Never Trump: The Revolt of the Conservative Elites
By Robert Saldin and Steven Teles
As it became increasingly apparent that Donald Trump might actually become the Republican party’s 2016 presidential nominee, alarmed conservatives coalesced behind a simple, uncompromising slogan: Never Trump. Although the movement initially included a large number of Republican office-holders, its white-hot core was always comprised of the policy experts, public intellectuals, and campaign professionals who play a critical role in the modern political party system. They saw in Trump a repudiation of longstanding conservative doctrine and, in his unprincipled appeals to voters, the kind of demagogue the founders famously warned about. Never Trumpers took their shot at denying Trump the presidency-everything from flailing attempts to coalesce around other Republican candidates and collective letters of opposition, to a desperate third party challenge and even supporting their longtime nemesis Hillary Clinton. But in their attempt to kill the king, they missed. Now on the margins of a party that has enthusiastically united around the president, Never Trumpers have been reduced to the status of a remnant, shut out from government and hoping for a day when their party awakens from its Trumpist spell.
Based on extensive interviews with conservative opponents of the president, Robert P. Saldin and Steven M. Teles reveal why such a wide range of committed partisans chose to break with their longtime comrades in arms. Never Trump provides a window into the motivations of these conservative professionals and a guide to the long-term consequences that their unprecedented revolt holds for the Republican and Democratic parties, conservatism, and American democracy.
“‘Never Trump’ and the New GOP”
John O. McGinnis reviews Never Trump: The Revolt of the Conservative Elites for Law & Liberty
Donald Trump is obviously the most important factor shaping the future of the Republican Party. But the second most important factor, albeit a distant second, is the phenomenon of “Never Trump.” Never have so many members of a party’s intellectual establishment been so thoroughly alienated by a victorious presidential candidate flying their own standard.
In their book, Never Trump: The Revolt of the Conservative Elites, political scientists Robert Saldin and Steven Teles provide a masterful dissection of this diffuse and variegated movement. They analyze five sectors of the Republican establishment—foreign policy experts, political operatives, public intellectuals, lawyers, and economists—to show why many were repulsed by Trump and what they have tried to do to stop him. The authors are not conservatives themselves but are sympathetic to these people on the right—sometimes too sympathetic. They do not fully describe the way Never Trumpers’ own failures of analysis, past and present, have hobbled their movement. But they beautifully capture how each group is unhappy in its own way…
Robert Saldin is a a Professor of Political Science at the University of Montana. He specializes in American political institutions and public policy. Besides Never Trump, Professor Saldin is the author of When Bad Policy Makes Good Politics: Running the Numbers on Health Reform (Oxford University Press, 2017) and War, the American State, and Politics since 1898 (Cambridge University Press, 2011). His scholarly articles have appeared in outlets such as The Journal of Politics, Political Science Quarterly, Journal of Policy History, Political Research Quarterly, and Presidential Studies Quarterly.
Professor Saldin is a JMC faculty partner.
John O. McGinnis is the George C. Dix Professor in Constitutional Law at Northwestern University’s School of Law. Professor McGinnis clerked on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. From 1987 to 1991, he was deputy assistant attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice. His most recent books include Accelerating Democracy: Transforming Government Through Technology (Princeton, 2013) and Originalism and the Good Constitution (Harvard, 2013) (with Mike Rappaport). He also writes frequently for numerous publications, including William and Mary Law Review, Library of Law and Liberty, Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, Time, The Wall Street Journal, and Notre Dame Law Review. He is a past winner of the Paul Bator Award, given by the Federalist Society to an outstanding academic under 40. Professor McGinnis has been listed by the United States on the roster of panelists who may be called upon to decide World Trade Organization Disputes.
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