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Remember Never Trump?
For four years, an influential clique of think tankers, Republican operatives and talking heads claimed that any conservative who supported Donald Trump was complicit with a uniquely malevolent presidency. But if Trumpian conservatives are responsible for everything the 45th president was faulted for, then Never Trump should likewise own the evils of the new Biden administration.
Never Trumpers spoke of the Trump GOP almost as if it were Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party, a dictator’s discredited political organ, badly in need of a purge. “President Donald Trump leaves office with a crimson-stained legacy,” thundered Peter Wehner, vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. “A similar stain attaches to those in the party who supported and sustained him.”
William Kristol, a prominent Twitter user, condemned Trump’s “enablers”: “They share the responsibility. They share the guilt. They ought to share the opprobrium.”
Many of these men and women embraced candidate Joe Biden. Biden, Wehner effused, is “an admirable human being, empathetic and generous in spirit.” Mona Charen, the syndicated moralist and former EPPC fellow, confessed she had “never been happier with a vote” than the one she cast for Biden.
Again, judging by the standard they themselves set during the Trump era, the Never Trumpers are enablers of the Biden presidency. By their own lights, they must share in the guilt of every bad act committed by Biden and his administration.
Start with “norms.” One of Never Trump’s most common complaints was that Trump broke the norms associated with his office, thus imperiling the republic. It’s true that Trump did some uncouth things like getting into Twitter spats with random citizens. Yet counter to the dark warnings, Trump didn’t change our political structure. Compare that with Biden and the newly empowered Democrats, who are pushing to create two new states, end the filibuster and pack the Supreme Court.
Will Never Trump be held accountable for these attacks on settled norms?
Never Trumpers endlessly chided Trump for conducting government business out of his hotels. But the Trump family doesn’t have a monopoly on gross nepotism and self-dealing. As The Post first reported, Hunter Biden in 2015 helped arrange a meeting between his father, then Team Obama’s point man on Ukraine, and executives from Burisma, a shady Ukrainian energy firm that was paying Hunter at least $50,000 a month. Hunter also launched a venture with a Chinese Communist Party-linked firm, setting apart shares for “the big guy” — a reference to Joe Biden, according to one partner.
Will Never Trumpers take responsibility? It isn’t hard to guess. When The Post’s Hunter Files reporting first appeared, Charen wondered if it was the work of “Russians providing an October surprise” (it wasn’t). Kristol similarly called it “Russian disinformation.”
Never Trumpers assailed Trump for his treatment of migrants at the border. In a 2018 podcast, Charen called it “immoral,” “an outrage.” Wehner called family separation one of Trump’s “cruelest” moves. But will these and other Never Trump figures speak out as Biden detains an unprecedented flow of migrant minors? Charen and Wehner are keeping mum on the border; Kristol denies that there is a crisis at the border.
Will Never Trump denounce the kids in Biden’s cages?
Never Trumpers criticized Trump’s treatment of women, sometimes rightly. But their interest in promoting the dignity of women hasn’t stopped them from backing Biden, who has declared the Equality Act his No. 1 legislative priority. The bill would allow biological males to spend the night in battered women’s shelters and allow boys to shower in girls’ locker rooms, based subjective claims of gender identity alone.
Never Trumpers have also trumpeted their love for due process and the rule of law. But Biden has vowed to reverse Trump-era regulations that granted due process and the rights of the accused in cases of campus sexual assault. A former staffer, Tara Reade, has accused Biden himself of sexual wrongdoing. He has insisted that the accusations shouldn’t be accepted uncritically, even as he seeks to deprive accused college students of due process.
Politics involves hard choices. Even “principled conservatives” must weigh prudential considerations when they vote. Carried away by their passions, Trump’s critics denied this reality. They presented Trump as a singular stain on the otherwise spotless garments of US democracy. They framed his supporters as collaborators with unique evil. The reality was always far less dramatic. But until they recognize this fact, they should be judged by the same standards to which they held others.
Sohrab Ahmari is The Post’s op-ed editor. Matthew Schmitz is a senior editor of First Things.
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