Post-Kavanaugh, What Now For ‘Never Trump’ Conservatives?


One of the many ongoing tremors from the political and cultural earthquake that was the highly contentious Brett Kavanaugh confirmation process, is the impact on the so-called “Never Trump” movement within what is left of principled conservatism. Earlier this week, my friend and fellow anti-Trump conservative Matt Lewis declared in The Daily Beast that Trump salvaging the Kavanaugh nomination, when probably any other president would have folded, has officially “killed” Never Trumpism.

This sparked some interesting conversation on Twitter (a platform I have come to loathe thanks to the Kavanaugh nightmare) among various remnants of the splintered, demoralized, and beleaguered remaining Never Trumpers. Some of which indicated that there may be some confusion about what being a Never Trump conservative even means, or why the Kavanaugh confirmation matters to those morally opposed to Trumpism.

There is no question that Trump pulling Kavanaugh out of the fire in a manner which only he — with the help of Mitch McConnell — could have done, has bought him a lot of capital with Republicans who have held various levels of loathing towards him ever since he announced his presidential bid in the summer of 2015. Heck, even I have noticed a perceptible thawing of the packed ice around my heart when it comes to my feelings about this president.

In many ways, the process of a person becoming president is a lot like them engaging in a romantic relationship with the voters. Winning the nomination is very similar to an engagement, winning the general election is like getting married, and then the major events of your term in office can be like getting caught having an affair, or having a child together.

Never Trump conservative commentators like myself were screaming that the engagement to a man who was an obvious liberal conman was a really bad idea. Then, in the general election, we tried to convince our love-struck (now former) friends that maybe they shouldn’t even attend a wedding that never looked like it was going to happen.

After neither of those pleas were heard, we were left in the very strange position of either actively rooting for the marriage to miserably fail (so that we could say “I told you so!” and find a new, more suitable, suitor as quickly as possible), or wishing the best for our loved one — the country — while bracing for the worst. With commercial considerations playing a role for at least some Never Trump conservatives, this conundrum created even more fragmentation in this already small minority of Republicans.

As Trump has ridden a good economy he may have absolutely nothing to do with, and somehow avoided any sort of enormous disaster that directly and negatively affected a large number of American lives, several prominent Never Trumpers have openly warmed to Trump, most notably Ben Shapiro and Glenn Beck. But, up until last week, there was still not a strong connection to Trump for these conservatives, the type of which is forged by a dramatic bonding event.

Getting Kavanaugh confirmed, in the face of vicious liberal/media attacks, was like Trump having his first child with conservatives. Consequently, getting a divorce anytime soon is now much messier and a lot less likely.

For comparison purposes, George W. Bush’s “I Hear You!” declaration after 9/11, and Barack Obama’s killing of Osama bin Laden were very similar “child bearing” events that fused them to huge portions of the voting populace. For Trump, the amount of people with whom he had this moment of connection via Kavanaugh is much smaller, but it is a significant portion of those who would have called themselves Never Trump conservatives (I have a feeling that several prominent Never Trumpers understood this, perhaps even just subconsciously, and that is one of the reasons why they were openly rooting for the Kavanaugh nomination to fail).

So now that Trump and conservatives are “married with a child,” there are significant consequences for Never Trumpers who still dream of a return to rationality. Much like the guy hoping the girl who got away might someday return after she finally realized that she had married the very wrong man, seeing her have a kid means that isn’t happening anytime soon, and very well may never happen. Some have already decided to stop waiting.

Of course, there is an election in less than a month. Should Democrats win back both houses of Congress (possible, but doubtful), things could change very dramatically and nearly instantaneously. This would bring in the “caught having an affair” scenario (cheating with Democrats is clearly a lot more upsetting to modern Republicans than infidelity with porn stars), which theoretically could get Never Trump GOPers right back into the ballgame.

But barring either that, Robert Mueller coming up with a series of bombshells beyond our current comprehension, or a massive economic collapse, Trump, should he pursue it, will face no serious opposition for the 2020 GOP nomination. This means the vows of marriage between Trump and the GOP will be renewed and there will be almost no viable path back for those of us who decided it was more important to not validate this poisonous romance than to take part in the celebration of an event we were morally convinced would eventually lead to huge heartbreak.

For my part, I have always figured that conservatives were far too invested in Trump to realize and admit that this marriage was a bad idea, for at least ten to fifteen years. Knowing that was going to be too late to ever help me personally, I have always, and will continue to tell the honest truth about him.

When you already know the girl you loved is never coming back, it tends to free you up that way.

John Ziegler hosts a weekly podcast focusing on news media issues and is documentary filmmaker. You can follow him on Twitter at @ZigManFreud  or email him at

[image via Getty]

This is an opinion piece. The views expressed in this article are those of just the author.

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