Ever since the kick-off of the 2016 presidential election, or, at least since the entrance of Donald J. Trump into the race, there has existed a small, hardcore cell of conservative voices who have vociferously and unwaveringly opposed not only Trump’s platform, but his very existence within the GOP itself. This group has been labeled the “Never Trump” crowd, or the “Never Trumpers,” derived from the #NeverTrump movement on Twitter.
The Spartan-like defensive posture of this cadre of conservative thinkers opposing Trump has echoed the ferocity of The 300, who held off the Persian hordes at Thermopylae. They see Trump as potentially catastrophic for the country, not just the GOP, and have steadfastly refused to give up throughout the race. This, despite Trump’s string of primary victories and eventual seizure of the Republican nomination, and despite being out of touch with “the base” of their party, who decisively chose Trump as the nominee.
They have refused to lay down their rhetorical weapons. They fight on to this day.
This moderately sized phalanx of intellectual combatants warned Republicans from the get-go that Trump was not a true conservative, would not govern as such, could not beat Hillary Clinton in the general election, and was, in fact, a charlatan and a fraud. Their attacks have been in some cases merciless, and in some cases, restrained. They are always unrelenting, though. They are not the “soft nay’s” described in The Atlantic’s guide to Republicans opposed to Trump. They are the “hell no’s!”
These are the diehards who could never violate their principles and support a man like Trump simply to win an election, or simply because Trump has an “R” behind his name. They have collectively played the role of Old Testament prophets throughout this election season—speaking truth to their party leaders, often to the detriment of their own standing within their own party. They have bucked their party base, and many of its elected leaders, and have relentlessly attacked Trump’s positions along the way.
The Never Trumpers stand in stark contrast to the Joe Scarborough types within the party, who have tried to toe a line between saying they are opposed to some of Trump’s policies, occasionally chastising his tactics and pronouncements, and then going on to praise his occasional “political genius,” dropping references to how they have “known him for 10 years.” These types have gone on to tell us, “He is so different in person!” It is as if they are saying, “If you would just socialize with him in New York for three hours or so every few months, you would really get to know him and see that he is not that bad a guy! He is just saying things to win the primaries.”
While shows like Morning Joe offered Trump an unlimited microphone—usually via telephone from his apartment, apparently—during the primaries, Trump used that free air time to tear apart his primary rivals. The #NeverTrump platoon, meanwhile, remained the true believers, trying desperately to drag the Republican party back to its principles. They looked on in horror as Trump rolled over his opponents on the way to the nomination, while the networks that put him on television racked up record ratings.
The #NeverTrump insurgents, during the primaries, consistently reminded the GOP of the electoral armageddon that was to come if they stuck with Trump. And they obviously failed to stop the Trump Train. It remains to be seen how they will fare in the future, post-Trump GOP. One must, at a minimum, though, admit that their stand has been a courageous one, as we ask ourselves, “What have they really gained from their stance other than opprobrium and disdain from their fellow Republicans?” Not much.
So, as a service to you, the readers, I provide you with this handy dandy guide to the primary Never Trumpers that this author has followed over the last 16 months. You can use the below list to either heap further scorn on these Never Trumpers—though beware, they have been under constant attack for over a year now across all social media platforms, so come well armed—or you can use it as a guide to some voices you might want to listen to. It’s your choice.
Here they are, the Spartans of #NeverTrump.
Mitt Romney. The 2012 GOP presidential nominee has been unwavering in his early and continued opposition to Trump. It has not been hard to decipher the complete disdain Romney no-doubt feels for Trump and his often rude and lewd behavior on the campaign trail. He has come out strongly against Trump on Twitter.
Charlie Sykes. On his Wisconsin-based conservative radio program, Sykes famously challenged Trump on air, and in the process, launched himself into the national spotlight. He has stayed steadfastly anti-Trump ever since. He is perhaps the one person who has actually benefitted from his anti-Trump stance, in the form of national media attention.
Robert Gates. One of the more prominent figures within the Republican foreign policy establishment to be #NeverTrump, the former secretary of defense and CIA director is not alone in that arena. This is the area, along with free trade, in which Trump has been so diametrically opposed to conservative orthodoxies, according to GOP stalwarts.
Erick Erickson. Former editor-in-chief of the (possibly formerly) influential conservative blog Red State, Erikson famously disinvited Trump from the annual Red State Gathering after the latter’s ugly comments about Fox News host Megyn Kelly. Erickson has taken hits non-stop from Trumpland ever since, and is no longer mentioned as a leading conservative voice by Scarborough, who used to regularly tout Erickson’s conservative credentials.
Glenn Beck. Say what you will about Beck—and I have said plenty about his occasional kooky stances—he has stayed the course in his opposition to Trump. Beck supported Ted Cruz in the primaries, and even after Cruz’s endorsement of Trump, has not wavered in his opposition. He has gone so far as to call Trump a “frightening sociopath.”
Ben Sasse. This junior senator from Nebraska was the first and only GOP senator to be vocally anti-Trump from the get-go. He has since tempered somewhat his public remarks against the GOP nominee, but not his opposition. Some see him as one of the rising leaders within the post-Trump GOP.
John Podhoretz. One of this author’s favorite Tweeters, the editor of Commentary Magazine came under withering assault from Trump supporters, and condescending derision from Morning Joe for his early and vocal anti-Trump feelings. He has also been the subject of frequent anti-Jewish vitriol, as have many of the anti-Trump commentators who happen to be Jewish.
Bill Kristol. In his wry and ceaseless way, the neoconservative founder and editor of The Weekly Standard has tried everything from constant anti-Trump rhetoric to putting forward anti-Trump alternatives in his attempt to stop the embrace of Trump by the GOP. He has refused to give up, and is another frequent target of derision by the Morning Joe gang.
George Will. This old-school party grandee and big thinker went so far as to leave the Republican party over its embrace of Trump. That is standing by your principles.
Max Boot. Another within the Republican foreign policy establishment who has vocally and consistently warned of the dangers of Trump, this military historian and foreign policy analyst has especially derided Trump’s lack of foreign policy knowledge and interest. He sees a Trump-led America as a danger to the U.S.’s primacy in the world.
Stuart Stevens. Mitt Romney’s chief strategist in 2012, Stevens has gone so far as to say that Hillary Clinton would be a better president than Trump. Most “Never Trumpers” have not quite gone that far.
Mike Murphy. Using his sense of humor to brutally mock Trump, GOP consultant Murphy has not been shy about his disdain for the nominee of his own party. On the MSNBC program Hardball back in May, Murphy claimed Trump had a “chimpanzee-level understanding of national security policy.” Ouch.
Stephen Miller. Not to be confused with the Trump political operative of the same name, Miller is a contributor to the conservative National Review, and publisher of The Wilderness, a political website. His biting sarcasm and sharp-tongued lashings of Trump can best be experienced in his Twitter feed (@redsteeze).
Jonah Goldberg. A senior editor at National Review and conservative syndicated columnist, Goldberg is another who has sustained particular vitriol as one of “the Jews” targeting Trump. He is now supporting independent candidate Evan McMullin for president. Goldberg called McMullin the “last best hope for the Never Clinton and Never Trump masses.”
Rick Wilson. Wilson is a Republican political strategist and media consultant. He has not only savagely criticized Trump, but his followers as well. He called them “childless single men who masturbate to anime” on MSNBC’s All In. Brutal.
Steve Schmidt. Famous as one of John McCain’s senior campaign strategists in 2008, and for his role in selecting Sarah Palin as McCain’s vice presidential running mate that year, Schmidt’s impassioned speeches defending American democratic values have been inspirational throughout this election cycle. See one here. He has predicted an election day disaster for Republicans, largely thanks to Trump.
Tom Nichols. Nichols, a professor at the Naval War College, foreign affairs writer, and contributor to The Federalist, declared publicly, in a Tweet on October 21, 2016, that he would vote for Clinton in the November 8 election. This followed a year’s worth of anti-Trump efforts on his part.
There you have it. They lie beaten and battered on the political battlefield at this point, and it remains to be seen if they will be vindicated on November 8th. We all stand by with bated breath.