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Let Me Be The First To Say It: Never-DeSantis

Their personal ambitions may clash-- but not their profoundly unAmerican shared ideology

Yesterday, Tom Nichols noted that really opposing Trumpism means opposing “everything Donald Trump has done to American civic life, and reject[ing] those who would wear his mantle.” Obviously Nichols— a proud Never-Trumper— isn’t a Republican any more. By the way, new polling shows that midterm voters rejected Trump’s agenda, which are also the Republican Party’s priorities.

Nichols is concerned that other neo-fascists in the GOP want to reject Trump but not his agenda. “The strategy,” he wrote, “will be to make Trump the sin-eater for the entire party, designating him as the GOP’s sole problem, and then rejecting him— and only him. The goal will be to scrub away the stain of having accommodated Trump while pretending that the Republican Party is no longer an extension of his warped and antidemocratic views. This will require an extraordinary suspension of disbelief and an expenditure of gigawatts of political energy on the pretense that the past seven years or so didn’t happen— or didn’t happen the way we remember them, or happened but don’t matter because Trump, having escaped Elba to contest the primaries, will finally be sent to St. Helena after his inevitable defeat. This will be the new Republican line, and it is nonsense.”

Trump exceeded our worst fears. We expected him to bring a claque of opportunists and various other mooks and goons with him to Washington, but we overestimated the ability of the GOP’s immune system to fight off a complete surrender to Trump’s parasitical capture of the party. We appreciated the threat of Trump, but we were surprised by the spread of Trumpism— the political movement that arose as a malignant mass incarnation of Trump’s personality, based on racism, nativism, isolationism, the celebration of ignorance, and a will to power that was innately hostile to American institutions. Trumpism is now the only real animating force in Republican politics; indeed, DeSantis, the great GOP hope, is so much a Trump sycophant that he has even learned to stand and gesture like Trump.
The idea that Never Trump means more than the rejection of one vulgar and ignorant man— that it also means Never Trumpisminfuriates a lot of people on the right. (The folks over at National Review, some of whom have apparently jumped on the DeSantis bandwagon, have seemed particularly agitated in the past few days.) The immediate circumstance that precipitated all this online whining about the Never Trumpers and generated the sweaty attempts to seize their mantle was, of course, Trump’s dinner this weekend with an anti-Semite and a white supremacist. Top Republicans who should be desperate to scour the stink of Trumpism off the GOP but who fear Trump and his base once again went weak in the knees. Most stayed quiet; others employed careful circumlocutions. Mike Pence said Trump should “apologize” for the dinner, as if it were a faux pas. Senator John Thune blamed Trump’s staff— always a handy dodge in Washington.
Only a very few were specific and unequivocal. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell finally weighed in today with a shot at Trump’s ambitions, saying that “there is no room in the Republican Party for anti-Semitism or white supremacy,” and that “anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States.” But Senator Bill Cassidy was more direct: “President Trump hosting racist antisemites for dinner encourages other racist antisemites,” he tweeted. “These attitudes are immoral and should not be entertained. This is not the Republican Party.” Cassidy’s words are admirably clear, but while he argues that such attitudes are not the Republican Party, they are, in fact, espoused by people widely tolerated by the base of the Republican Party— starting right at the top with Donald Trump.
The Republicans know they have a problem. Many of them seem to believe their only recourse now is to say that they were all Never Trumpers in the hope that voters will somehow draw an unwarranted distinction between Trump and the party he has captured from top to bottom. But those of us who said “Never Trump” years ago— and meant it— know the difference.

Take your pick... which Reagan you want?

The Republican base, on the other hand, doesn't give a damn about old time Republican elites-- part of, on their worldview, the uni-party you hear fringe crackpots like Lauren Boebert and Madison Cawthorn howling about. And the fringe crackpots like Lauren Boebert and Madison Cawthorn-- and at least 7-80 other congressional Republicans are Never Never Trumpers.

Yesterday, writing for Puck, Tina Nguyen wondered if Trump has already lost 2024. "It's been about two weeks," she wrote, "since Donald Trump announced that he was running for president, and about half that time has been consumed by an utterly preventable, and predictable, scandal: Trump dining with Kanye West, now an avowed anti-Semite, and Nick Fuentes, a notorious white supremacist, at Mar-a-Lago. The Trumpworld spin room, of course, has repeatedly emphasized that Fuentes—the far-right pundit-leader of the so-called Groyper Army, who has frequently called for the expulsion of Jews and minorities from “white America”—was merely an unexpected interloper in Trump’s pre-Thanksgiving meal with West. But GOP insiders that I spoke to were apoplectic that Trump spent these early innings of his campaign breaking bread with West in the first place. 'Why? Why are we doing this? Why are we having dinner with Kanye?' a party strategist fumed. 'What’s the perceived advantage there if you’re running for president?'"

The Trump ’24 campaign, after all, was hardly off to a rollicking start even before Ye and his entourage rolled into Mar-a-Lago. First there was Trump’s deflating campaign announcement— a long-winded diatribe that prompted multiple audience members to attempt a mid-speech Irish exit— only a few days after a dismal midterm outcome. Trump had already been blamed by many in the GOP for putting his thumb on the scale for a half-dozen oddball or extremist gubernatorial and midterm candidates, including Dr. Oz and Herschel Walker, among others, who likely cost Republicans the Senate. In the days and weeks afterward, Trump spent the bulk of his time holed up in Mar-a-Lago, shit-posting about stolen elections and imagined enemies, his own mounting legal headaches, and the gall of would-be primary challengers.
That Trump closed out this second week on the trail bunkered down in Mar-a-Lago with Ye has only punctuated the growing fear among allies and insiders that the ex-president, in the throes of his post-Twitter and post-double-impeachment woes, cares far more about his own personal relevance than his party (duh) or even his own potential victory.
Said a GOP strategist: "Set aside the Fuentes thing. He is a relatively obscure figure, despite the attempts of the press to make him a household name. But Kanye alone— what are you doing? Why are you having dinner with him? What’s the upside here? We know the downside. He’s mentally disturbed. And if the answer is oh, he’s my friend and I’m trying to give him some tough love and advice, that’s fine. You can do that over the phone."
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