Democrats Squandered the Never Trump Republicans

Trump didn’t win the Never Trumpers of his party: Democrats lost them.

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President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, signs the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2020, in front of the South Portico of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

You Lose Some, You Lose Some

The news that President Trump will likely be acquitted on Wednesday smugly satisfied the right, infuriated the left, and surprised exactly no one.

No one seriously following Trump’s impeachment trial ever believed he would be removed from office by a Republican-controlled Senate over this Ukraine business.

The weeping and gnashing of teeth that greeted the ignominious anti-climax of the Mueller Report was much subdued this time around. With Russia, liberal voters actually believed House Democrats who claimed to have the goods on Donald Trump; this time, no one seems to have been willing to entertain that hope.

Which is good, because this time House Democrats certainly did not have the goods on Donald Trump.

What, if anything, House Democrats and Democratic leadership gained from the impeachment process won’t be fully known until all the facts are known- about the case, about what sentiment voters will express in November. November is far, far away; anything might happen between now and then. Few things are certain.

One thing that has certainly emerged from the impeachment process is a united Republican Party. The party once fractured by Donald Trump, and the Never Trump reaction to Donald Trump, is now one party.

How did Trump achieve this statesmanesque miracle?

Easy.

He didn’t.

Trump didn’t win over Republicans in the Senate or in the House.

You can bet outspoken Trump critic Sen. Mitt Romney still hates Trump’s tweets as much as he ever did. Odds on Romney still thinks Trump is the most noxious, poisonous toadstool of the Republican Party. Romney’s opinions about Donald Trump have changed exactly zero.

Trump hasn’t changed much either. His speeches are a little more polished; his behavior at world leader forums is a bit more decorous. But he still routinely flame wars with celebrities on Twitter. He provokes the press weekly with outrageous comments that seem almost designed to be incendiary.

That his remarks are divisive and polarizing, and that they lower the tone of politics and political life in America, are the points Trump’s detractors routinely point to when criticizing him. Yet, he is nothing if not consistent in his abrasiveness and he seems unwilling, or unable, to change.

What did change?

Democrats.

Democrats went from being the opposition party- which is an important and stabilizing force in American democracy- to being the “resistance”- which is a destabilizing one. Not to mention absolute nonsense: This isn’t the French Revolution; this isn’t Nazi Germany.

We don’t need a resistance; we have a working representative government. We have a robust two-party democratic system that keeps both sides accountable and at each others throats quite enough, thank you very much.

We have freedom of speech and absolutely no shortage of lawful political discourse. We have plenty of public squares in which to peacefully assemble.

We have a Constitution of checks and balances. We have a wealthy and powerful private sector to check the bureaucrats. We also have a free press and a powerful judiciary.

All the things, in short, that resistances in the past have lacked access to under the authorities they have resisted.

As a result of this noble and embattled but fictitious perspective, Democrats went all-in on a weak hand, exploited a willingly compliant mainstream press and pushed Republicans who might have supported more sensible initiatives directly into the waiting arms of Donald Trump.

In swing districts, bipartisanship is not a dirty word.

Never Trump Republicans could have gone on being a thorn in Trump’s side long into his reelection campaign and beyond, routinely reminding everyone that his shortcomings are obvious even to people who aren’t Democrats. They could have gone on voting against him, to the delight of their purple districts and Democrats alike.

If you think Sen. Mitt Romney is happy to back Donald Trump, maybe you’re only familiar with Romney’s official social media accounts; not the one he created under a pseudonym in order to give vent to the endless exceptions he takes to Donald Trump.

Imagine saying all that about someone, only to have Democrats who wholeheartedly agree with you build such a weak case as to give even Mitt Romney no way to seriously back them without looking even more foolish.

Mitt Romney the man would have no doubt loved nothing more than to deliver a public slap in the face to one Donald Trump. To do so would probably have been as immensely satisfying as Rep. Rashida Tlaib must have felt booing Hillary Clinton at a recent panel event.

However, Mitt Romney the Senator; Mitt Romney the still relatively young career politician with aspirations well beyond that of the current administration- can’t afford to gratify his ego.

Donald Trump knows Romney could have voted against him- and Romney found a way to call that a win. And while Romney’s vote against Trump would certainly have damaged his own prospects more-so than the president’s, it would have been embarrassing.

A united Republican front looks much better for Trump.

As it is, Trump had to invite Sen. Mitt Romney and Sen. Susan Collins to the White House for a sit down. Having President Trump in a position to need their support- and giving that support- is a win, too.

Trump’s rudeness, his crassness, his checkered past, are all sunk costs now for the Republican Party. He was unspeakably rude during his 2016 campaign- that didn’t stop people from voting for him.

He has been openly rude on Twitter from the beginning, and whether it is an online personae or his real one, no one can argue that he pretended to be someone else whist running for president.

Trump starred in a reality television show where millions of Americans saw him turn rudeness into a successful personal brand. They tuned-in season after season for more. None of this information is a surprise to voters. They know about Stormy Daniels; they just don’t care.

However, removing your party’s sitting President during an economic boom-time would not be an already sunk cost.

It would likely cost Republicans dearly in this election and the next. And the next. Democrats gave Never Trump Republicans no way to justify the cost.

If Democrats would have spent more time in the House building a good case against Trump, there might still be a symbiotic relationship between Democrats and Never Trump Republicans.

Instead, Democrats have shown Never Trump Republicans they are in no position to challenge Donald Trump.

He wins by default.

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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