Salvo 10.19.2020

NeverTrump and November


No matter who wins—they lose.

The clock is running out on NeverTrump, the wee coalition of alleged “conservatives” who for the past five years have dedicated their time, energy, and Twitter accounts to the annihilation of Donald Trump and everyone around him.

Despite their best efforts, with help from a similarly vengeful and vindictive Democratic Party, NeverTrump so far has failed in its seek-and-destroy mission. The president, a political escape artist of the highest order, has so far stunned NeverTrump and its allies by surviving their every scheme.

Now, his final judgement awaits in November. So, too, does a final judgement on NeverTrump. Their comrades in the Trump-hating media continue to portray NeverTrump as an influential political force. Cable news channels and legacy publications devote outsized coverage to NeverTrump illusions that lots of Republicans oppose the president. The implicit bargain is that if Trump loses, NeverTrump shall be rewarded.

But this is just one more illusion—one that obscures the harsh reality about the political fate that awaits the group.

The Need to Feed

 On Sunday night, 60 Minutes aired a segment on the Lincoln Project, the NeverTrump grift-op created earlier this year by self-proclaimed “conservatives” promising to remove Donald Trump and the Republican Party from power in November. A 7,300 word profile in this month’s issue of the New Yorker also detailed the group’s founding and vicious campaign against the president.

“The Project’s founders are a murderers’ row of conservative operatives,” cooed reporter Paige Williams. She interviewed the group’s principals, including Rick Wilson, Steve Schmidt, and Jennifer Horn. (Another founder is George Conway, the husband of Trump confidant Kellyanne Conway.)

Truth be told, the only thing these “operatives” have murdered is nearly every single Republican campaign they ever were involved with, a few buffet tables, and several open bars. Schmidt is best known for leading John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign to a landslide defeat; Wilson, armed with a thin and unimpressive political resume before the Trump era, has earned a name for himself as the most profane of the NeverTrumpers. In 2015, Wilson suggested that Republican Party benefactors should “put a bullet in Donald Trump.” Horn is a two-time losing Congressional candidate and short-lived head of the New Hampshire Republican Party.

On no other planet except Orange Man Bad planet would this assortment of failed campaign managers and third-rate political hangers-on earn this sort of puffery and paycheck. What the Lincoln Project does better than anyone else, however, is spew a nonstop stream of venom at the president, his administration, and supportive Republicans in Congress. They are fully backing Joe Biden’s candidacy and, for good measure, opposing the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court.

The group will exploit any manufactured news story, such as the now-debunked Russian “bounty” yarn and anonymous allegations that the president referred to U.S. soldiers as “suckers” and “losers,” to savage Donald Trump. In an interview following the vice presidential debate last week, Schmidt insanely claimed the fly that landed on Mike Pence’s head during the event was “the mark of the devil.”

South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican up for reelection this year, is a frequent target of Lincoln Project bullies. In a grotesque ad filled with images of bugs and worms eating away at animal carcasses, the group portrayed Graham as a “parasite” feeding off Donald Trump. “Some animals can’t survive unless they take,” the ad’s voice over warns. “They don’t care if they feed off a good host or an evil one. There’s only one way to stop a parasite. Deprive it of its host.”

Call it irony or projection—but the ad is a Black Mirror moment for the Project because NeverTrumpers are the parasites living off the lifeblood of Donald Trump’s presidency. Without him, they would have remained no-name has-beens begging for gigs on low-level campaigns or posting unreadable screeds at random blogs.

Trump, as these fraudsters must know, is NeverTrump’s parasitic host.

So, if Joe Biden wins, what new host will feed NeverTrump parasites?

NeverTrump’s Future

It’s not just the confidence men at the Lincoln Project at risk of being exiled once again to a political No Man’s Land. Bill Kristol, who murdered the once-well regarded Weekly Standard, is the intellectual leader of NeverTrump and leads several NeverTrump outlets. He is the director of Defending Democracy Together, a nonprofit that includes one-time influencers such as Mona Charen and Linda Chavez. Defending Democracy Together is the umbrella organization for The Bulwark, the successor of the Standard, Republicans for the Rule of Law, and Republican Voters Against Trump.

The latter, by the way, is spending millions to run ads in swing states that purportedly feature lifelong Republicans planning to vote for Joe Biden.

What’s striking, and always to be remembered, is that the money behind The Lincoln Project and Defending Democracy Together comes not from donors on the political Right but those on the hardcore Left. As I detailed in my book Disloyal Opposition, Kristol’s main benefactor is Pierre Omidyar, the billionaire founder of eBay. Omidyar backs leftwing causes and Democratic candidates generously. Since 2018, he has poured millions into Kristol’s NeverTrump front groups.

Several longtime Democratic megadonors are funding the Lincoln Project, too. In its first few months, the group raised more than $16 million from Democratic activists such as investor Stephen Mandel and Hollywood producer David Geffen. Recent FEC filings show the Lincoln Project raked in nearly $40 million in the third quarter alone, nearly all from leftwing interests or individual contributors. “Catering to #Resist donors has been a lucrative reversal of fortune for the Lincoln Project’s founders,” one researcher noted on Twitter. Most of the money has been spent on lavish operating expenses and directed to various businesses owned by Lincoln Project founders.

The only thing these hucksters want to conserve is their lucrative media influence. But what happens to NeverTrump if the president loses? Who will be the next target of their unending supply of rage and juvenility? Once their new Democratic besties get their way, why would they continue to waste millions more on these once-again irrelevant has-beens?

If the president loses, 60 Minutes and the New Yorker will have no use for NeverTrumpers. Rick Wilson’s hits on CNN will dry up. Steve Schmidt’s tirades won’t make any more headlines. Jennifer Rubin’s Twitter tantrums will find an audience only with local mental health officials.

This is reason enough why they won’t—and shouldn’t—be welcomed back to the Republican Party or “conservative movement”, to the extent one any longer exists. Any Republican officeholder or candidate who hires a NeverTrumper will and should face condemnation and ridicule. One thing won’t change: NeverTrump will remain political poison within the GOP. Schmidt admitted as much in his 60 Minutes interview. “None of us will ever work in Republican politics again,” he told Lesley Stahl.

That leaves their role as useful idiots for the Democratic Party. Contrary to their hopes and dreams, Joe Biden will not include NeverTrump “conservatives” in his administration; ditto for congressional Democrats. Perhaps a random Democratic candidate for state legislature or mayor will hire them for peanuts. But the days of wining and dining each other in posh D.C. restaurants will be a faint and bitter memory.

That’s why NeverTrump should secretly root for the president to win. NeverTrump might strut around cable news for a few months and claim they played some pivotal role in his defeat, but that only works if exit polls show a significant number of Republican defectors.

The Right won’t want them and the Left won’t need them. And Donald Trump will continue to be the most powerful figure in the Republican Party.

No matter what happens in November, the biggest loser will be NeverTrump.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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