In a really smart and powerful op-ed, opinion writer Carlos Lozada goes after leading Never Trump Authors as being part of the source of Trump, not a particularly effective counterweight.
Anti-Trump conservatives want to reverse the GOP’s destruction. But they helped light the fuse.
He pointedly goes after Sykes, Max Boot, Rick Wilson and Jeff Flake—staying with never Trumpers who have written books bemoaning the fate of conservatism under Trumpenstein. The author isn’t impressed. Carlos Lozada is the nonfiction book critic of The Washington Post. He has also served as The Post’s economics editor, national security editor and Outlook editor. I guess the book critic thing is how he chose these four. But the theme hits home with lots of hypocritical ex-Republican conservatives in the “Who, Me?” segment of now independents. Some are a lot better than others at pretending they had no role in getting us here—hello Jennifer Rubin, Nicole Wallace—but his pointed point is on the mark: Conservatives in pre-Trump America NEARLY ALL closed their eyes and let the Rethugs lie and cheat their way to dominance, based upon conservative mythologies that were all rolling downhill at an accelerating pace.
As far as the Never Trump Authors are concerned:
It’s not an easy perch. Trump supporters loathe them, anti-Trump liberals don’t trust them, and the pressures to give in are real. In their books, the Never Trumpers express both outrage and disillusionment; they revel in their excommunication and bemoan their newfound isolation.
Yet they often falter when reckoning with their own role, witting or not, in what came to pass. If conservatism has been hijacked by Trump, as they argue, who left it so vulnerable? These writers pose the question, but their answers feel like mere feints at accountability, more meh culpa than mea culpa. The Never Trumpers hold everyone culpable for the appeal of Trumpism except, in any worthwhile way, themselves…
Now (Sykes) denounces the abandonment of gradualism, civility and expertise, and he worries about the “repudiation of the conservative mind” — a repudiation that transpired while respectable, indulgent conservatives such as him waited for someone else to yell, “Stop!”…
But beyond noting that he should have seen it coming — “let’s get this mea culpa out of the way,” Wilson writes — he spends nearly all 300-plus pages of his book blaming everyone else for the outcome of his experiment…
Maybe some people find (Wilson) funny or edgy, perhaps on Twitter, where @TheRickWilson has nearly 450,000 followers. But it’s just revolting, even more so at book length. Oblivious, Wilson then laments the “fashionable cruelty” of the Trump era, with its “endless stream of dick-joke-level insults.” Write what you know, I suppose. He concludes that our outrage politics are “juvenile, repellent, and self-limiting.” So is his book.
To Boot: “I have spent most of my life as part of a political movement that has revealed itself to be morally and intellectually bankrupt,” Boot writes. “This is a chastening lesson about the price of loyalty.” It is also a revealing lesson on the insularity and posturing of the conservative intellectual community.
The lone instance in his book where Flake reconsiders a specific action of his own involves his 2008 House vote against the massive Troubled Asset Relief Program. He opposed the TARP bailout package to showcase his fiscal prudence while privately hoping it would pass. “At a moment of national and global crisis, that vote was an abdication of my responsibility,” he now writes. It’s a valuable insight — that maintaining ideological purity to score political points is a sham — but a single, decade-old anecdote seems to stop short of the courageous soul-searching Flake considers obligatory.
This is a book, I think, that leads. We ought not excuse ANY on the right for the mess the US is in, unless they are willing to take some responsibility for getting us here, and prescribe strategies for getting us out. Otherwise, they are merely Paul Ryan with better typing skills. What do we do about the collapse of liberal democracy? Growing fascist populism around he world? Vicious assaults on immigration? Massive and growing income inequality? The massive threat from climate change? Perhaps they will get back to you on those when they are finished patting themselves on the back and pretending that they had no role in taking conservatism on a vector directly toward Trump—or even worse, someone with the same ideas and more brains. To sum up:
Had Trump come close but failed to win the 2016 Republican nomination, had the GOP establishment and donor networks eked out one more mainstream nominee while still capitalizing on the angry, conspiratorial base to run against the Democrats, these books would not exist. The conscience and corrosion of conservatism, the mind of the right, would remain unexamined.
Only with Trump. Maybe they should thank him.
This is a Creative Commons article. The original version of this article appeared here.