Try counting the number of Republicans who refused to support Donald Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign even after he won the GOP nomination and Hillary Clinton was the only alternative.
We at American Liberty Report tried counting the people in the “Never Trump” movement. We’re still counting. Five of his rivals for the GOP nomination didn’t vote for him although they SIGNED A PLEDGE that they would support the GOP nominee: Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham, John Kasich, and George Pataki. Graham voted for Evan McMullin; Kasich for John McCain.
Twenty-two members of Republican cabinets were Never Trumpers, including former Secretaries of State George Shultz, Colin Powell, and Condoleezza Rice and George W. Bush’s last Attorney General and secretaries of the Commerce, Homeland Security, and Treasury departments. Eleven of the 22 publicly endorsed or said they voted for Clinton.
The Never Trump list also included 11 governors, 12 ex-governors (Mitt Romney voted for his wife), 10 U.S. senators, eight ex-senators, 32 members of the U.S. House, 32 ex-House members, 28 former high-ranking State Department officials, 16 former high-ranking Pentagon officials, 25 former high-level national security officials, 21 other former high-ranking government officials, several prominent political advisers for the Bushes and GOP presidential nominees, and 11 business leaders who identified themselves as Republicans.
As much as establishment Republicans despised Trump, conservative media figures might have despised him even more. Wikipedia lists 60 academics and journalists, including Glenn Beck, The New York Times “conservative” columnists David Brooks and Ross Douthat, Erick Erickson, George W. Bush speechwriter and columnist David Frum, the late Charles Krauthammer, Bill Kristol, P.J. O’ Rourke, Ben Shapiro, radio host turned MSNBC commentator Charlie Sykes, and The Washington Post columnists Max Boot, Jennifer Rubin, and George Will.
Don’t bother adding the numbers because some people are in more than one category and the list doesn’t include many signers of anti-Trump petitions. A petition signed by 75 retired Foreign Service officers, including many ambassadors for GOP presidents, called the 45th president “entirely unqualified” to be president and said they would all vote for Clinton. A petition signed by 50 national security officials — all Republican — said Trump lacks character and values, would put the USA’s security at risk, and would be the “most reckless president in American history.
The Never Trump movement was launched informally at about the time he declared his presidential candidacy in June, 2015, or at least when he became the frontrunner for the nomination during the summer of 2015. It’s now more than three years old.
What is the status of the Never Trump movement? American Liberty Report decided to examine this issue after The Weekly Standard magazine folded just over a week ago. The conservative publication founded by zealous anti-Trumper Bill Kristol, who spent much of 2016 begging conservatives to run against Trump even after he won the nomination, remained devoted to the anti-Trump cause until it folded. Paid circulation declined 10 percent during 2017, the last year that figures are available.
“The Weekly Standard officially folded yesterday, making it the first actual fatality attributable to Trump Derangement Syndrome.” wrote Thomas Lifson in the conservative publication American Thinker.
Leaders Following People
The most important criterion for determining whether a Never Trumper changed is his or her dependence on the 45th president’s loyal followers, but Trump proving he is a conservative has also been a factor.
Perhaps one of the most telling factors is that most current politicians who opposed Trump in 2016 support him now, including Lindsey Graham, who has become a close ally of the president following his impassioned speech following the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. Jeff Flake didn’t change and his popularity plunged so much that he had to “retire” from the Senate at the age of 55 knowing he didn’t have the support to get reelected in 2018.
The same principle applies to journalism. Like The Weekly Standard, the National Review was an implacable foe of Trump in 2016. It isn’t today.
“During the Republican primary, the journal published an “Against Trump” issue, but over time has placated its pro-Trump donors and readers by adding voices supportive of the president,” reported Politico.
National Review editor Rich Lowry is one of ten 2016 Never Trumpers listed in this article about who is still in the Never Trump movement. The article reports that seven of the 10 have changed their views with Boot, Frum, and George W. Bush being the exceptions. Lowry has praised Trump’s judicial appointments, deregulation policy, tax cuts, and rollback of the Title IX civil rights law.
“President Donald Trump is compiling a solid record of accomplishment,” he wrote. “Much of it is unilateral, dependent on extensive executive actions rolling back President Barack Obama’s regulations, impressive judicial appointments, and the successful fight against ISIS overseas.”
Lowry is far from the only ex-Never Trump journalist as Never Trump diehard Boot points out that identifies Erickson and Shapiro as well as foreign policy analyst David Blumenthal as the “latest conservatives to turn from Trump foes to fans.” Boot implies there are few anti-Trumpers left.
“As we come to the end of Trump’s first year in office, a remarkable number of those Never-Trump conservatives have changed their minds,” wrote William Mayer in the Boston Herald in January. “Whatever else may be said of Trump’s first year, he did not turn out to be a closet liberal.”
Mayer hit the nail on the head. A large part of the resistance to Trump was a belief that he was not really a conservative. As more Never Trumpers realize this, their resistance to him has declined. In fact, many of the most diehard Never Trumpers are foreign policy experts who now want to work for him according to Foreign Policy magazine.
“Several younger Republican experts who did not want to be named said they regret signing the petitions,” said the article, which reports that many Never Trumpers haven’t been hired because of their past critiques. The most noteable example is Matthew Kroenig, an expert on nuclear nonproliferation who signed one of the petitions but now supports “much” of his ex-foe’s foreign policy. Former high-level Pentagon official Mary Beth Long also said she changed her mind.
The Never Trump movement is now dead, buried totally during the Kavanaugh confirmation fight, according to The Daily Beast. Erickson once wrote an article “I Will Not Vote For Donald Trump, Ever,” but he suggested recently he will vote for Trump in 2020.
“Trump is neither an ambassador for my values nor the articulate champion of my principles I would prefer,” Erickson wrote. “But he is a safe harbor in a progressive storm that seeks to both destroy my values and upend our constitutional republic.”
Seems like President Trump has changed the hearts and heads of many of his former critics—this just two years into what is likely to be an eight year presidency.