On November 8, the #NeverTrump movement died – or at least it should have. With the election of Donald Trump, the movement premised on him not becoming president became extraordinarily irrelevant. Conservatives who joined the #NeverTrump cause out of conscience or deep seated skepticism of the candidate’s professed embrace of shared principles now risk becoming enablers of liberal ideology by continuing their anti-Trump cause. Anyone who participates in the #NeverTrump crusade post-Election Day would certainly appear to have much in common with the emotionally fragile liberal protesters who march on college campuses declaring that Trump is “not my president.”
Donald J. Trump is the president of the United States. We live in a democratic republic and the people have spoken at the ballot box.
I write this as someone who was #NeverTrump during the brutal GOP presidential primary, and from just before Iowa onward I backed the one Republican candidate who stood between Trump and the GOP nomination. In the days ahead of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland I hoped that delegates would come to their senses and wage some sort of a floor fight that would deny Trump the nomination. Political parties are allowed to have raucous conventions. I predicted that if Trump was the nominee, he was the only person the Republican Party could nominate who could lose to Hillary Clinton.
I was wrong.
As Erick wrote earlier this week, it is time for conservatives to move on from the electoral politics of #NeverTrump and look for ways to constructively contribute to the policy and political debates that lie ahead. #NeverTrump represents the past, and the lows of this election cycle are worth putting behind us.
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Nebraska) was a leading member of the #NeverTrump movement, and already he has generously and graciously congratulated the Trump team on their win. “My family and I congratulate President-Elect Trump on his decisive victory, and we pray that he will lead wisely and faithfully keep his oath to a Constitution of limited government,” Sasse wrote in a Facebook post after Election Day.
This doesn’t mean that conservatives should stop holding Trump and his team accountable. Far from it. There may be policies that they propose, nominees they may forward to the Senate, and presidential actions that Trump may take that deserve a swift, strong, clear counter by conservatives. If and when those times come, conservatives have an obligation to propose a better way of doing things. It is not enough to cross our arms and declare “not my problem.”
As Jonah Goldberg – also a #NeverTrumper – pointed out in the hours after Trump’s win, “as an American I have every bit as much ownership of his presidency as anyone. And for that reason alone, I hope I’m proven wrong about all of my deep seated concerns and fears.”
Our collective political discourse is only a reflection of our individual civic involvement. That doesn’t mean that we all bear the responsibility of bad decision-making by government officials. It does mean that if we don’t like the tone of this election year, or if we are skeptical of how this new administration will act, we have an individual responsibility to rationally, thoughtfully and respectfully engage in political actions that would influence policy outcomes for the better.
Conservatives skeptical of Trump experienced something unique this election cycle. Suddenly the mainstream media, which long questioned the legitimacy of our views or the sanity of our perspectives, sought some of us out as sages who could impart words of wisdom to our Trump-supporting peers. The platform was welcome, the experience interesting, but make no mistake: media outlets generate views, readership and page clicks by controversy. Continuing to bask in the spotlight that came our way by virtue of our opposition to the Republican nominee, without offering substantive critiques of such media fabricated non-stories like Trump’s dinner without the press, or his possible request of security clearances for some of his children, only serves to empower the Left.
Many #NeverTrump folks argued before the election that citizenship comes before party membership. Now that the nation has spoken, that still remains true. As citizens we should want a Trump administration to be better than what many of us in the #NeverTrump movement imagined it would be (if we ever thought there would be one). It is our civic duty to stop complaining and start doing our part to constructively advance the principles of individual liberty, personal responsibility, limited government and a strong national defense.