From the Left, I’m told that if I don’t crap out my spleen in panic every 20 minutes begging the Electoral College to “stop Trump” (by asking the House of Representatives to elect Trump), it means I have surrendered entirely and that I was never really “never Trump” in the first place.
This is nonsense. Liberals love to play this game where they define conservative principles for conservatives and then say that if you don’t adhere to them as liberals want, you’re a hypocrite. This was the essence of about 65 percent of Michael Kinsley’s “If conservatives were serious . . .” punditry.
From the Right, any time I say anything — and I mean anything — critical of Trump, I’m told it’s proof that I’m “bitter” or “biased” and that I can’t admit I was wrong about him, etc. I can go on TV and say that Trump has been brilliant at x and y but I’m still concerned about z, and all I’ll hear is the whistle of incoming ALL CAPS arrows: GET OVER IT! HE WON! GO AWAY NEVER TRUMPERS! HOW DO I TURN OFF CAPLOCK!!!111! Etc.
The thing is: Never Trump is over. Never Trump was about the GOP primary and the general election, not the presidency. The Left wants to claim it must be a permanent movement, denying the legitimacy of Trump’s election forever, or we were never serious. Well, that’s not what we — or at least I — signed up for.
But you know what is alive and well? Always Trump. These are the folks who think Trump must be defended and celebrated no matter what he does or says. In fairness, some of these people are still auditioning for jobs in the administration and know they must follow the rhetorical principle of “not one step backward.” But others are just normal Americans who love Trump and think that I’m somehow duty-bound to say I love him too, no matter what he does. Well, I didn’t sign up for that either.
Whenever I say this, someone shrieks at me about my “arrogance” or “hubris” — for reasons I truly cannot fathom. But I’ll say it again: I’m going to call ’em like I see ’em and wait and see if I was wrong about Trump. So far, I’ve said that most of his cabinet picks have been a pleasant and welcome surprise. But he’s also done plenty of things that make me feel like I had him pegged all along. We only have one president at a time — and the guy isn’t even president yet. I’ll give him a chance. But I won’t lie for him either.
So, the other week a friend of mine — another columnist type — pointed something out to me. There are already plenty of opportunities to say “I told you so” about Trump, the problem is people don’t care. I’ve been writing for over a year about how conservatism is getting corrupted by populism and nationalism, but when everybody is a populist nationalist who do I get to say “I told you so” to?
As Charlie Sykes notes today, all of the “it’s a binary choice!” talk during the election forced Republicans not just to forgive Trump’s personal shortcomings and ideological deviations, but to embrace them. The hope was that after November 8, the same logic that forced people to embrace the lesser of two evils would also force them to recognize that the lesser of two evils is not great. That hasn’t happened. Instead, we get Mike Pence throwing shade at the free market and the supposed defenders of conservative orthodoxy defending industrial policy.
And now it’s Russia. Support for Putin among Republicans has grown by more than threefold since 2014. I wonder why? Do you think 37 percent of Republicans have studied the geopolitical situation closely and decided that Putin really isn’t such a bad sort? Is Russia Today, the Kremlin-funded cable-TV channel, really that persuasive?
Frankly, I resent the fact that I even feel the need to explain how Putin is a bad guy, doing bad things, so I’m just going to skip that part and assert it. What’s particularly galling, though, is to listen to the Always Trump pundits spin themselves into a Gordian knot trying to defend Trump’s bromantic putinphilia. Here’s a typical defense I’ve heard from many Always Trump pundits (that I’ll keep nameless, as I may see them at Fox’s Christmas party soon).
It usually starts with the charge of hypocrisy:
“First of all, wasn’t it President Obama who mocked Mitt Romney for calling Russia our No. 1 geopolitical foe?”
This is a fair, clean shot. Obama did beclown himself with his sick burn of Romney. And so did his defenders. But they can at least argue that events changed and so did their opinions. In other words, Obama & Co. are not necessarily hypocrites when they denounce Russia now, they’re merely implicitly conceding they were naïve partisan asses when they thought Russia was the bees knees for so long.
But then, often in the same breath, the Always Trumper pivots, saying there’s no evidence Russia did anything wrong and there’s nothing amiss whatsoever with Trump’s fondness for Putin.
Which is it? Were Obama & Co. wrong for mocking Romney or was Romney wrong for calling out Russia?
Trump and Romney fundamentally disagree about Russia. Using 2012 Romney to beat up 2016 Obama is fine, but it’s not a killer argument to do that while implicitly agreeing with 2012 Obama.
I repeat what I’ve written here before. Trump isn’t my president. Obama wasn’t my president. Hillary Clinton wouldn’t have been my president had she won. Presidents and politicians are supposed to represent us; we do not serve them. If you worship politicians — any politician — your morals and values suck.