From #NeverTrump to #ReluctantTrump: Anti-Trump Rightbloggers Eye Exit Strategy

We’re another week closer to the the death of the American experiment — that is, the Trump Presidency — and the rolls of the resistance are dwindling as Il Douche continues to rack up endorsements from respectable Republicans (this just in: Rep. Trey Gowdy declares Trump #Benghazi-rific!). But how goes it with the brave #NeverTrump rightbloggers pledged to stand against him? Still standing, but shifty-eyed and sidling toward the door.

Take Jonah Goldberg, dean of the #NeverTrump crew at National Review. Last week, Goldberg taxonomized and reviled several Trump-allied factions: "alt-right" loons, converts "who don’t in fact believe in anything at all beyond their own self-interest," "Closet #NeverTrumpers" without the courage of their convictions, and "Fake Moderates" who, Goldberg claimed, had "urged the GOP to be more inclusive and nice" before endorsing Trump.

But conservatives "who simply think supporting Trump is making the best of a bad situation" — well, that was different. "I understand that position and I have sympathy for it," said Goldberg. It would also be okay if Ted Cruz and this year’s other unsuccessful GOP contenders gave Trump "some grudging, pro-forma support…albeit reluctantly and with grave reservations," said Goldberg. Helping to destroy the country is only bad, in other words, if you seem too cheerful about it; a grim visage redeems you. Sort of like Puritanism!

Goldberg also said he’d told a questioner on one of the cruises National Review runs to raise money that "if the election were a perfect tie, and the vote fell to me and me alone," he would "probably" vote for Donald Trump — but "I will never vote for Donald Trump" because "my vote won’t decide the election. And I am not bound by hypotheticals like that." With this kind of intellectual firepower, it’s amazing these guys couldn’t stop Trump.

Similarly, Goldberg’s colleague David French denounced conservatives who advocated "elevating a far more liberal, ignorant, and dishonest human being" than even the tyrant Obama "to the height of American power" — but, he hastily added, "to be clear, I’m not talking to those people who despair of the choice between Trump and Hillary and are making themselves vote for Trump," but to "core supporters" of Trump. And really, who’s to say what’s "core" and not "core"? What he’s saying is, don’t stop clicking the links and coming to cruises, guys!

"To be clear, I’m not voting for Trump," said National Review’s Rachel Lu, "but I don’t wish to torch the Rolodex cards (or smartphone equivalent) of everyone who is.… [T]houghtful #NeverTrump and #ReluctantTrump conservatives can and should remain respectful friends and allies." And should Lu need a job in 2017 and after, those smartphone Rolodex names may come in handy! Lu also had the best closing of the week:

When we look back on this moment a decade or two hence, will it seem like the beginning of the end? It’s possible. But I still entertain the hope that Trumpism will be the forest fire that makes a thousand flowers bloom.

It’s an ill wind that blows no one some good, even in wildfire country.

Conservatives do have non-Trump alternatives: The Libertarian Party will field a candidate — and what's a libertarian but a conservative with status anxieties? But that’s not close enough for some rightbloggers, who found wanting the LP’s presumed nominee, former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson.

Johnson, revealed David Harsanyi at the Federalist, had "argued in favor of forcing bakeries to participate in gay weddings against their conscience." Whoever heard of a libertarian supporting the Civil Rights Act! "Gary Johnson 2016," Harsanyi jested: " 'Not only will I legalize crack, I’ll force you to cater a trans couple’s BDSM-themed wedding!' "  Finally, Harsanyi called the LP "endlessly factional and self-destructive…a sort [sic] anti-consensus party driven by a narrow ideological focus that often stands apart even from mainstream libertarianism." For what Harsanyi means by mainstream libertarianism, see his 2008 column, "The Libertarian Case for Palin." (No, I’m not kidding.)

David French liked some things about Johnson — "he’s indicated that he’d appoint judges 'who will interpret the Constitution according to its original meaning,' " hint hint — but disapproved of others. There was the gay-cake thing, natch, and the fact that Johnson is not only for drug legalization, but is also, marveled French, "an actual drug user." (This also bothered Brian T. Carter at American Thinker: "Temporary impairment is a legitimate concern in the age of intercontinental missiles, cyber attacks, and terrorism," he harrumphed. "Drunk or stoned presidents are unacceptable, regardless of their substance of choice.")

Also, said French, Johnson believes "that American military interventions have made the terrorist problem 'worse.' " But he held out hope: "I’ve often wondered how a self-defense oriented libertarian would alter American policy once they received a full and complete national-security briefing," French said. "Libertarian purists would likely be surprised at the military aggression of a libertarian president." (For more on French’s idea of libertarianism, see his 2012 post, "The Sexual Revolution Depends on Big Government.")

I cannot leave unmentioned the new third party proposed by the Federalist’s Robert Tracinski: The Liberal Party. "But wait, I hear you shout," said Tracinski, "the ‘liberals’ in American politics are the Left! Yes, and that has been one of the great historical mistakes we need to correct. There’s nothing
'liberal' about today’s Left. That’s becoming increasingly obvious now that the Left is openly the faction of illiberalism, in favor of cracking down on personal freedom and autonomy in every area of life.…" Presumably, this Liberal Party will explain its way into the voters’ hearts.

Meanwhile, Trump was winning a massive endorsement: that of the National Rifle Association. "A choice between an unreliable ally and a certain enemy is far from ideal, but most gun owners will see a clear distinction anyway," said National Review’s Jim Geraghty. Geraghty’s also the guy who said, when Trump pre-cogged that the crash of EgyptAir Flight 804 was a terrorist attack, "Speculation isn’t particularly wise from a presidential candidate, but don’t give Trump too much heat; he’s only metaphorically saying out loud what a lot of people are thinking." And when Obama brought rapper Macklemore to his weekly YouTube address to spread awareness of opioid addiction among the young, Geraghty tweeted, "Isn't it awful the way Trump turned politics into a celebrity reality show? Now, here's Obama talking about addiction with Macklemore!"

Don’t worry, though; Geraghty’s probably saying this stuff reluctantly and with grave reservations, at least when Jonah Goldberg’s around.

Trump also got some rightblogger love for accurately transcribing the names of eleven rightwing judges fed to him by aides so he could claim to be considering them for the Supreme Court. While diehards like Erick Erickson said Trump’s word on this, as on everything else, could not be trusted, other conservatives, though sort of agreeing, nonetheless loved the sound of all those anti-abortion, pro-corporation jurists so much that they had to show some gratitude for the incantation.

"How can such a man be counted on to pick the kind of Justices he's now promised?" said the Weekly Standard’s Terry Eastland. "One answer is that Hillary Rodham Clinton manifestly would not choose such jurists. There is a chance Trump might."

"Nothing is certain with Mr. Trump," editorialized the Wall Street Journal, "but that’s far preferable to the certainty that Hillary Clinton would nominate a down-the-line liberal."

"By doing something like this to assuage conservatives, he gives cover, he allows some conservatives to come out and support him and say, 'well I’m not so worried as much about the Supreme Court,' " Charles Krauthammer said on Fox News. "It starts this cascade of who is going to support Trump. And once that starts — it’s not going to stop." Krauthammer’s comments were transcribed and published at National Review . Like I said: An ill wind...

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