5 Reasons John Nolte Is Wrong About #NeverTrump


On Monday, Daily Wire had the pleasure of publishing John Nolte’s well-stated critique of the #NeverTrump movement. John is, as always, an eloquent spokesperson for Trump defenders, and an ardent advocate for Trump voters. In that piece, John makes the argument that the #NeverTrump movement failed, and analyzes why.

I do have a couple of quibbles.

First, the #NeverTrump movement was never truly a movement in any real sense. It was a bunch of individuals that felt that Donald Trump was an unpalatable choice for the presidency. Whether Trump wins or loses is irrelevant: it’s a declaration of what we personally will do. And as John acknowledges, for those who did believe that #NeverTrump was not a statement of principle, but rather a goal, the cankled lady hasn’t yet sung. In fact, she may well end up president of the United States after destroying Trump, as current polls suggest.

Now on to John’s analysis. John is, of course, right that #NeverTrumpers underestimated Trump as a candidate. I can say that I did the same, ignoring my own gut instinct – I wrote back in 2011 that he’d be a tremendously successful candidate. And John is also right that drafting Mitt Romney as the #NeverTrump Great White Hope would have been stupidity – I wrote a column titled “No on Mitt Romney,” so pretending that he was going to suddenly transform into a Reagan figure was delusional. I even agree that as the election goes on and more Republicans are reminded of Hillary Clinton’s ongoing horror show, fewer conservatives will stick by their principles – to their detriment, as Trump says more and more insane things, destroying the conservative brand for years to come.

But I think John is wrong on at least five major points.

1. We Didn’t Underestimate The Desire For Change. We Overestimated The Impact Of Conservatism. John writes that the #NeverTrumpers underestimated the desire for change. I think that’s a bit too pat. He’s actually correct when he writes this:

One of the frequent mistakes made by the Smart People in media and politics is the assumption that the average American voter is ideological….After a decade of stagnant wages, peppered domestic terror attacks, lost wars, government incompetence (from Katrina to ObamaCare), and the like, this same electorate is now completely fed up with politics-as-usual, a political media that shills for government as the solution to everything, and politicians. And again, this is not ideological.

We got this. But we assumed that policy was at issue here, and that the policies that Trump espouses – idiotic protectionism, ridiculous currency devaluation, crony capitalism – would be laughed at by the base. When John writes that Trump “represents that change more than even Bernie Sanders,” that simply isn’t true: Trump won’t change much of anything. He is a creature of politics as usual posing as someone who will change things.

And it seems as though that’s one of the things John likes: the posing. When John says that Trump is “a belligerent toxin against the cancer of political correctness,” I disagree: I think Trump actually conflates political incorrectness and just being a buffoonish jackass. It’s great that he sometimes says Things That Must Be Said. But then he follows that up with some crap about how it’s okay to mock the disabled. That’s counterproductive, and it’s not conservative.

2. We’re Not Trashing All Of Trump’s Voters. John smacks #NeverTrumpers for trashing all Trump voters. I don’t think that’s quite fair. I’ve been pretty clear: if you back Trump because you think he’s the only one who can beat Hillary, I have sympathies. I’ve written just as much as John has on the dangers of targeting Trump voters themselves. But if you think Trump is going to be a worldbeating game-changer, I think you’re not watching closely, or you’re deceiving yourself. And if you think Trump is a gargantuan artist of heartbreaking genius whose every move is 4D chess, I think you’re fully delusional.

John pays special homage to those who he says mock the working class: “I think it is fair to assume that I speak for many when I say that the unforgivable assaults on the decency, integrity, intelligence (and even the right to exist), of Trump’s working class supporters only served to further breed an already-exploding resentment against the Republican Establishment, and by extension their preferred candidates.”

But I don’t think this is fully accurate. I think some conservatives make the mistake of lumping in all Trump supporters together – Twitter makes this mistake easy because everyone writes in shorthand. Not all Trump supporters are conservative, not all are working class, not all are populists, not all are alt-right. But I think there are some Trump supporters who deserve to be trashed – not specifically because they support Trump, but because of why they support Trump. Here, I’ll specifically name the alt-right, led by people who call Trump “Daddy” and issue white nationalist memes targeting Jews and blacks, for example. Those people are, indeed, “assholes.”

As to the much-maligned Kevin Williamson article at National Review on white working class communities, I believe that was far less an attack on Trump voters than on a mindset that has infected too many Americans all around: a complacent belief that you no longer need to seek a job, that you deserve a job, that you’re bound to your place of origin and your job field, and that the world owes you something that can only be provided by Trump. I think that belief system cripples people, both white and black.

Lastly, those of us who are #NeverTrump are receiving far more flack from both the pro-Trump people and the typical Republican infrastructure than the Trump fans EVER did during the primaries. It ain’t close.

3. The System May Suck, But Nobody Got Disenfranchised. John argues that Trump opponents never should have defended the caucus and delegate system – that this just ticked off the Trump supporters. That’s true. But it’s also rather self-serving. The system provided Trump far more delegates than he would have won in a totally fair, proportional system. Arguing that it’s cheap and dirty to woo delegates in Colorado as Ted Cruz did may be true, but only to a point: it’s certainly no more “rigged” than Trump winning 100 percent of the delegates in South Carolina after carrying less than 35 percent of the vote.

This was one of Trump’s cleverest campaign gambits. By forcing Cruz to defend the system, he put Cruz in a box – and Cruz couldn’t get out of it without handing the nomination to Trump prematurely. But that doesn’t make the gambit fair. The rules are indeed the rules. It’s somewhat telling that Trump fans didn’t begin clamoring for a fully proportional system across the country, even as they complained about delegate stealing by Cruz.

4. Saying That Trump Had Minority Support Wasn’t “Fuzzy Math.” John writes:

“Trump has a ceiling.”

“A majority of voters oppose Trump.”

“Trump can’t get to 1237 delegates.”

On cable television and in countless rinse-wash-repeat editorials, for months on end, we were barraged with this nonsense — all of it coming from people supporting candidates with 13% ceilings, opposition from 87% of voters, and with no hope of reaching even 500 delegates.

That’s not exactly fuzzy math. It’s disingenuous to say that a vote for Trump was a vote against Cruz in the same way a vote for, say, John Kasich was a vote against Trump. Trump voters were very much pro-Trump, not anti-the-other-1,874 candidates. Cruz voters were just as much anti-Trump as they were pro-Cruz. Trump was the subject of this election cycle. Love him or hate him, Trump was the great issue of the campaign.

5. Sometimes, It’s Enough To Be “Against.” John says, “The failure of the Republican Establishment to coalesce around and make a case for a single candidate was probably their most disastrous tactical error.” I agree with this; I argued that either Cruz should drop out for Rubio, or Rubio should drop out for Cruz. But I don’t think that being “against Trump” rather than pro-somebody else was the big error. There were just too many “somebody elses,” not too few. Here’s the fact: even now, the pro-Trump crowd is making this same argument, just against Hillary. If what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, we need to hear a pro-Trump argument, not just an anti-Hillary one.

So, has #NeverTrump failed? If their goal was stopping Trump as the nominee, of course. If their goal is to stop him from being president, it’s too soon to tell. As a statement of principle, #NeverTrump can’t fail. Statements of principle never do, whether you like them or not.