I mean, I get it. They’re chafing at the thought of voting for a guy who calls his movement a “political revolution,” talks nonstop about Medicare-for-All (but talks a lot less about how he’ll pay for it) and who said “it’s unfair to simply say everything is bad” about Fidel Castro — not in a stray comment back in his radical heyday, but in a “60 Minutes” interview earlier this week. And I sympathize: My congressional career was short-lived, but I came in with the original tea party wave. If it were up to me, Sanders isn’t the guy I’d put in charge.
But when I finally came around to saying, “never Trump,” I meant it. And if you’re a Republican who claimed the never-Trump label as a badge of honor during the last few years, to prove to the world that you’re a principled conservative, and not a Trump dupe, then you should have meant it, too.
No, never-Trump isn’t an official designation. It’s not (yet) a political party. It’s not a club with bylaws. But it is an idea. It means that President Trump — his impeachable conduct, his nonstop racist jabs, his tariffs, his nepotism, his knee-jerk foreign policy and his insistence on turning the presidency into a cult of personality — is the real bridge too far, not Sen. Sanders.
Never-Trump means that you still believe in the Constitution. It means you knew what Benjamin Franklin meant when he warned that we Americans have been blessed with a republic, “if you can keep it.” It means you recognize that Trump is enough of a threat to our founding principles that you won’t vote for him under any circumstances. And, at least to me, it also means you’ll suck it up and support his Democratic opponent, no matter who that is. So, when I started seeing tweets like this after Sanders won the Nevada caucuses over the weekend, it made me question just how serious some never-Trumpers really were:
It is remarkable that the Democrats are going to hand their nomination to a man who will cause a lot of my Never Trump friends who are still opposed to Trump to suddenly hold their noses and vote Trump.— Erick Erickson (@EWErickson) February 23, 2020
Lots of politicians stink, and people hold their noses and vote for them, anyway. But if you’ve already gone on record as a never-Trumper, and now you’re saying that you’ll vote for Trump because you don’t like the alternative, you’re not holding your nose, you’re inhaling deeply.
I hate to break it to you, but if you’re really never-Trump, then you know there’s no except-if-he’s-a-socialist footnote. There’s no but-she’s-way-too-professor-ish clause. Nothing in the fine print says the only acceptable Democratic alternative is another arrogant billionaire. I thought this was understood.
In 2016, sadly, I supported Trump. I freely admit that I’m a second-wave never-Trumper. But once I got here, it was always my plan to stay. Because, for me, the ways in which Trump threatens this country go beyond left-right ideology. He lies constantly. He grants pardons to toadies. He conflates America’s financial interests with his own. He uses his bully pulpit to air a never-ending, year-round list of Festivus grievances.
He surrounds himself with lackeys and purges staff who won’t do his bidding. He’s an authoritarian who once said, with a straight face, “I have an Article II, where I have the right to do whatever I want.” That’s a bigger threat to America than free college, a $15-per-hour minimum wage and Glass-Steagall part deux. Yes, I’m a fiscal conservative who still worries about the national debt. But not as much as I worry about Trump wrecking my country.
And yeah, I worry that if Sanders is the nominee, Trump will spend the rest of the year doing everything he can to make him look like Castro Jr. And I worry that he’ll succeed. No one should doubt the possibility of another Trump term.
But I’m not a Democrat. It’s not my job to tell Democrats whom to choose. What I can do, and what I have done, is pledge that I’ll vote for their nominee. Even Bernie. He and I hardly agree on anything, but if he’s the nominee, I won’t just vote for him, I’ll campaign for him.
If that surprises you, it shouldn’t. I tried to run against Trump in the GOP primary, because I believe in this country. I sidelined my syndicated talk-radio show because I don’t want to be a bought-off mouthpiece for the regime. Because never-Trump means never. And I’d rather have a socialist in the White House than a con man.