Since November, and arguably well before that, the future of the Anti-Trump coalition has been muddled at best. There are a number of reasons for this malaise that’s gripped the movement.
First and foremost, there is genuine disagreement in the leadership about what to do. Some are committed to fight for the soul of the GOP. Others have decided there is no space for them in the current GOP. Others have opted for strategic independence. Even more are actively committed to working with the Democrats to vote out Trump enablers. There are even those who would like to begin the work of creating a new party altogether. With the movement being pulled into multiple directions, progress is hard to come by.
The second major hurdle is that the Never Trumpers, while a large number, are still a marginal force in the political landscape compared to liberals, progressives, and Trumpists. As such, there is a lot of careful consideration about how to best maximize our limited political capital. Many are confused as to the means to most impact the political landscape and cultural conversation.
There are lots of projects that require immediate attention. Racial tensions, Reconciliation between Trump’s and Biden’s America, business and infrastructure challenges, reinvigoration of foreign policy, climate change policy, political party reform, and more are all tasks that demand immediate action and dominate the national conversation. The Never Trump coalition is divided as to which of these projects can we do the most good in. To that end, there is one major, long term project pivotal to America’s continued survival that I find the conservative sensibilities and status of many Never Trumpers to be uniquely suited for: The rebuilding and maintenance of our corroded institutions.
The unifying impulse at the heart of the Never Trump movement was that Donald Trump presented a singular threat to American institutions and stability. Over the 4 years of the Trump administration, precedent after precedent has been shattered. The heat of the political rhetoric has reached all time highs. Public trust in the Supreme Court, The Media, Congress, Business, the Presidency, and in America’s future and inherent goodness have hit all-time lows. Trust in each other has hit all time lows. Never Trumpers have instinctively understood how precious and precarious these underlying pillars of society are. As Reagan said, Democracy is only ever a generation away from erosion. The Trump era has been a period of such erosion. Therefore, it is the obligation of those with the Never Trump instinct to put our efforts into the task of rebuilding the public trust in institutions. This must be done through maintenance, reform, and service.
Moreover, political conservatism, at it’s heart, is not a set of political policies, but a philosophical standpoint that says there are things handed down to us by our ancestors that are worth preserving for our descendants. For Americans, this includes things like our system of checks and balances, freedom of the press, a prosperous economy, and more. Never Trumpers are overwhelmingly those who are sensitive to discerning that which is worth keeping for posterity, and therefore their energies are best spent doing the work they are uniquely suited for.
This is especially true during times of upheaval, such as now. It’s unquestionably true that we are in the midst of a time of transformation in America. The post-WWII consensus, which has lasted the better part of a century, is showing serious signs of erosion. Democrats and Republicans alike are doing serious soul searching in order to find out their future as political factions, as well as policy prescriptions to solve the issues of the 21st and 22nd centuries. There’s urgency to solve the effects lingering from the fallout of the 20th century as well. In the rush to find the new and innovative, that which should be preserved to help stabilize the nation could be very well lost. The conservative sensibility of Never Trumpers can be a pivotal aid to constructing the future of America.
Millennials and Generation Z in particular are going to be tasked with spending their generation’s entire lives rebuilding the public trust in institutions that has been squandered in the post-Cold War era. Through lives of meaningful service, personal integrity, and principle, Never Trumpers can begin the slow, arduous work of restoring our communities trust in public and private service. It will be quite a while before people trust institutions writ large. As such, we must learn to trust in individuals within these institutions. These must be people who have storied histories of public integrity, or those who through our friendships and shared principles we trust to try and act with character.
What is most powerful about this particular call to action is that it’s one every single Never Trump or Principles Firster can put into practice. We need people plugged into their local communities and caring for their neighbors. We need entrepreneurs and local business owners who have sterling reputations. We need neighbors we trust to lend a hand in times of need. We need leaders in our places of worship we trust to help build up our communities spiritual well being. We need teachers and professors we trust to educate our students to be prepared for the world outside academia. We need engaged citizenry engaging both within and outside the systems of politics. We need those that work and are part of multiple communities to act as bridges between communities. What we should aim for is nothing less than a revival of the American spirit in each and every community, both local and national.
Christian Thrailkill is a graduate of Southern Methodist University, Graduate Student at University of North Texas, musician, and columnist. He lives in Dallas, Texas. Follow him on Twitter @Wolvie616