An analysis based on my observations of the different groups that made up what came to be called the “NeverTrump” movement.
1. Conservative Purists
Conservative purists resisted Trump because they believed his conservatism was phony and they viewed him as a man of shallow character. They instead generally supported Ted Cruz.
Despite these passionate feelings, this was the largest faction of “NeverTrump” that decided to vote for Trump after all, mostly because they could not stomach the idea of feeling they were even marginally responsible for Hillary getting into the White House.
Many conservative purists flirted with Gary Johnson and Evan McMullin, but Gary Johnson’s stances on social issues and McMullin’s ambivalence towards a Hillary presidency resulted in few actually voting third party. Those few who did vote third party chose to do so as an affirmation of their morals. There essentially no conservative purists who were so enraged by Donald Trump that they voted for Hillary.
Most conservative purists are still Republicans and have coalesced around the efforts of the House Freedom Caucus and have been especially content with the appointment of Neil Gorsuch.
Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, and Ben Sasse are representations of the various stripes of Conservative Purists.
2. Practical Conservatives
Practical Conservatives resisted Trump because they did not view his campaign promises or policy proposals as existing within the realm of reality and believed his mannerisms and message would only deal damage to realistic policy goals in Congress. They generally supported Rubio or Kasich.
Most practical conservatives end up voting for Trump in hopes he would mellow post-election and could be reined to a more realistic agenda. The choice to vote for Trump despite declaring “NeverTrump!” was reached on basis of the reality of the vote. Some voted for Hillary hoping to forestall possible damage to the conservative brand by Trump and seek a better candidate in four years. Very few voted for Evan McMullin or another third party because it was considered an unrealistic possibility.
Many practical conservatives are still Republicans and associate with “think tanks” like the Heritage foundation and have supported efforts to promote conservative solutions from within and associated with the Trump administration and his supporters.
Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio are part of this portion of NeverTrump
Neoconservatives resisted Trump because they viewed his foreign policy ideas as protectionist and isolationist, and his promises for action against terrorism as reactionary instead of solutions oriented. They supported Rubio or Kasich.
Many neoconservatives did in fact swallow the Hillary pill and accepted what they disliked about her domestic policy to maintain a more traditional approach to foreign policy. Others voted for Evan McMullin (especially in Utah), while there were many who still went ahead and voted for Trump hoping he was all bluster and would listen to traditional voices on foreign policy post-election. Neoconservatives who voted for third party did so to maintain intellectual integrity.
Neoconservatives have vacillated between being ecstatic with the appointments of such people like James Mattis and H.R. McMaster (who have steered President Trump towards a much more responsible and effective foreign policy then what he campaigned on) and being horrified at Trump’s seemingly flippant attitude towards the Russia situation.
Most neoconservatives are still Republican and voice moderate approval of Trump in hopes he will continue to listen to the Mattis, McMaster camp of the White House over the Bannon camp, though they are still concerned with the effect Trump’s erratic behavior can have on international relations.
John McCain and Lindsey Graham are part of this portion of NeverTrump.
Moderates resisted Trump because he represented an extreme version of what they were already trying to change in the Republican Party. Many of them were part of the post-2008 movement to abandon moral conservative stances in the Republican Party as untenable and not in step with most Americans. They would also have resisted Cruz, moderately supported Rubio, and they mostly supported Kasich.
While some still voted for Trump in the end because they still could not swallow a Hillary presidency and viewed a third party vote as a waste, many left the Republican Party and voted for Hillary, Gary Johnson, Evan McMullin, or didn’t vote at all. This faction is now more and more constituting the center-left segment of the “resistance”.
Evan McMullin, while ideologically more of a neoconservative and practical conservative, has become the leading voice of this portion of NeverTrump.
Note: I would consider myself a practical neoconservative purist since I was simultaneously troubled by Trump’s lack of moral character, incoherence of true conservative philosophy, the reactionary reality of his proposals, and was not impressed with the isolationist and protectionist strain of his foreign policy ideas. I began the Pre-Trump part of the election cycle supporting Marco Rubio and Scott Walker while opposing Chris Christie, John Kasich, and George Pataki (also: I stated at the time I would NOT vote for Chris Christie if he was nominated). After Rubio dropped out I begrudgingly supported Ted Cruz. In the general election I voted for Evan McMullin but have cut ties with his New Conservative Movement and no longer support him for future office.
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Categories: Politics and Philosophy