David Brooks adds a largely overlooked exception to Trump's tweeted claim that his luncheon with Republican senators this week "was a love fest with standing ovations." Writes the NYT columnist: "The Republican senators went to the White House and saw a president so repetitive and rambling, some thought he might be suffering from early Alzheimer’s."
Brooks' conservative counterpart at the Washington Post, Michael Gerson, then adds that "many" of these senators see in Trump — outside of his brain's very possible physical deterioration — a "dangerously unstable, divisive, childish, nasty, deceptive, self-deluded, morally unfit, deeply unconservative [president] and thus badly wrong on some of the largest issues of our time" (as far, that is, as genuine conservatives are concerned). Corroborating Brooks and Gerson is a Hill story: Some "senators were [dismayed] by the meeting, which they complained lacked substance and focus. 'He said the tax cuts are "going to be great," without going into any detail,' said one GOP senator [anonymously]…. 'He just went on and on, talking about his accomplishments and going off on tangents. It was inane,' the lawmaker added."
These are the lawmakers primed to publicly turn on Trump. Should their tax-cut bill fail on Capitol Hill, they simply wouldn't need him any longer. Same with the tax-cut bill's success; once done, their sham of tolerance for the "dangerously unstable," "morally unfit," "inane" Donald Trump will become a superfluous inconvenience, especially given that Trump's popularity in purple states is evaporating. For swing-state senators who for reelection purposes must contemplate more than the pro-Trump rabble, this president will become an unbearable burden.
Several Republican senators — Flake, Corker, McCain, Sasse — who for different reasons no longer worry about reelection, have already publicly blasted either Trump or his overnight, deranged authoritarian ally, Roy Moore. But, observes Gerson, their anti-Trump apostasy has been greeted by some hardcore Never Trumpers with no little derision. In Gerson's opinion, to which I am vastly sympathetic: "The objections of some Trump critics to Republican politicians attempting to join them — they awakened too late, they are risking too little, their words are not direct enough, they are halfhearted hypocrites — are pure lunacy."
This lunacy is — or should be — self-evident not because there isn't some truth to the Never Trumpers' criticisms, but because it is self-defeating. "Any serious, successful political movement welcomes converts," continues Gerson in a profoundly pragmatic vein.
Such counterproductivity extends to some leading Democrats as well. Thomas Edsall, of the NY Times and Columbia's School of Journalism, remarks that "After Flake denounced Trump on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Tom Perez, the chairman of the Democratic National Committee, issued a statement making the point that Flake, like Corker, had waited until he was no longer seeking office to break Republican ranks." Edsall collects reactions to such actions, and here he passes along two of them by notable political observers. "Nolan McCarty, a political scientist at Princeton, tweeted: 'When Dems attack those GOP pols who stand up to Trump, perhaps they are the ones putting party before country,' a comment picked up by Ryan Enos, a political scientist at Harvard, who added, 'Yes, this seems to be a case of tribal loyalties coming out at the worst possible time.'"
In sum, it is lunacy indeed for both Never Trumpers and liberals to belittle the Republican Party's Jeff Flakes because "they awakened too late, they are risking too little," etc. While Never Trumpers seldom disagree with Flake & Friends' political ideology, liberals needn't excuse any of it merely to pause and applaud the Flakean break with Trumpism. Because "any successful political movement" — in this case anti-Trumpism, in which conservative Never Trumpers and liberal Democrats are philosophically united — "welcomes converts."
The movement needs all the friends it can get — and alienating potential allies is unhelpful.