The headline of this article by Byron York is: “Dems’ hard-left turn poses dilemma for ‘Never Trumpers.” Actually, I don’t believe the Democrats turn to the hard left is creating a difficult decision for hardcore Never Trumpers. They are determined to bring Trump down whether it means a Joe Biden presidency, a Kamala Harris presidency, or even a Bernie Sanders presidency.
Their overriding objective is to see Trump repudiated and Trumpism take what they hope will be a fatal blow. Thus, as Byron says at the end of his article, “[S]ome ‘Never Trumpers,’ long committed to ‘disposing of’ Trump ([Bill] Kristol’s phrase), will no doubt keep trying, no matter where that might lead.”
The Democrats’ left turn does, however, create a difficulty for Never Trumpers. The difficulty resides in raising money and generating enthusiasm for a Republican challenger to Trump, where such a challenge might help pave a leftist’s road the White House. Hardcore Never Trumpers may be okay with that consequence. Republicans who dislike Trump but don’t make a religion of it aren’t likely to be.
It’s well understood that challenges to incumbent presidents are often associated with the defeat of the challenged presidents. Byron cites Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and George H.W. Bush.
To some Never Trumpers, this is a feature, not a bug, when it comes to challenging President Trump. But to Republicans who dislike Trump but haven’t consumed the Never Trump Kool Aid, it’s a deal breaker, especially if undermining the president’s reelection prospects might produce hard left-wing rule.
Byron puts it this way:
As the Democratic Party lurches left, that could mean the work of “Never Trump” conservatives ensures the election of a radical candidate on a platform of the “Green New Deal,” tax rates above 70 percent, universal healthcare, free college, even more liberal abortion policies, and more. It would be hard to imagine a more self-defeating result for activists who previously worked in conservative Republican politics.
Republican donors might be disinclined to shell out big bucks for a challenge to Trump in the face of this prospect. Few Republican voters will relish the prospect, either.
Remember, too, that the challenges to incumbent presidents Byron cites were by Ronald Reagan, Ted Kennedy, and Pat Buchanan, respectively. Reagan and Kennedy were stars backed by serious money. Both had a reasonable hope of winning the general election, if nominated (as Reagan later did). Neither was viewed as a mere spoiler.
Buchanan was a spoiler. But as a white hot populist — something of a Trump before Trump — he had no trouble generating enthusiasm.
Of the potential challengers the Never Trumpers reportedly are interested in enlisting — John Kasich, Larry Hogan, and William Weld — only Kasich seems capable of generating any enthusiasm among a discernible portion of the Republican rank-and-file. But Kasich is not a star like Reagan and Kennedy — not even close. And I doubt he can generate enough enthusiasm to perform remotely as well as Reagan, Kennedy, and Buchanan did, given that the consequence of such a performance might be the election of a left-wing Democrat.
At least I hope that’s the case.