Dan Phillips, also known as Red Phillips, is an IPR contributor. He originally published the following article at EconomicPopulist.org on August 15th, 2016:
Anti-Trump “conservatives” act as if they are the only group of people who have ever faced having a nominee of their party that they don’t like and don’t believe represents their party well, but I’ve got news for them. They aren’t. A lot of conservatives weren’t satisfied with Romney, McCain, Bush II, Dole, Bush I, etc. Guess what, Bernie supporters aren’t happy with Hillary and many leftists before weren’t happy with Kerry, etc. either, but the level of vitriol and the pathological inability to let it go and move on among the NeverTrumpers is unprecedented. (I’ll only use the quotes around conservative once for the sake of ease and appearance, but I do not concede that every group calling itself conservative actually is when that term is properly understood and applied.)
I find a few things about the anti-Trump hysteria among some conservative regulars very revealing. First, how many of these conservatives also refused in the name of conservative purity to back the squishy moderates Romney and McCain after they won the Republican nomination? Very few I suspect. Props to those who did. Heck, many NeverTrumpers laughably view Romney as the potential savior of conservatism and the Republican Party. I could stop this essay at that little factoid and would have sufficiently demonstrated the intellectual unseriousness of NeverTrump, but I’ll proceed anyway. Skewering NeverTrump is too much fun. The opposition to Trump among NeverTrumpers is not motivated by degree, so to speak, of conservatism, but by kind of conservatism. Trump represents another possible manifestation of the conservative impulse, and that is why they fear him.
Also, how many of these oh so pure conservatives, especially the ones who call themselves constitutional conservatives, supported a genuine constitutionalist, Ron Paul, in 2008 and 2012? Ron Paul is philosophically a libertarian which is potentially problematic from an authentic conservative standpoint, but the political manifestation of his libertarianism was strict constitutionalism which is entirely conservative in effect, and Paul had long been a product of the American right-wing scene. But many of the same people who are hysterical about Trump because he breaks the movement conservative mold, were equally hysterical about Ron Paul for the same reason, although Paul broke the mold in a different way.
But the most telling indication of the real nature of NeverTrump in my opinion, is its steadfast refusal to do the most logical and sensible thing if it really believes that the problem with Trump is that he is not conservative enough, endorse the nominee of the most prominent “more” conservative party with a national presence, the Constitution Party (CP). This is what people who are unwilling to accept the nominee of their chosen party do when they feel their nominee is not pure enough, they vote for the candidate of the ideological third party that is closest to them or an independent if available. So if a Bernie supporter can’t support Hillary because he doesn’t think she is liberal enough, he might vote for the Green Party nominee, Jill Stein, because the Green Party is the most prominent national “more” liberal by degree party. In past elections he might have voted for Ralph Nader, for example.
Likewise, if you are a conservative truly interested in the purity of conservatism, and you believe that Trump falls short of your threshold for what you can support, then why not do the logical thing and support the Constitution Party nominee, Darrell Castle? But shockingly few NeverTrumpers have seen fit to do so. Why?
One reason is the snob factor. Some anti-Trumpism is motivated by what I have called sophistication signaling. Trump can be bombastic and crass at times and is supported by a lot of people that the sophisticated set thinks are yokels, so their anti-Trumpism is in part a way to signal that they are oh so serious and would never sully their hands by supporting an uncouth “demagogue” like Trump, although I suspect that separating themselves from all his yahoo supporters, rather than Trump’s demeanor, is really what motivates them.
Likewise, I suspect that snobbery is one thing that keeps certain NeverTrumpers from considering the CP nominee. Darrell Castle is a lawyer and a long time CP activist, and by all accounts a decent fellow, but he is not a “serious” candidate and his party is still pretty obscure and “fringy,” and I say this as someone who is sympathetic to the CP, despite clearly being the most prominent “more” conservative party at the national level. This is likely why some NeverTrumpers are considering the Libertarian Party (LP) ticket of Johnson and Weld, even though neither of those men come anywhere close to passing a conservative purity test. But both are former governors and serious and respectable and not fringy and thus won’t taint the sophistication credentials of NeverTrumpers who endorse them.
But more than sophistication signaling, what motivates NeverTrumpers refusal to endorse Castle is the issues differences they have with the CP. The CP is an unambiguously constitutionalist party and, broadly speaking, a “more” conservative by degree party, but it is also a paleoconservative party, meaning it is restrictionist on immigration, opposed to globalist trade deals and non-interventionist on foreign policy.
NeverTrump may pretend their resistance is about conservative purity, but what it is really about is keeping conservatism as ideological cover for globalism – relatively open borders, free trade and foreign policy interventionism. Anyone familiar with this dynamic and the nature of the CP understood why the NeverTrumpers weren’t rushing to do the easy and sensible thing and endorse Darrell Castle, but some have done us the favor of making it clear. A good little globalist can’t tolerate any of that “retrograde mercantilism” or “foreign policy isolationism” no matter how solid the party or the candidate might be on such trivial matters as the Second Amendment and saving babies. So instead we get punchline but globalism safe candidates like David French and Evan McMullinwho have to start from scratch, rather than NeverTrump being smart and utilizing the existing infrastructure, such as it is, of an already established national conservative party.
It says all you need to know about NeverTrump that so many who are supposedly standing up for the integrity of true conservatism are willing to consider LP nominee Gary Johnson who is pro-choice and whose immigration policies would turn the country permanently Blue faster than it is already on track to, or globalism safe independent no-hopers like French and McMullin rather than the undeniably more conservative Darrell Castle. If you are a NeverTrumper and you’re not supporting Darrell Castle, please spare me your lectures on conservative purity. Your alleged conservatism is nothing more than an ideological apologia for the status quo globalism that just so happens to enrich the donor class fat cats who fund your movement and the Republican Party but leaves the Middle Americans who actually vote for Republicans cycle after cycle in the lurch. The globalist forces that you are giving ideological cover to are responsible for the decline of the country you are supposed to be trying to conserve. You know, that country Trump wants to Make Great Again. So if you are a NeverTrumper and say you are concerned about conservative purity, either endorse Darrell Castle or shut the hell up. Failure to endorse Castle will make the real nature of your continual petulant whining about Trump crystal clear.