Can’t they both lose?
We have two political parties in America that seem utterly committed to being in the minority. Among other defects, neither appears to be interested in wooing what is arguably the most influential swing vote in America right now: Never Trump conservatives.
Let’s start with Republicans. Donald Trump was the first president since Herbert Hoover to lose the White House, the U.S. Senate, and the House. You would think that they might want to learn from Trump’s losses and woo conservative voters who couldn’t in good conscience vote for the Republican nominee in 2020 back into the fold.
If you doubt Never Trump attrition was important or decisive, consider what the Trumpy U.S. senator from, Ron Johnson, was caught admitting in an undercover video.
During a surreptitiously recorded conversation, Johnson noted that in Wisconsin, other Republicans outperformed Trump by tens of thousands of votes. “The only reason Trump lost Wisconsin is that 51,000 Republican voters didn’t vote for him,” Johnson said. “They voted for other Republican candidates.” Trump lost the state by almost 21,000 votes, prompting Wisconsinite and prominent Never Trump conservative Charlie Sykes to conclude: “It’s almost as if Never Trump voters weren’t irrelevant, after all.”
You would think that this evidence would spur Republicans to find a way to win back the tens of thousands of conservative-leaning swing-state voters who specifically chose not to vote for Trump in 2020. But you’d be wrong, of course.
Johnson can’t say these things publicly, because the Republican Party is more interested in wooing the votes of people who think taking horse-deworming drugs is safer than getting a vaccine. That’s also why Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis—ostensibly the non-Trump frontrunner for the 2024 GOP nomination—continues to battle local school boards who want to mandate masks in schools.
Trump’s loss and subsequent incitement of an insurrection have done little to alienate Republicans. He has, instead, inspired political disciples like Madison Cawthorn, who now refers to the Jan. 6 rioters as “political hostages,” and Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is threatening to “shut down” telecommunications companies who comply with the House Select Committee’s request to preserve phone records from that infamous day. And if you think citing Greene is an example of “nutpicking,” recognize that Senate Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has gone so far as to warn these companies that “a Republican majority will not forget.”
For these reasons and more, decent, sane, center-right Americans cannot support the GOP.
Of course, the Democratic Party is hardly a viable option for most of us either. Democrats and Republicans do share something in common, though—they are equally uninterested in courting us.
The Democratic Party isn’t an option if you are against abortion (an issue Biden flip-flopped on and now, in regards to Texas’ six-week abortion ban, is calling a “constitutional right”). Increasingly, the same is true if you are a national security conservative.
You need only look to his disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan.
On a recent CNN spot, Bill Kristol described the changing perspectives of some of his friends: “I’m glad I voted for [Biden], I’m glad it’s not Trump, but I don’t know. I don’t think I can vote for him again. And also, maybe at the congressional level, we need to check some of this stuff.”
Of course, Biden has many problems to worry about, including his management of the COVID-19 Delta variant, the rise in violent crime, looming inflation, and a border crisis. But these problems, coupled with his horrific handling of Afghanistan, have dropped his job approval rating to just 46 percent. This is not a great place to be if you want to win the 2022 midterms (or the 2024 presidential election).
Regardless, what is clear is that Biden would rather placate his base than keep Never Trump conservatives on board. Yet, just as one could point to conservative-leaning voters’ refusal to support Trump as having cost him the presidency, one could make the case that Never Trump conservatives elected Biden president.
As recently as July, a New York Times analysis of a new Pew Research Center report concluded that “Mr. Biden prevailed by making significant inroads among moderate or conservative constituencies,” including married men and veteran households. As I noted at the time, the data suggests that Biden won the election by making inroads with traditionally center-right constituencies by broadening his base of support—as opposed to winning by juicing traditionally Democratic constituencies.
The truth is that all politicians have to balance base turnout with persuasion. But both the Republican Party and the Democratic Party seem hellbent on the former and completely apathetic to the latter.
Meanwhile, we have a vital chunk of gettable voters just sitting out there waiting for a sane, centrist party that won’t lie to them—a competent party that isn’t evil and doesn’t take them for granted. It’s like both sides are singing those Green Day lyrics, “I want to be the minority,” but since someone has to win, one side will.
Meanwhile, like Rodney Dangerfield, Never Trump conservatives continue to “get no respect.”
There’s a lot of talk about political homelessness these days. But for sane, center-right conservatives, it’s not just a slogan. It’s a reality, as both sides desperately compete to alienate us. Will the political party that wants to win the presidency enough to pander to us by not being evil or stupid please stand up?
I didn’t think so.