump a popular mandate. Most Republicans in the GOP primaries and caucuses did not vote for him, there were an unusually-high number of votes from Convention Delegates for other candidates, a large majority of votes in the General Election were not for the Republican and Trump-Pence Electors and even some of those Electors who were elected either resigned to avoid voting for him or did not vote for him. This lack of popular support continues to be observable in public opinion polls. Although poll responses are not nearly as significant as votes, they are important to Trump, a narcissist who craves public adulation, as well as to Republican members of Congress, as Trump’s unpopularity may encourage them to check and balance the Chief Executive to resist autocracy and harmful policies.
The efforts of Never Trump conservatives did not undermine the legitimacy of the presidential election, which does not require majority support. It was instead the deception, intimidation and foreign interference that made Trump’s election illegitimate. The efforts of those on the center-right and others to oppose Trump were partly a reaction against Trump’s personal and political fraud, but would have been justifiable even his election had been legitimate. The illegitimacy of his presidency only provides validation for the resistance to him, in addition to his lack of qualifications and heterodox policies.
It is prudent to pray for Trump, to encourage him to make good decisions, to discourage him from making bad ones and to oppose harmful policies. However, it is necessary to avoid normalizing or legitimizing his illegitimate presidency or his aberrant behaviors and undemocratic policies. The arguments being made by some conservative and Republicans that everyone should “give him the benefit of the doubt,” “wait and see,” and “give him a chance” sound like the arguments of liberal Democrats who were defending Bill Clinton, but the risks to the Republic are too great. It is always prudent to oppose bad government and to be vigilant for liberty and representative government, but it is especially necessary under Trump to be vigilant against authoritarianism and its evil daughter, kleptocracy, because the warning signs for both have been abundant. Furthermore, it is vital to thwart the Russian-fostered coup d’etat that has resulted in the election and inauguration as President of the
States of the Communist Russian Federation’s
preferred candidate by denying the Russians the fruit of this unprecedented
interference in the election. It is better
to be too vigilant than not to be vigilant enough. If the Republic is saved, it will have been
through deterrence by the resistance to Trump.
Conservatives should not let down their guard because they may favor some of Trump’s policies. Indeed, it is easy to overlook authoritarianism while one agrees with the policies of the authoritarian. It would be wise for conservatives to consider that demagogues do popular things, or at least things that are popular among the targeted audience of their demagogy, and to remember that even tyrants do some good things like making the trains run on time. Demagogues and tyrants must do these things to maintain popular support, but these things cannot legitimize their autocracy. Even liberal Democratic Presidents do some good things, either because of sharing universal principles, agreeing with conservatives on particular issues or especially because of being forced to compromise with a conservative Republican-led Legislative Branch.
Conservatives should also consider that whatever good Trump does could have been accomplished by nominating one of the other leading Republican presidential candidates, who would likely have defeated the liberal Democratic nominee—without having to rely upon deception, intimidation and foreign interference to be elected President. And conservative policies could have been implemented without authoritarianism. There is a risk that whatever conservative things an authoritarian Trump does, even if achieved democratically, would later be associated with fascism by the Left and be undone by liberals if they return to power immediately after him. Therefore, only principled support for any conservative policy from the center-right opposition to him could spare such policies from being thrown out by liberals, along with his usurpations. Such support from the conservative opposition to Trump would likely be essential for those particular proposals to be approved by Congress.
As Trump and his supporters dismiss the arguments of the Left, only the principled center-right opposition to Trump can effectively lead the American resistance to authoritarianism. Support for or opposition to Republican members of Congress from the conservative opposition to Trump would be more effective in encouraging the Legislative Branch, in which they are the majority, to check and balance him, than would opposition from liberal Democrats alone. It is also imperative that the center-right not concede the resistance to Trump to the Left, lest conservatives be left out of any post-authoritarian governance.
Conservatives can and must save the Republic by defending liberty and representative government through resistance to Trump’s authoritarian proclivities and by defending American independence through opposition to pro-Russian Federation policies. In an upcoming post, I shall advise how effectively to resist authoritarianism and kleptocracy.