According to a column from longtime political observer Jonathan Chait, conservatives who abandoned the Republican Party as it turned more authoritarian under Donald Trump have no intention of returning just because he lost the 2020 presidential election to now-President Joe Biden.
Trump is currently holed up at Mar-a-Lago considering another presidential run in 2024 while also plotting to put his PAC money behind a slate on candidates who want to carry on his brand of far-right Republicanism, and that has so-called “Never-Trumpers” still working against him long after the election has passed.
According to Chait, it was believed that “the small band of anti-Trump conservative intellectuals and Republican officials would quickly melt away … when given the chance to support Republicans who believed in traditional Reaganite principles and weren’t career criminals, politics would go back to normal, and they would return to the fold.” after the election.
But instead they are now working to reclaim their party from Trump’s continuing influence.
“Why have a group of conservatives who not many years ago were prepared to happily vote for the likes of Ted Cruz come to embrace a cause that few of them displayed any interest in?” Chait proposed. “For political elites, Trump’s unconcealed desire to follow the path of figures like Orban, Erdogan, and Putin became the primary stakes of the era’s political conflict. Their activism put them in touch with scholars of authoritarianism and democracy who studied democratic backsliding, and the insights of those thinkers became increasingly evident in the Never Trumpers’ polemics.”
According to the columnist, these conservative pundits may not have votes in Congress to use to battle back against Trump-allied lawmakers, but they do wield influence with mainstream Republicans — many of whom want Trump to be a distant memory.
“Anti-Trump conservatives have a second motive for embracing democratization. Many of them hope to reclaim and reform the Republican party as a sane vehicle for center-right governing. They won’t have an opportunity to do so until the party realizes Trumpism is a political dead end,” he wrote.
“Their influence is not negligible,” he continued. “The Never Trumpers can supply a high-profile media voice to credibly articulate nonpartisan reasons to bolster the democratic character of the electoral system.”
He then concluded, “Trump was elected because most Republicans refuse to accept the legitimate right of a majority of democratic voters to govern. He launched — or more precisely, escalated — a war against democracy. Everybody can see the stakes. There is no going back to ‘normal’ now.”
You can read the whole piece here.