With Trump-o-mania 2016 (aka the Republican National Convention) in full swing, the Never Trump movement needs to try something new. It’s time to refashion the group from a loose collection of stubborn holdouts to proactive policy creators.
Every day, it looks more and more like Donald Trump’s stranglehold on the GOP is going to be a short-lived phenomenon. As he most likely sputters out in the general election, odds are The Donald fiasco will end eventually (though there is no shortage of “why he could win in November” articles being published).
The question now should be, “What fills the post-Trump void when it emerges?”
When it first materialized, Never Trump’s immediate aim was to deny the real estate mogul-turned-reality star the Republican nomination at all costs. So when he became the presumptive nominee, the rebel ranks thinned as obedient party loyalists shrugged their shoulders and made peace with the candidate who had repeatedly bullied them throughout the primaries.
Still, a sizable number of Never Trumpers remain, representing just about every faction of the conservative right — establishment, libertarian, moderate, you name it. (Every bloc but the alt-right. They love their daddy dearly and will never abandon him.) Though these dissenters have made principled stands, the most effective thing they can do now is start planning for the the day the Trump circus leaves town.
Because once it does, the GOP (and conservatism in general) will be faced with the prospect of explaining itself to the rest of the nation. The fever of Trump having broken, they’ll have to coherently and publicly answer the questions: “Who are we? What do we believe? What is our vision for America’s future?”
The answers will need to be given immediately and they cannot be made in the negative, the way much of conservatism has been framed since Barack Obama was first elected to the presidency. We’re long past the time when defining Republicans as anti-Democrat is helpful. To stand athwart the Obama presidency yelling stop was appropriate for some time. However, a movement cannot grow into anything substantial unless it has a path to follow.
With that in mind, Never Trump should dedicate the next few months to plotting that course. When Hillary Clinton (more than likely) assumes the presidency, the impulse on the right will be to go into resistance mode once more. While stonewalling her as much as possible will be necessary, it must be complemented by future-looking policy suggestions more substantial than merely throwing up roadblocks in front of her agenda.
So rather than simply complaining about the Republican presidential nominee for the next four months, taking pot shots with an avalanche of eye-rolls, those opposed to him on the right would be better off spending their time working to seize control of the conservative road forward. This will leave them better positioned when Trump rides off into the reality show sunset.
The American people need to be inspired. Many have realized that the dazzling promises of 2008 were just that: promises. And Hillary’s Oval Office tenure will probably offer little more than a rehashing of stale progressive platitudes. Instead of countering this with innovation, the GOP has doubled down on its worst impulses, nominating a conspiracy-minded cultural reactionary who has successfully exploited fear and divisiveness for personal and political gain.
Yes, it’s time for something new, and Never Trump — if it cares for anything more than self-congratulation for refusing to capitulate — should get to work crafting this messaging.
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David Allen Martin is a weekly columnist for Rare.us and Nooga.com. More at http://rare.us/voices/david-allen-martin/