I made no secret about being a #NeverTrump voter in 2016, and I stand by my decision then. However, Donald Trump has done much better than I expected, and Rich Lowry points to an impressive list of conservative policy accomplishments. But I think we need to be clear about something: #NeverTrump was always a Republican movement, first aimed at denying him the nomination, and then signifying Republicans who would not vote for him in the general election. It does not mean a lot for Democrats to be #NeverTrump, like it did not mean a lot for Republicans to be #NeverHillary.
When Trump as elected President, that upended the reason for the movement to exist. I did not think he was qualified to be elected President in 2016, and I still don’t. Trump is still by far the least qualified of the 2016 Republican field. But he is the President. So now that he’s President, what is he doing? And how do former #NeverTrump voters like me react to something we never expected to happen?
Like I said, I do not think Trump was qualified to be elected President. He has proven over the last year that he lacks the maturity and discipline needed to be in such an important position of authority. But there he is, anyway. Anything that is going to happen at the federal level, from a conservative standpoint, is going to go through Trump. So conservatives really only have one choice: Work with Trump and support him when he is right, while holding him accountable when he is wrong.
On policy, Trump has been right far more often than he has been wrong. He has not governed like the Manhattan liberal many of us expected him to be – and what he was for many years. Trump has compiled an impressive list of conservative policy accomplishments, despite limited legislative success. (The House has been much better at passing legislation than the Senate.)
To name a few: Trump has removed a bunch of harmful regulations on business implemented administratively by the Obama administration, which will prevent job losses. Trump also pulled us out of the Paris climate accords – which will have a direct impact saving middle class jobs. The tax cut will be an economic stimulus, and will directly impact millions of middle class families once the tax tables are updated in January.
One of the big reasons I was #NeverTrump is because I did not trust him. I did not believe that he would govern as a conservative. Had the Democrats not immediately committed themselves to “resist” everything Trump does, he may well have embraced a much more centrist agenda – especially on free trade and protectionism.
But if Trump has one good instinct, it is that he knows who his enemies are and who he can cut deals with. If he wants to accomplish anything it will not be a populist/progressive alliance with Democrats. Just has conservatives have to work through him, his only chance of having accomplishments attached to his name is to work with conservatives. The “resistance” has given conservatives a lot of leverage to influence Trump in the right direction. For that reason, being “anti-anti-Trump” is politically smart.
I have never praised Trump as a messiah. Even over the last year, I have ripped into Republicans who treat him as such. I can provide link after link where I have done that. I’ve criticized Trump when he was wrong, and supported him when he is right. Praise for Trump when he is right does not make me a Trump cultist.
Other former #NeverTrump voters have come along too. Along with Lowry, David French and Ben Shapiro (who made no apology for being #NeverTrump conservatives in 2016) have also praised and defended Trump when they think he deserves it. They’ve criticized him when they thought he deserved it too.
That is where I am. On policy, I have been much more happy with Trump than not, and certainly much more happy than I expected to be given his history. I have attacked him when necessary, and praised him when deserved. And as long as he continues to do well as President and implement solid conservative policy, I will vote for him in 2020. That does not invalidate my #NeverTrump stance in 2016. It is simply a recognition of the shifting realities of national politics.