Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Moving Past Never Trump

 

trump-thumbs-upThere were different reasons for being Never Trump.

On the left, the meme that Trump supporters are all the deplorable “–ists” has taken hold. The idea is that this is all this election represents: a triumph of angry, racist misogynists lashing back at a black president and a potential female one. One has to conclude they haven’t actually met any Trump voters; otherwise, the inanity of their analysis is hard to sustain.

In the middle and in the GOP “establishment,” when Trump was doing badly, some became Never Trump (or, more accurately, “Only If He Might Win Trump”) because they like to back a winner and flinch from association with a loser. Their support ebbed and flowed with the changing consensus that Trump might or couldn’t win, and so a number ended on the wrong side of the trade and even if nominally supporting Trump, they didn’t expect success.

Finally, on the right, there were many wonderful, dedicated, principled conservatives who were repelled by Trump personally and saw him as protectionist, isolationist, nativist, and possibly racist. They were concerned that he would do long-term harm to the brand of both their philosophy and their party, and they traveled in circles where everyone they knew and cared about felt similarly. The conviction that Trump not only should not but could not win was one in which they were deeply invested.

Why so invested in that idea? Possibly because if they admitted that he could win (however awful they believed a Trump presidency would be), they would have to explain why a Trump presidency would be worse overall than a Clinton presidency. If Trump wasn’t going to win anyway, they didn’t need to justify not voting for Trump.

Why was voting for Trump a problem? Because they asked the question “What does my vote say about me?” And their answer was that voting for Trump was tantamount to endorsing his beliefs and behavior, which put them on the wrong side of how they wanted to see themselves, and wanted their friends and colleagues to see them, too.

But those who voted for Trump answered that question differently: How they voted was not about endorsing the worst of Trump but about the future of the country. Indeed, in focus groups we did this year, as well as anecdotally, Trump voters were better versed and more keenly aware of Trump’s warts than repelled and consequently undecided voters were. And while most had not favored Trump at the beginning of the election season, they were convinced that the gravity of this turning point for our country superseded their concerns about Trump’s flaws.

Now that Trump is in fact the president-elect, most Never Trumpers will complete the last of the stages of grief — acceptance — that many of their compatriots traveled through just a little faster. They are coming to terms, many with relief and even some exhilaration, that Hillary won’t be president, that the Senate majority has been retained, that we might in fact start to undo the damage of the last eight-plus years.

With that acceptance will come the opportunity for fresh perspectives if they are open to a new point of view.

  • Communications – Trump has confounded all the politicians and pundits with a messaging style that they were sure was disastrous but that proved time and again to be enormously effective. Much of it is unique to Trump, but there are large lessons here: speaking in the vernacular (rather than to one’s own coastal cohorts); starting with real people’s lives, concerns, and problems (versus lecturing people about why they’re wrong or about a bloodless theory of policy); and speaking of aspirations and possibilities (as opposed to stamping the foot and dwelling on “no” without an alternative).
  • Expanding the base — Trump appealed across party lines. The GOP political class assumes that one should either stick to the base or modify GOP policies to sell them beyond the base; this assumption missed the mark. This is a longstanding Republican error: The Left develops and feeds various narratives that connect emotionally with voters in the middle (and mouth conservative talking points while campaigning), while implementing policies for its base. The Right talks policy to the base but offers no narrative, explanation, or emotional connection, so voters in the middle do not understand or trust their intentions. The Right then attempts to shift its policies to get enough support to win, thereby losing the trust of their base as well. See: Rubio, Gang of Eight. Trump is not Reagan, but he blindsided the establishment in the same way Reagan did. And elites will be as condescending about him as they were about Reagan.
    Trump has addressed broad issues and shown that he could empathize with many voters’ deep concerns. As Scott Adams explains it, Trump “paces” the public, “he matches them in their emotional state, and then some.” After earning voters’ trust, Trump pulls most everyone along to a place of broad agreement. Many of his voters may need to be introduced to a wealth of policy ideas and solutions, and the conservative world would do well to talk to them — more effectively, let’s hope, than it has in the past, as noted above.
  • Courage under fire — How many times were we told that Trump could not survive this or that? Yet he did, every time. He didn’t fold or yield, and he apologized only once, when an apology was truly warranted. Perhaps others too will learn and become more brave.
  • Negotiate – This is yet to come, and there will be a balancing between different needs and policy approaches. Conservatives will hope that Trump negotiates deals built on good policy, not just cut any deal to say there is a deal. But the Right has neither 60 votes in the Senate nor the excuse that the president will veto legislation; the era of all or nothing (which inevitably ended with nothing) is over. Conservatives in my lifetime have been surpassingly awful at negotiating. Let’s hope they learn how to continually achieve wins, even if small but in the right direction.
  • Impact — Part of the attraction of Trump was the promise that he would actually do something that affects our lives. Conservatives used to define wins by measuring actual outcomes that affected people’s lives. But in recent years, many have slipped into the mindset of the Left, where all that mattered was the purity of intentions, regardless of outcome. Trump won’t be satisfied with intentions, and conservatives shouldn’t be, either. With luck, Trump will bring us back to Reagan’s approach: not all-or-nothing success, not a whole loaf or no loaf, but success by whatever incremental slices we can get.

Tuesday night was 1980 all over again. Trump is not Reagan, but he blindsided the establishment in the same way Reagan did. And elites will be as condescending about him as they were about Reagan. But we can hope that in the end, we will once again look back and marvel at his eight years as president, and how good he was for the party, the movement, and the country.

Cross-posted at National Review.

There are 22 comments.

  1. Skarv Coolidge

    Great post. Sharing your hope and I am at least 51% thinking that the outcome will be really good. He should have you as one of his advisors to ensure it.

    I also think that it is easy to become hysterical during the campaign (I was initially neverTrump but swayed to reluctant and voted for him) as we are completely at the mercy of media and the campaigns when it comes to understand anything about the candidates. At the end of the day, I think it is smart to realize that all of them are politicians and that means they have a lot of flexibilty when it comes to speaking the truth. I also think that Klavan’s point of view about not caring about their sexual morals is wise as it really does not matter if the do the right thing when it comes to policy.

    • #1
    • November 11, 2016, at 10:01 AM PST
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  2. Columbo Member

    Heather Higgins. Doing the job the other Contributors wouldn’t do.

    Thank you for your courage, endurance and optimism throughout.

    You and VDH were conveyed honorary Rabble Alliance membership. Bigly.

    • #2
    • November 11, 2016, at 10:09 AM PST
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  3. Mr. Conservative Inactive

    Heather Higgins:Finally, on the right, there were many wonderful, dedicated, principled conservatives who were repelled by Trump personally and saw him as protectionist, isolationist, nativist, and possibly racist. … concerned that he would do long-term harm to the brand of both their philosophy and their party….

    Why was voting for Trump a problem? Because they asked the question “What does my vote say about me?” And their answer was that voting for Trump was tantamount to endorsing his beliefs and behavior, which put them on the wrong side of how they wanted to see themselves…

    HH, these two paragraphs pretty much describe me (although I thought at times,even early on, Trump could win). For me, my repulsion came from his anti-conservative message and his behavior/character. I see my vote as a kind of endorsement and I simply could not endorse him (or Hillary), so I voted McMullin.

    BUT THAT WAS THEN; THIS IS NOW. I fully accept that he won, and am willing to give him a chance to win me over by his cabinet appointments, in-office policy positions, and the character he shows (so far, so great!).  I agree with @Publius that the term Never-trump should be jettisoned–as well as Reluctant-Trump. Both groups should now unite as NUDG-A-CONs-former never- and reluctant-Trumps who pray that they were wrong about Trump and that he governs wisely and conservatively. When he doesn’t, they will work to nudge him rightward.

    • #3
    • November 11, 2016, at 10:46 AM PST
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  4. RightAngles Member

    … some became Never Trump (or, more accurately, “Only If He Might Win Trump”) 

    Ha! Too true. I for one will have trouble forgetting the spectacle of Republicans I used to admire publicly waffling back and forth about our own nominee. I was a reluctant Trumper and voted for him because he was our nominee and because stopping Hillary was my Prime Directive. Now that we have won the House, the Senate and the White House because of this remarkable right-place-at-the-right-time maverick, we must all stand together and make sure we do not have a failed presidency. We have the chance of a lifetime here.

    • #4
    • November 11, 2016, at 10:49 AM PST
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  5. Mr. Conservative Inactive

    RightAngles: … some became Never Trump (or, more accurately, “Only If He Might Win Trump”)

    Ha! Too true. I for one will have trouble forgetting the spectacle of Republicans I used to admire publicly waffling back and forth about our own nominee. I was a reluctant Trumper and voted for him because he was our nominee and because stopping Hillary was my Prime Directive. Now that we have won the House, the Senate and the White House because of this remarkable right-place-at-the-right-time maverick, we must all stand together and make sure we do not have a failed presidency. We have the chance of a lifetime here.

    From your lips to God’s ear, Righty!

    • #5
    • November 11, 2016, at 10:53 AM PST
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  6. RightAngles Member

    Mr. Conservative:

    RightAngles: … some became Never Trump (or, more accurately, “Only If He Might Win Trump”)

    Ha! Too true. I for one will have trouble forgetting the spectacle of Republicans I used to admire publicly waffling back and forth about our own nominee. I was a reluctant Trumper and voted for him because he was our nominee and because stopping Hillary was my Prime Directive. Now that we have won the House, the Senate and the White House because of this remarkable right-place-at-the-right-time maverick, we must all stand together and make sure we do not have a failed presidency. We have the chance of a lifetime here.

    From your lips to God’s ear, Righty!

    Haha I love it when you call me Righty

    • #6
    • November 11, 2016, at 10:55 AM PST
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  7. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    Nicely put

    • #7
    • November 11, 2016, at 11:07 AM PST
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  8. TKC1101 Inactive

    Well said and a much needed voice from a contributor. To me, most people have an image in their mind of what their ideal candidate should be (usually someone just like them but a bit more articulate). The greater the distance of President Elect Trump from that image, the harder it was to accept him.

    People are tribal at heart.

    • #8
    • November 11, 2016, at 11:40 AM PST
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  9. Sweezle Member

    Thank you. I voted for Trump and supported him. I am optimistic and hopeful. Nice to read a positive assessment from a Contributor.

    • #9
    • November 11, 2016, at 12:04 PM PST
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  10. Crow's Nest Inactive

    We’ve got a country to govern.

    Sure could use all hands on deck.

    • #10
    • November 11, 2016, at 12:21 PM PST
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  11. Annefy Member

    Thank you @heatherhiggins. You and VDH were like manna in the desert to those of us over in the Rabble Alliance.

    • #11
    • November 11, 2016, at 12:29 PM PST
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  12. Liver Pate Inactive

    Spectre is watching. Its what we do.

    • #12
    • November 11, 2016, at 1:07 PM PST
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  13. Columbo Member

    Six Days Of The Condor:Spectre is watching. Its what we do.

    warthog

    • #13
    • November 11, 2016, at 1:11 PM PST
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  14. Karl Nittinger Inactive

    Would that Trumpers could get on with focusing on what needs to be done rather than continue the obsession with NeverTrumpers…we get it, he won, we didn’t vote for him. There really are far more important things to be focused on now.

    • #14
    • November 11, 2016, at 1:27 PM PST
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  15. Will Reaves Member

    Karl Nittinger:Would that Trumpers could get on with focusing on what needs to be done rather than continue the obsession with NeverTrumpers…we get it, he won, we didn’t vote for him. There really are far more important things to be focused on now.

    This. At the moment, it is uncertain whether Trump will follow up on his promises re: Immigration/Obamacare/Religious Liberty/Judges(!)/etc.; it is also uncertain whether he will continue to patronize and empower the alt-right racists, anti-semites, and other groups with which he certainly does not self-identify but felt a need to court; it is also uncertain whether he has the personal discipline or even interest to govern effectively. (Although if he left everything to Pence I’d be ok with it.)

    Formerly, the goal of Never Trump was to keep the man’s failures (temperamental, moral, and political) from destroying conservatism by denying him the nomination/presidency, and now the goal of Never Trump is to … keep the man’s failures (temperamental, moral, and political) from destroying conservatism by making sure to lobby for conservative ideas that will help the country, even if the President-elect’s liberal instincts lead him in another direction. Absent impeachment, we have to keep working on this for the next four years at least. It’s going to be exhausting.

    • #15
    • November 11, 2016, at 8:16 PM PST
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  16. Mister D Member

    NeverTrumpers lost. We lost bigly. But we lost bigly at the convention in July. Few of us went ForHillary and many of us are happy to see her gone, and doubly happy to see the left soil their edible undies. Had Hillary won, we would have been glad to see Trump go, but without most of the Schadenfreude we currently enjoy.

    But for most of us, our resistance to Trump was multifaceted.

    We opposed him on electablity. We thought he was a weak candidate who ran an incompetent campaign destined to lose to Her. On this, we were wrong. I anxiously await the books that give us the behind the scenes of this election so I can find out just how wrong we- I – was.

    But there still exists questions about his competence, his temperament, his character, and his commitment to conservatism.

    I hope Trumpers and NeverTrumpers (or should I say former NTs, as the purpose for that no longer exists) can put aside our differences and agree to watch Trump like skeptical hawks for the duration of his term, and to guard against the tendency to stand by “our guy,” right or wrong.

    • #16
    • November 11, 2016, at 10:31 PM PST
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  17. cdor Member

    @heathermacdonald, Heather for those of us (certainly a minority here at Ricochet) who supported Trump and even grew to admire his tenacity and unabashed regular guyness, your contributions have been a welcome relief from the onslaught of negativity against Trump, both in the mainstream and surprisingly on Ricochet. It was shockingly disconcerting to have to endure posts from certain contributors that went to great lengths to prove I, a Jew, was a little Nazi because of my support for a man that I came to believe was the only viable option to defeat Hillary Clinton. So I just want to say, Thank You for your valuable addition to this website during a time when positivity was at its lowest ebb.

    • #17
    • November 12, 2016, at 8:16 AM PST
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  18. Basil G Inactive

    Karl Nittinger:Would that Trumpers could get on with focusing on what needs to be done rather than continue the obsession with NeverTrumpers…we get it, he won, we didn’t vote for him. There really are far more important things to be focused on now.

    Yeah. Everybody who had to suffer 4 months of finger wagging from NeverTrumpers, ending in a remarkable Dewey Beats Truman phenomenon while saving the Republic…..get on Karl’s clock! He tires of us. Back to the salt mine, now!!. MACH SCHNELL!!!

    • #18
    • November 13, 2016, at 1:44 PM PST
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  19. Columbo Member

    Karl Nittinger:Would that Trumpers could get on with focusing on what needs to be done rather than continue the obsession with NeverTrumpers…we get it, he won, we didn’t vote for him. There really are far more important things to be focused on now.

    Tell this to your NeverPartnersInCrime. They are the ones who insist on pretending that the election is not over, obsessing over nonsense and distracting from focusing on the far more important things …

    • #19
    • November 14, 2016, at 5:13 AM PST
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  20. Karl Nittinger Inactive

    Basil G: Everybody who had to suffer 4 months of finger wagging from NeverTrumpers

    @basilg Yes, the “finger wagging” was from the NeverTrumpers. What complete nonsense…..

    • #20
    • November 16, 2016, at 11:44 PM PST
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  21. TKC1101 Inactive

    Mister D: I hope Trumpers and NeverTrumpers (or should I say former NTs, as the purpose for that no longer exists) can put aside our differences and agree to watch Trump like skeptical hawks for the duration of his term, and to guard against the tendency to stand by “our guy,” right or wrong.

    I would be happy to do this and let me extend this part. Even a skeptical hawk can have room for optimism. Join with those of us who will also look for what can go right and enjoy some optimism after ten years of ceding ground and crushing defeats.

    If it goes wrong, we both suffer. If it goes right we can both enjoy it. I have no patience with sitting back and waiting for failure if we cannot hope for success.

    • #21
    • November 17, 2016, at 12:14 AM PST
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  22. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher

    As long as former NT are sitting back waiting to say “I told you so” and lay the blame for anything Trump does they do not like at the feet of Trump voters, it is hard to move on. Further, I see former NT more than willing to pick up the left’s talking points against Trump (see Bannon).

    It is very hard not to feel that some former NT, are eager for Trump to fail.

    • #22
    • November 17, 2016, at 4:56 AM PST
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