Legend has it that President Franklin Roosevelt’s son James (soon to enlist in the Marines and serve with distinction) was in the White House on December 11, 1941 and one of the first to learn that Italy had declared war on the United States. He rushed to the Oval Office and breathlessly told his father that Italy had declared war. Without looking up from his paperwork FDR said, “Jimmy, have you ever heard an ant fart in a hurricane?”
The remark gives insight both to Roosevelt’s sense of humor and his judgment of Mussolini’s war-making prowess. FDR was proven correct, as Il Duce’s divisions were a pale imitation of the invincible legions of Julius or Augustus Caesar.
Roosevelt’s “ant flatulence” bon mot gained new relevance last year in the personas of NeverTrump. The leaders of the NeverTrump cabal were every bit as haughty and imperious as Mussolini. Il Duce was hung upside down and left to bleed to death by loyal Italians at the end of the war. Millions of conservative voters did the same to NeverTrump, first at the GOP convention and then on Election Day.
The political prognostication powers of NeverTrump grandees like Billy Kristol, Bow Tie Will and former President-Designate David French turned out to be equivalent to the battle readiness of the Italian army, with all the effect of ant flatulence in a hurricane. Rational conservatives assumed that a group of people so wrong so often about so many things would do the honorable thing and slink away in silence under the cover of darkness. No such luck with the smug and pompous elephantine egos of NeverTrump. They continue to spout their nonsense as if the election never happened and their total disconnect from reality never exposed.
How wrong were they? Let us count the ways.
NeverTrump charged that Donald Trump had duped conservatives supporting him and if nominated would veer sharply toward the center in the choice of running mate. The actual result was Trump choosing Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, widely regarded as the most conservative governor in the country.
NeverTrump charged that the GOP nominee Trump would be routed by Hillary Clinton, losing in an historic landslide. The actual result was Trump destroying the Democrats’ Midwest “blue wall,” carrying states like Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan that hadn’t voted for a Republican presidential candidate since the 1980s. Trump received more electoral votes than any GOP candidate since H.W. Bush in 1988.
NeverTrump warned that GOP nominee Trump, losing in a landslide to Hillary, would most certainly cost Republicans control of the U.S. Senate. The actual result was continued GOP control of the Senate, with Trump aiding the come-from-behind victories of endangered Republican incumbents like Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania and Ron Walker in Wisconsin.
NeverTrump assured us that not only would the Clinton landslide win over Trump cost the GOP the Senate, but that the loss would be so big as to endanger the GOP majority in the House. The actual result was a miniscule Republican loss of 6 seats out of a GOP total of 247, when even the most optimistic GOP forecasters were predicting a 12-15 seat loss to the Democrats.
In the immortal words of Ron Popeil, “But wait, there’s more!”
NeverTrump warned conservatives that the Clinton victory margin over Trump would be gigantic enough to wipe out state and local office holders by the hundreds, decimating our “bench” for future elections. The actual result was a Republican tsunami at the local level, winning state, county and municipal districts that had been solidly Democrat for decades. The day after the November election the Republican Party was stronger nationally than at any time since 1920. (For UCLA graduates that’s almost 100 years ago.)
NeverTrump assured us that Trump’s list of conservative candidates for the Scalia Supreme Court seat put together by the impeccably conservative Heritage Foundation and Federalist Society was a sham. They insisted that Trump had no intention of naming someone from that list and that conservatives were fools to believe that he would. The actual result was highly respected conservative Neil Gorsuch being nominated to the court. Doubts about Judge Gorsuch’s future impact on the court can be dispelled by Googling the reaction of any Democrat Senator to the nomination.
NeverTrump has been wrong about everything – quite literally, everything. Not wrong by a little, but by 180 degrees. There were no near-misses in the NeverTrump rants. As the old saying goes, they missed by a country mile.
There is a happy ending to this morality tale, however, and that is the isolation and irrelevance of NeverTrump. The worker bees of the conservative movement, the folks in fly-over country, took a good look at the NeverTrump leaders and realized that these ever-so-pious and pure guardians of “acceptable” conservative thought were empty suits. Other than bloated salaries and Sunday morning talk-show gigs they produced little of substance the last 20 years.
Instead of political and policy victories these “leaders” delivered hot air, pomposity and arrogance. Without knowing it the grass roots are channeling Senator Everett Dirkson, who shouted at Tom Dewey from the podium of the 1952 Republican Convention, “We have followed you before and you lead us down the road to defeat.”
No more. NeverTrump is taking its rightful place on the ash heap of history. The White House is the epicenter of an historic earthquake of conservative ideas and policy. Conservatives will surely find things to quibble with in President Trump, and when we do we should say so. In the meantime we owe it to our country and our movement to support the most conservative White House since the Reagan days, and more likely since the Coolidge days.
NeverTrump will no doubt continue on for awhile, full of sound and fury signifying nothing, emitting its occasional ant flatulence. Meantime, in the real world, conservatives across the country are rolling up their sleeves and getting to work making America, and the conservative movement, great again.
Bill Saracino is a member of the Editorial Board of CA Political Review.