by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
[T]wo different sets of Trump-skeptical conservatives have emerged since he has become president: those who try to remain neutral on the president and those who oppose his every move.
Both sides accuse each other of being disloyal to conservative principles and selling out. Prior to [Max] Boot’s embrace of white privilege drawing ridicule from Trumpists and Trump skeptical conservatives alike, the two sides of Never Trump were in a war of words just the week before.
At first glance, it looked like writers slap fighting over whose stance on Trump is the bravest, but the battle revealed much about conservatism’s current state.
It all started with National Review Online editor Charles Cooke writing a devastating critique of Jennifer Rubin. Cooke’s essential argument is that The Washington Post’s token conservative has ditched many of her old stances in adopting vicious opposition to Trump as her guiding principle.
From moving the U.S. embassy in Israel to the Iran deal, Rubin has dramatically changed her opinions to be more consistent in hating Trump, according to Cooke, who was a fervent Trump critic throughout the election. In the opinion of the National Review writer, this blind hatred makes Rubin awfully similar to the Trump supporters who love everything the president does.
That critique drew a bitter response from The Atlantic’s David Frum, a staunch Never Trumper. Frum accused National Review of selling out on its principles by not attacking the president vigorously enough and lionized his own side’s supposed courage in endlessly denouncing the president.
It is very silly for Frum and his cohorts to claim they’re incredibly brave for taking a stand that has earned them much praise among liberals (something desired by all respectable conservatives), numerous TV hits, lucrative speaking gigs and tens of thousands of new fans on social media. …
… However, Frum did bring up a salient point in his article. He admitted that Trump was forcing the ardent Never Trumpers into positions they wouldn’t have taken in the past, while at the same time also changing those conservatives who are willing to defend the president.