A taxonomy of never-Trumpers

by John Q on January 21, 2018

I’m a sucker for taxonomies, and Ross Douthat has quite a good one in the New York Times

Like any strange and quarrelsome sect, the church of anti-Trump conservatism has divided and subdivided since Donald Trump’s election. Some members have apostatized and joined the ranks of Trumpists; others have marched leftward, with anti-Trumpism as a gateway drug to wokeness. There is a faction that is notionally skeptical of Trump but functionally anti-anti-Trump, a faction that insists it’s just calling “balls and strikes” and a faction screaming that the president rigged the game and needs to be thrown out.

What’s interesting is that, from my observation, he has the factions about right in order of size. The group who have gone left is probably smaller than its ranking suggests, but contains most of what was left of serious thought on the conservative/libertarian side of politics. The smallest group, and the one treated most dismissively, consists of those who have remained politicaly conservative while being unremittingly hostile to Trump. Its members are either out of active politics already (like the Bushes) or are kicking Trump on the way out (like Corker and Flake). By 2020, it will probably be an empty set. That obviously raises the question of what will remain of the conservative movement when and if Trump is defeated.

A point of purely sporting interest is to classify Douthat himself. I’d say, some mixture of “anti-anti-Trump” and “balls and strikes”. The main part of his column, arguing that Trump is more of a joke than a menace, is consistent with this, I think.



Persse 01.21.18 at 7:51 am

Authoritarian Trump was never a real thing. The danger is his extreme weakness allowing unfettered agenda setting by ideologues and a menacing military.


nastywoman 01.21.18 at 8:19 am

As a representative of the ”Non-Conservative-Never-Trumpers” –
(currently probably the ”Greatest” Group in America) I’m a sucker for ”taxonomies” too -and had to tell the Ross dude – that his idea that Trump is more ”Farce” than ”Tragedy”
couldn’t be more ”right” – as in this century –

the world get’s destroyed by ”Farce” –
and not
by ”Tragedy”
-(and did this… rhyme?!)


Layman 01.21.18 at 9:15 am

Arguing that Trump is more of a joke than a menace seems to be an activity that can be enjoyed right across the political spectrum. Not sure why we have to choose one or the other.


Peter T 01.21.18 at 10:23 am

Side note, but the news does not seem to have noticed that two days after Rex Tillerson gave a major speech laying down the main planks of US Middle Eastern policy, Turkey went ahead and demolished the foundations without so much as a courtesy call. I wonder if Trump has been told? Is chaotic evil worse or better than than lawful evil?


nastywoman 01.21.18 at 11:39 am

– and perhaps we should have added (from the beginning) the ”Never-Let-Him-Golf-Trumpers” to the taxonomy – as they are probably ”the most powerful conservative – and thusly most consequential group” – who always blackballed Trump when he tried to enter one of their ”Highly Respected Conservative Clubs”.

And soo – just like ”Hitler” -(and please excuse the comparison) – who was rejected by – supposedly ”the Jewish Wiener Kunstakademie” – and then decided to became one of the utmost evil Monsters of the 20t century – Trump by being rejected by nearly every ”Real US Conservative” decided to become ”the utmost Monster of this century” and to destroy
US Conservatism for bad -(or is it ”good”?)


LFC 01.21.18 at 3:04 pm

Further to Peter T’s comment above:

“Turkey on Sunday announced a ground offensive in northern Syria as part of its assault on Kurdish militias there, state media reported, expanding an already fierce air and artillery operation that has raised fears of wider conflict both in Syria and the region.”

Turkey apparently is calling it Operation Olive Branch [sic].



Dr. Hilarius 01.21.18 at 7:09 pm

Intentionally or not, Trump is splitting off conservatives who want to maintain the US as a world leader in favor of isolationists. His reference to “shithole” African nations must have elated the Chinese, a gift to their efforts in Africa.


rogergathmann 01.22.18 at 6:56 am

7. It is a gift to Africa too, since the U.S. has been a huge disaster for Africa from the 50s onward, a supporter of every dictator and arms purchaser they could find, as long as they were anti-communist or, after 1990, as long as they were corrupt petro-barons. China’s presence in the world is definitely a positive.

Interestingly, the switch in the U.S. seems to be made of either OFF (isolationist) or ON (violent militarist). So instead of thinking how great it is that China has arisen to development status, the D.C. centrists think China is the enemy! Or Russia is the enemy! Gotta have an enemy. Makes sense, though – spend as much per year on the military as the rest of the world spends in five years, and you have to pretend there’s a reason for it.


nastywoman 01.22.18 at 8:33 am

”Intentionally or not, Trump is splitting off conservatives who want to maintain the US as a world leader in favor of isolationists.”

Intentionally Trump is splitting off all kind of ”conservatives” in all kind of fractions – as remember – he mentioned quite a few times that he is actually ”Fighting the Republican -(”Conservative”?) ”Establishment” – and depending if he is aware what ”Conservative” and ”Establishment” means – and considering that he was – and is – fighting everything else – he without any Dowd is our best weapon to destroy at least the ”Republican Party” -(and any decent Golf Club) – in America!


Anarcho 01.22.18 at 10:19 am

“serious thought on the conservative/libertarian side of politics.”

I wasn’t aware that conservatives subscribed to the idea that property is theft and despotism, and so had to be abolished… Oh, wait, you mean the propertarians who stole the term “libertarian” from the left in the 1950s:


It is a shame to see others help the right with their theft of words from the left…


politicalfootball 01.22.18 at 8:10 pm

Here’s where I part company with Douthat (and Prof. Robin, for that matter):

Now it might be argued that all of this — the balking of Trump’s authoritarian impulses, the normalcy of his appointments, his massive unpopularity and legislative failures — is due to the intense vigilance of the Resistance, the widespread determination to treat this president as an existential threat.

We know about Trump’s authoritarian impulses, and those of Republicans generally. The collective freakout of the US citizenry — including the various flavors of Never-Trump — has been a key factor in keeping the fondest dreams of authoritarians from being realized.

Unjustified anti-alarmism has a familiar, fallacious pattern: We can see that people were too worried about the ozone layer, for instance, because that problem has been significantly mitigated. Similarly, we need not worry about the possibility that Hillary will lose the election, because the voters will take care of that. (Oops!)

Should US citizens be more worried or less about authoritarianism? I think the situation is even more dire than a majority of the public understands. Douthat doesn’t think so — and doesn’t want to lend credibility to resistance — because he, too, favors more authoritarianism. He’d just like to see a different authoritarian in charge.

I gotta give Douthat credit, though. He at least acknowledges the argument that I’m making and rebuts it. That’s more than you get 90% of the time from the anti-alarmists.


John Quiggin 01.22.18 at 10:28 pm

@10 Fair point. I normally write “propertarian”, but it creates some difficulties when I want to link to “liberaltarians”, as in this case.

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