Pundits and operatives studying Never Trumpers tend to treat them like an offshoot of the humanoid family (Homo integrity) or a new civilization in the deep political jungle. The political anthropologists often wind up confused or exasperated. The conversation goes something like this:

But what do you guys want? We want President Trump gone and Trumpism thoroughly discredited.

Then what? We’ll figure it out later.

You’ll never work in Republican circles! You’re assuming there will be a Republican Party. But if you are right, I have no interest in them anyway.

Democrats will turn their backs on you! We have spent four years pining for the time that we can return to normal policy debates. I’ll agree with them sometimes and disagree with them sometimes. But Harry Truman was right — if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog. I will say, however, that on the issues on which our democratic survival depends (reining in executive power, reestablishing the integrity of the Justice Department, rooting out corruption, widening democratic participation, etc.), Democrats are on the right side. Everything else is a negotiation. Let’s get our priorities in order, folks.

You’ll be without a party! That might be, but lots of Americans are independents. It is better to have core principles and then determine which party or candidates you’ll support than to be a captive of one political group. Try it! You might enjoy no longer feeling obliged to defend “your side” when they do indefensible things.

But Democrats will take us down the road to socialism! They smartly nominated former vice president Joe Biden, not Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), so socialism does not seem to be in the offing. However, if they go overboard, the results will speak for themselves. In any event, some excess governmental action right now is greatly preferable to a party uninterested in good governance and rife with racism, authoritarianism, xenophobia and reverence for dictators.

Well, what will happen to the GOP? Who knows? But I doubt there will be an opportunity for introspection unless Republicans face devastating losses this November. That’s one reason it is critical they lose by large margins. I personally don’t think that politicians who betrayed their oaths and supported Trump can ever be trusted again. I cannot see myself ever voting for anyone who voted to acquit Trump or who mouthed Russian propaganda or sat mutely as Trump venerated the Confederacy. An entirely new generation of political leaders (plus Sen. Mitt Romney and the few sane Republican governors) may be needed to throw off the yoke of right-wing populism. In the meantime, it is worthwhile to urge Democrats to remain in a moderate, reality-based lane.

I would add a few more points to the discussion.

First, after being told Never Trumpers were entirely irrelevant, they now are finally and deservedly lauded for being the funniest and most insightful ad-makers of the 2020 cycle. The issue is not whether the ads will “work” but the degree to which they already have. By living rent-free in Trump’s head, throwing his defenders back on their heels and giving moral support to Republicans ready to abandon him, the ads already have succeeded. The point, however, is not whether one is a decisive factor in a particular election but that one defends those things worth defending: objective reality, empathy, inclusion, simple decency.

I find it pathetic that anything remotely resembling idealism is met with blank stares and a “Does not compute!” reaction by political pseudo-sophisticates and cynics. I remain shocked that there are so few Never Trumpers and that so many people think politics is purely for their self-aggrandizement rather than a noble exercise grounded in values. The cynicism and amorality of Republicans (often Ivy League elites themselves) who clearly know better but prey on the voters’ fears, ignorance and racism is sickening.

Second, a lot of what conservatives said in the past about progressives (They don’t believe in the rule of law!) was flat wrong; a lot of what progressives said about conservatives was right, most especially the accusation that racism was far more prevalent in the GOP than some of us wanted to acknowledge. Leaving behind tribal identification can be refreshing but also sobering.

Third, “conservatism” — whether libertarianism/hostility to government or Trumpian right-wing populism — has become an intellectual dead-end, horribly ill-suited to the needs of Americans in a globalized economy and a nation riven by race, geography and great gaps in wealth. The most interesting effort to think through a practical and humane alternative philosophy comes from the Niskanen Center, whose work I have frequently referenced and continue to follow with interest. In any event, we could use a heavy dose of pragmatism, moderation and creativity in addressing a raft of issues from climate change to productivity to policing.

Finally, Republicans have become remarkably hostile toward voting. Bent on sculpting an electorate (through gerrymandering, permanent loss of voting rights for ex-felons, opposition to voting by mail and other voter-suppression techniques) that is whiter and more conservative than the country, they no longer evidence faith in democratic self-government. So long as they are unwilling to fully embrace the core of democracy — voting — they place themselves outside the bounds of acceptable American political debate.

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