#NeverTrump! Never! Never! Never! Never?

Feore, Farb as Lear, Cordelia

Lear (Feore) crying over Cordelia (Farb)? Or #NeverTrump crying over GOP?


Okay, one last post (for this week anyway) where I apply King Lear to  the problems that Donald Trump poses for the GOP and for the country at large. A word that Trump opponents have been using repeatedly is also a word that gets repeated in one of Shakespeare’s bleakest lines. That word is “never.”

The #NeverTrump forces spent millions of dollars trying to stop the presumptive Republican nominee and have still not entirely given up the fight. Unfortunately, as many have pointed out, it is hard to beat someone with no one, and Trump’s opponents were never able to coalesce around a viable alternative. It now appears that cracks are appearing in the opposition, and various Republicans are frantically backpedaling from “never.”

Marco Rubio is one of these. Here is Jonathan Chait’s account:

For a brief period of time, “#NeverTrump” was practically Marco Rubio’s presidential-campaign slogan. Rubio made slashing attacks on Trump as a “con artist.” Rubio’s campaign website sold anti-Trump swag, like a “#Never Trump” bumper sticker. “#NeverTrump,” of course, is the hashtag slogan of a movement of Republicans who have vowed to withhold their support from Trump even if he wins the party nomination (which is the straightforward and, in fact, only understood meaning of the word never). But last month, Rubio conceded that “#NeverTrump” merely meant that he wouldn’t vote for Trump in the Republican primary.

Rubio isn’t the only one hedging his former implacable opposition. Alexandra Petri of The Washington Post notes that former Trump haters are now referring to Trump as they might to Voldemort (a.k.a. he who must not be named). For them, Trump is “the Nominee”:

He has a 65 percent unfavorable rating. He is prone to firing off unexpectedly at the mouth. He either doesn’t understand or actively wants to destroy the credit of the United States. If you’re a senator running for reelection and his name shows up at the top of the ticket, you might as well tie an albatross around your neck and head out to sea.

So what to do? Speaking Trump’s name gives him power. He is like Voldemort in that regard. (Also, he is immortal and cannot die as long as his Towers survive. His buildings are his horcruxes and contain fragments of his soul.)

The trick is not to speak his name.

But fortunately for senators in tough, competitive seats, there is another option. You don’t have to endorse Trump. You can just support the Nominee of the Party.

Petri goes on to give several examples, including New Hampshire’s Republican senator, who is up for reelection this year:

Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) won’t endorse Trump. In February, she said, “There’s no place in our society for racism and bigotry, and I found Mr. Trump’s response to David Duke and the KKK disgusting and offensive.” But she will support the nominee. Her communications director, Liz Johnson, confirmed as much to the New Hampshire Union Leader. “As she’s said from the beginning, Kelly plans to support the nominee.”

Petri observes,

It is good that there is this third option. The Nominee sounds wonderful.

He seems to have a strong base of support. Senators who have nothing positive to say about Trump at all speak glowingly of the mysterious Nominee.

Very little is known about him, apart from the fact that he is probably statesmanlike and definitely not embarrassing to have at the top of the ticket, and probably Reagan would have liked to have a beer with him, or something, but what more do you need to know?

And further on:

This “nominee” character sounds almost as good as that Never Trump fellow. (Whatever happened to him, by the way?)

King Lear, in the depths of mental hell, engages in no such equivocating:

Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never, never!

I’m not unsympathetic with politicians who, because they must find ways to cobble together diverse and often contending constituencies, back away from previous statements. Democracy is a difficult business.

In the case of Donald Trump’s GOP opponents, however, I wish “never” really did mean “never.”

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