In Defying the Odds, we discuss the 2016 campaign. The 2019 update includes a chapter on the 2018 midterms. The 2020 race, the subject of our next book, is well underway.
Republican Voters Against Trump, which was founded by longtime conservative and self-described “Never Trumper” Sarah Longwell, has concentrated almost entirely on sharing testimonials from traditional Republicans who voted for Trump in 2016 but are planning — sometimes reluctantly — to support Biden in November.
The group also includes William Kristol, a conservative commentator; Tim Miller, a Republican operative who worked on Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign; and Mike Murphy, a longtime Republican strategist.
Longwell said she spent most of the three years after Trump’s election trying to understand what happened and conducting focus groups with voters who supported Trump in 2016 but now rate his performance in office as “somewhat bad” or “very bad.” As her group began testing ads, they quickly realized that slick commercials were often less persuasive than raw testimonials from fellow Republicans with similar doubts about the current president.
Frank Bruni at NYT:
“I personally think that the Republican brand is probably destroyed,” [George] Conway told me. “It’s destroyed by it having become essentially a personality cult.” He said that he formally left the party, changing his voter registration to unaffiliated, some two years ago, and he doesn’t envision being able to return anytime soon.
That’s what’s so fascinating about their quest. They’re not fighting to come in from the wilderness. The wilderness is a given. They’re just fighting to get rid of this one sun-hogging, diseased redwood — or orangewood, as the case may be.
I asked Conway, “So you’ll be a man without a party for the rest of your days?”
“Probably,” he said. “It makes me tremendously sad.”
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?’”
Trump’s campaign manager is a felon.— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) July 12, 2020
His deputy campaign manager is a felon.
His national security advisor is a felon.
His foreign policy advisor is a felon.
His personal lawyer is a felon.
His long time advisor is a felon.
It’s not a campaign, it’s a criminal enterprise. pic.twitter.com/3U2VZNcaiL