Through some of their anti-Trump organizations, funded by donors, some of them have arranged employment no longer available to them in conventional Republican circles. In The Atlantic recently, Andrew Ferguson fairly called out individual Never Trumpers for inconsistency, hypocrisy and opportunism, and raised questions about the degree to which a few of the people with the Lincoln Project are profiting from it.
But the most important syllable in Never Trumper is Trump, and Never Trumpers are essentially sowing the seeds of their own diminished relevance by working to get rid of him.
That’s why, when I look at them, I see patriotism, though John Weaver — who, along with Conway, helped to found the Lincoln Project — emphasized a different idea when we spoke. He stressed atonement.
Trump’s election made him revisit how he and other Republican strategists had paved the way for Trump. For instance, Weaver worked for the man who was the first U.S. senator to endorse Trump for president.
“Jeff Sessions wouldn’t have gotten to the Senate had I not overseen his race in 1996,” Weaver told me. “Now I look back at that and say, ‘What kind of goddamn penance do I have to pay for that?’”
Sykes spoke of “a revelation” that he has experienced, courtesy of Trump. “The heart of politics is not about the policy,” he told me. “It’s about the values. I can disagree with you on eight out of 10 issues, but if you’re an honorable, honest, empathetic human being, we can do business.” Trump is none of those things. Biden is most or all of them — and will get Sykes’s vote in November.
In exile he and other Never Trumpers have found clarity. They cut to the heart of the matter. That’s reflected in a Lincoln Project ad from late May that begins with a close-up of body bags and then pulls back until those bags form an American flag. These words appear over it: “100,000 Dead Americans. One Wrong President.”
I don’t know that they’ll tip the election. But they sure as hell tell it like it is.
I invite you to sign up for my free weekly email newsletter. You can follow me on Twitter (@FrankBruni).
Listen to “The Argument” podcast every Thursday morning, with Ross Douthat, Michelle Goldberg and me.