Bob Ehrlich: What's Next for the NeverTrumpers?


Tens of millions of left-leaning Americans (mostly Democrats) disliked (OK, for the most part hated) the Trump era.

The president, his “America First” agenda and his legion of deplorables were their worst nightmare. They accordingly formed a “resistance” that was instrumental in securing Joe Biden’s election. But, truth be told, a majority of these folks were not original Biden fans. They simply chose to close ranks in order to defeat the devil-incarnate Trump.

This group will be pleased with the Biden/Harris agenda: higher taxes, increased regulation, liberalized immigration, making nice with China and a national mask mandate (to name only a few front-burner promises).

Whether attempts at more heavy-lifting items along the lines of court packing, eliminating the Electoral College, significant new gun control and restarting Barack Obama’s war on fossil fuels will take place is anyone’s guess. Still, any and all such endeavors will be welcomed by an energized American left – a coalition that will “own” the Biden record going forward.

Then there are the approximately 75 million Trump-supporting conservatives – mostly but not exclusively Republican – who will soon find themselves in the desert.

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Many were spoiled by a disruptor who aggressively attempted to deconstruct the permanent establishments of both political parties – even if they were not always happy with the way he hyperaggressively went about his business. In any event, those who expended so much time and energy defending the president with their friends, neighbors, coworkers, relatives and people in line at the grocery store also owned the successes and failures, high points and warts, of the Trump era.

But it is not these two opposing groups I chronicle today. It is rather a third tranche of 2020 voters who went by the moniker “NeverTrumpers.”

These were primarily GOP moderates (and some conservatives) who early on concluded that no amount of Trump policy triumphs could justify allegiance to a man who refused to respect process and rhetorical pleasantries – a man whose sometimes coarse and in-your-face ways were no fit for the presidency.

A portion of these NeverTrumpers chose to express their disapproval quietly; they set aside a lifetime of GOP voting history and cast their votes for Joe Biden. A large percentage of them were women who could not abide Mr. Trump’s ways and means and language and personality.

Do you think NeverTrumpers will try to start a new party?

Other dissenters were more visible in expressing their displeasure. They placed Biden bumper stickers on their automobiles and Biden signs on their lawns. Some wrote checks to a Biden campaign that promised a return to “normalcy” and a more moderate temperament in the Oval Office.

A handful of the more prominent NeverTrumpers acted out in more visible ways.

They signed open letters and held press conferences, often in response to the latest Trump move that invariably repudiated some longstanding D.C. article of faith or even decorum. These very public actions were guaranteed to generate positive coverage by a media fully invested in making the president a one-termer.

And then there were the most visible NeverTrumpers – graduates of past Republican administrations or former Republican officeholders who built organizations focused on either assisting the Biden campaign or inflicting damage on Trump’s.

Washington is now full of speculation about next steps for these groups and their members.

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Some of the individuals involved have decided to leave the GOP for good; the party has simply proceeded too far right for their tastes. (Some no doubt contemplated the move well before the Trump era.)

Others will attempt to return “home,” to repair, rebuild or start anew a post-Trump Republican party. In doing so they should also own what they helped create: an apparatus that looks distressingly like an Obama III administration, chock-full of police defunders and tax increasers and China appeasers and gun grabbers and lockdown warriors and amnesty advocates and climate activists and school-choice deniers and UN one-worlders.

It is rumored that some of these returnees wish to run in future Republican primaries. If so, good luck to them. They’re going to need it.

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Robert Ehrlich is a former governor of Maryland as well as a former U.S. congressman and state legislator. He is the author of “Bet You Didn’t See That One Coming: Obama, Trump, and the End of Washington’s Regular Order,” in addition to “Turn This Car Around,” “America: Hope for Change" and “Turning Point.” Ehrlich is currently a counsel at the firm of King & Spalding in Washington, D.C.