What's next for #NeverTrump?
#NeverTrump has failed.
The last act in this politically important but infuriating theatrical production came on Monday, in the form of a convention floor fight wherein anti-Trump delegates, joined by Tea Party grandees such as Utah Sen. Mike Lee and former Virginia attorney general Ken Cuccinelli, attempted to force a state-by-state roll call vote on the rules of the convention. What ensued was a bit of parliamentary skullduggery from the textbooks.
And as a #NeverTrump conservative, let me be frank about what happened: We got steamrolled.
The movement got the requisite votes to get its way, but the chair refused to recognize it and called a break while whips frantically worked the floor, carrying affidavits, deflating the anti-Trump effort.
Did the RNC "cheat"? Sure it did. But this is a party convention. Cheating is part of the rules.
And let's be honest: This last-ditch anti-Trump effort was small, disorganized, and unfocused. It was also a glorious failure. As far as last-ditch doomed cavalry charges go, it was great. But it was still a painful reminder of how incompetent all of the attempts to stop Trump have been.
I've previously compared Trump's primary campaign to the Nazi invasion of France, in that it exposed the deep rot of the system he destroyed seemingly without effort, and that his relentless style seems to throw his opponents into a panic.
So what's the lesson? It's that the #NeverTrump movement, if it is to have a future — and its future should be to rebuild the conservative movement, and possibly the Republican Party, or some other type of party — needs to get its act together. This goes beyond picking a standard-bearer (although that would be useful). It means bold and decisive action.
In an important article by FiveThirtyEight's Clare Malone on the end of the Republican Party (at least as we know it) that we are witnessing, the Republican pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson points out that the #NeverTrump movement will descend into a civil war right after Trump loses to Hillary Clinton in November. Some people who reject Trump are ideological conservatives who supported Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and who despise Trump because of his character and heresies on issues like abortion. Others are establishment moderates who supported John Kasich (and Marco Rubio) and who dislike Trump's heresies on trade and entitlements. These people disagree what the Republican Party has been doing, why it's in trouble, and therefore what should be done to fix it.
Matthew Continetti, the editor of the Washington Free Beacon, points out that the conservative movement's problem isn't just that its factions can't stand each other, but that there are more factions than ever. The classic "tripod" of social conservatives, economic conservatives, and foreign policy hawks, united by their opposition to liberalism at home and Soviet Communism abroad, has deep fractures. "The number of groups vying for dominance of the Republican Party and conservative movement has more than doubled. In addition to the traditionalists, libertarians, and defense hawks, we have neocons, theocons, paleocons, Tea Partiers, Trump supporters, alt-righters, and reformicons," Continetti writes.
The conservative movement is basically Monty Python's People's Front of Judea.
There is no obvious fix for this. But we should be clear about one thing. While we #NeverTrump conservatives should be proud of having shown honor and character, two virtues now demonstrated to have been in extremely short supply in the contemporary GOP, we should also realize that we need to get our act together, and get it together quickly, if we want conservatives to hold the levers of government again at some point in this generation.