Dear Trump Voter: I told you so.
For years, conservatives including yours truly warned you against Donald Trump. Writing at The Daily Caller in August 2015, I warned about Trump’s dangerous worldview. On CNN in 2015, I said: “If Hillary Clinton paid somebody to try to destroy the Republican brand, they would do exactly what Donald Trump has done.” In May 2016, I warned: “Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama cannot destroy the conservative brand. Donald Trump can. Donald Trump can redefine what it means to be a Republican and what it means to be in a conservative. In a way, Trump is more dangerous to conservatism than Obama and Hillary because he is posing as a conservative.”
Heck, I even wrote a book about it.
Not only did you not heed our warnings (I wasn’t alone; see Jonah Goldberg, Erick Erickson, Dana Loesch, Ben Shapiro, et al.), you called us cucks and cuckservatives and RINOs… all for speaking out against a billionaire casino magnate who donated to Nancy Pelosi and invited Hillary Clinton to his (third) wedding. You then helped elevate the alt-right in stature (Richard Spencer), and the alt-right adjacent into the White House (Steve Bannon, Seb Gorka, and Steve Miller).
Despite opposing Trump in the GOP primary and refusing to vote for the GOP standard-bearer in the general election, I approached his administration with the kind of open mind that an opinion journalist should. On the rare occasion Trump did good things (in my view, this included nominating Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court and acting decisively after Syria used chemical weapons) I said so. Although I always saw the likelihood of a pivot toward maturation as the triumph of hope over experience, for the sake of my own sanity, I held out a glimmer of hope.
Hope has been abandoned. Trump has had six months to learn the job, improve, and advance a conservative agenda. He’s 0-for-3. What is more, if even his new chief of staff Gen. John Kelly cannot fix this mess—and it is now incredibly clear that even he cannot perform miracles!—it won’t be fixed. At some point, it’s time to pull the plug. That time is now.
What exactly do I mean by “pull the plug”? These three things:
1. As former McConnell chief of staff Josh Homes suggests, Republicans should “reassert an identity without Donald Trump.” What this means to me is that Republican politicians should pursue their own agenda, independent of concern about Trump’s plans or legacy. In other words, act as if he doesn’t exist—as if he’s irrelevant.
2. All good-thinking conservatives should now commit to supporting a viable and serious primary challenge to Donald Trump in the GOP primary. This should not be a perfunctory exercise, but rather, a full-throated attempt to replace him as the nominee. Further, where you stand on this should be considered a defining moment. Personally, I would nominate Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska as the kind of person conservatives should back.
3. It’s time to quit making excuses for Trump apologists and enablers. Although I always try to be civil to everyone, those who defend the indefensible do not deserve our respect. Further, aside from chief of staff John Kelly, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and national security adviser H.R. McMaster—people we should be begging to stay on duty—anyone who continues to serve Donald Trump’s political agenda (and here, I would also grant a waiver for serious professionals working for, say, Health and Human Services) have cast their lot. Do not attempt to later rebrand yourself as a thoughtful conservative or an enlightened liberal down the road.
Whether Trump is obfuscating about Russia, failing to specifically condemn racism and white nationalism in Charlottesville, Virginia, opining about the beauty of Confederate memorials, or attacking fellow Republicans (the list is long and includes Attorney General Jeff Sessions, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Sen. Jeff Flake), his administration is an utter disaster for the GOP and the cause of conservatism.
This is especially amazing when you consider the GOP controls all levers of power (talk about missed opportunities!), the economy seems to be humming along, and (knock on wood) Trump’s foreign policy of peace through saber-rattling is, for now, working.
Now look, I realize that a lot of good Republicans voted for someone other than Trump in the GOP primary. Further, I realize that Trump lost the popular vote in the general election. So I don’t want to paint with too broad a brush when I say that you were warned about this man—and you ignored our warnings. We were right; you were wrong.
The masses, it turns out, sometimes are asses. Sometimes the people who actually pay close attention to politics know more than the disgruntled populists and nationalists who are willing to gamble on the future of this great republic—and on the reputation of a conservative philosophy that goes from Aristotle to Burke to Buckley—in order to boost a reality show host. You elected your guy, and look where it got us.
Congratulations, or something.