Throughout the presidential campaign, a group of conservatives refused to support Donald Trump. These Never Trumpers refused to lower their standards or compromise their principles for Trump’s cult of personality. The Never Trumpers ultimately failed; Trump was elected, and most of them hoped that they would be wrong about Trump’s presidency. And now, in the New York Times, David Brooks has weighed in on the decline of what he calls “anti-Trumpism”.
Brooks starts out by pointing out that people who meet Trump are often pleasantly surprised; rather than being a crazed madman, as his Twitter feed typically indicates, he is “affable” and seems to be well-informed on the issues. Brooks also admitted that the people working from Trump have varying opinions on him; some say that he behaves like a “deranged child”, others say that he is a “distraction”, and still others think that he is “strange”. He also said that his opinion is that the Trump administration is not a happy place to work. Still, he said, “this is not an administration full of people itching to invoke the 25th Amendment.”
Nevertheless, it’s not all doom and gloom from Brooks. According to Brooks, the Trump White House is becoming more professional. “Imagine if Trump didn’t tweet. The craziness of the past weeks would be out of the way, and we’d see a White House that is briskly pursuing its goals,” Brooks wrote. “[T]he shift in our Pakistan policy, the shift in our offshore drilling policy, the fruition of our ISIS policy, the nomination for judgeships and the formation of policies on infrastructure, DACA, North Korea and trade.”
“It’s almost as if there are two White Houses,” he continued. “There’s the Potemkin White House, which we tend to focus on: Trump berserk in front of the TV, the lawyers working the Russian investigation and the press operation. Then there is the Invisible White House that you never hear about, which is getting more effective at managing around the distracted boss.
I sometimes wonder if the Invisible White House has learned to use the Potemkin White House to deke us while it changes the country.”
Brooks admitted that he is a Never Trumper, but lamented that the movement seems to be “getting dumber”. “It seems to be settling into a smug, fairy tale version of reality that filters out discordant information,” he said. “More anti-Trumpers seem to be telling themselves a ‘Madness of King George’ narrative: Trump is a semiliterate madman surrounded by sycophants who are morally, intellectually and psychologically inferior to people like us. I’d like to think it’s possible to be fervently anti-Trump while also not reducing everything to a fairy tale.”
And while Brooks accuses some in the media of being lowbrow, like Sean Hannity, he also said that Never Trumpers have their own examples of that, like Michael Wolff — and that diminishes the credibility of the movement. “This isn’t just a struggle over a president,” he said. “It’s a struggle over what rules we’re going to play by after Trump. Are we all going to descend permanently into the Trump standard of acceptable behavior?”
He concluded by urging Never Trumpers to hold themselves to a higher standard.
“There’s a hierarchy of excellence in every sphere,” Brooks wrote. “There’s a huge difference between William F. Buckley and Sean Hannity, between the reporters at this newspaper and a rumor-spreader. Part of this struggle is to maintain those distinctions, not to contribute to their evisceration.”