During Tubby’s reign, I referred sometimes to a Never Trumper-adjacent group called the Just-the-Tip Trumpers. They were slightly different from Never Trumpers (though in many cases not so’s you’d notice) in that, while (like Never Trumpers) they would tut-tut the President’s boorish behavior, Just-the-Tip Trumpers would nonetheless, through moues of disapproval and sometimes tears, approve of pretty much all of his policies (and, when they conflicted with rightwing orthodoxy — as with his failure to even pretend to give a shit about the deficit — just sigh and suck it up).
And while the Never Trumpers thought Tubby’s influence was wholly malignant and wanted to get back to Conservatism With Good Taste, the Just-the-Tip types, as the name implies, were always willing to let him stick it in just a bit and call it love because they thought that was what Republican voters wanted. (Rod Dreher was the ne plus ultra of this tendency, though since Tubby lost Dreher acts as if he never knew the guy, preferring the embrace of Viktor Orbán.)
Well, we’ve just seen the depths to which conservatives will descend to keep Trump as a talisman lest they lose the goons, fascists, and Klansmen who are now vital to their movement. No more Conservatism With Good Taste — the belt is loosened, the bib is off, and the gravy boat hoisted like a flagon to chase the last crumbs of their dignity.
Republicans state governments have rigged their voting systems specifically to make sure Trump voters count double — because they’ve simply given up on winning new voters, as any appeal to those constituencies via sound policy or less racism would make Tubby and his minions mad. And they’ve just knocked down one of their own House leaders — a Cheney, yet! — because she wouldn’t get with the program.
But you won’t catch them crying, like the true believers, that Trump is the only legitimate president and all efforts must be devoted to a Restoration. Why, many of them were very dismayed by the unpleasantness on January 6! So, they’re only taking the tip.
Today there are only a few Republican Never Trumpers left — a tattered remnant of them denounced the Cheney defenestration — and they are far outnumbered within the Republican party and the conservative movement by people who were either all-in all along or Just-the-Tip Trumpers. In fact, the Just-the-Tip types seem actually to have grown in strength of representation since Tubby screwed the Presidency pooch.
It makes sense: Since the election, wouldn’t you be embarrassed to stan the guy? But alas, they have no choice. It seems the fashionable thing among conservatives found in the big newspapers or on morning shows is to admit yes, Trump did some Very Bad Things, but now that we have the Trump formula, we can do Trump without Trump, so to speak, or at least without much of him — maybe an inch or two, tops. People are sure to go for that!
There’s National Review’s Dan McLaughlin, aka Baseball Crank, explaining in an embarrassing Twitter thread that “the party absolutely needs people who think like Liz Cheney” — they should just be put someplace far out of the way where people can’t see them:
Similarly, at the Washington Examiner, Byron York tells us “The GOP is bigger than Trump” — because they have anti-Democratic talking points, for one thing, that have nothing to do with Trump, and they start with “Border crisis, gas lines” — which you have to admit sounds nothing like Donald Trump! And York brings good news from the pollsters:
During Trump’s presidency, majorities of Republicans and those who leaned Republican said they considered themselves more a supporter of Trump than of the GOP. For example, in September of 2020, 53 percent said they were a Trump supporter, versus 37 percent who said they were a GOP supporter. In June 2019, 52 percent said they were Trump supporters, versus 38 percent for the GOP.
Now that has changed. In a poll taken in late April, 50 percent said they were more a supporter of the GOP, while 44 percent said they were more a supporter of Trump. The balance between the former president and the party has changed.
Wow — half of Republicans say they’re primarily Republicans! That’s a whole six points more than the percentage of Tubby dead-enders who will only enter a GOP caucus or committee meeting to eat the brains of anyone who’s not wearing a red hat. Looks like those back walls are safe for the time being.
But the apex Just-The-Tip Trumper so far is Peggy Noonan. She’s been very, very harsh in the past on Tubby’s manners — so crude! Not like when Peggy was a girl! — and she even indicated, when she defended Cheney last week, that the January 6 insurrection was worse than bad manners: it was “an attempted assault on the constitutional order.”
But this week Noonan says it’s time to put that behind us and admit the GOP has a lasting touch of the Trump brush and it’s not such a bad thing.
“The future GOP, and the current one for that matter, is a party of conservatism with important Trumpian inflections,” Noonan intones. Sure, he tried to murder Congress to keep himself in power, but it’s not like he doesn’t still have something to offer!
In terms of policy the future GOP will be more Trumpian, meaning more populist and nationalist. High spending will continue (and will not much be acknowledged!) but it will be high spending with a more conservative bent—more for cops, for instance. The party will be preoccupied neither by the capital-gains tax nor by what’s good for corporations. It won’t cut entitlements.
That stuff we were saying about small government, keeping down the deficit, and the business of America being business? Yeah, like Boston not being a big college town, that wasn’t a big part of conservatism. But did you see the bit about cops? Huh? Down with the out-of-control FBI, up with the nightstick boys who beat up the hippies. That’s post-Trump conservatism, baby. Speaking of which:
Conservative social thinking—against what used to be called political correctness, against being pushed around by faculty-lounge Robespierres—will continue. It will be antiradical on race. Republicans are and will be with Sen. Tim Scott: America is not a racist country, but can always benefit from remembering that racism is a sin and a vice of the ignorant. The argument against wokeness is powerful: We are our souls and our character; we are not only our color and our country of origin.
Democrats, as always, will be The Real Racists™. Some traditions are too important to dispense with.
Like York, Noonan points to polls and tells us Tubby himself is on the wane, leaving only what was important about his (admittedly obstreperous and, okay, a little treasonous) movement: namely, the votes! If we can just have the tip of Trump, Trump without the “wildness, garish personalities and conspiracy-mindedness,” all will be well… and if we can’t — if Ron DeSantis isn’t thuggish enough, despite his best efforts, to attract the mouth-breathers, and Ted Cruz’s dignity-always-dignity shtick gets laughed off the stage — well, then, conservatives are just going to have to loosen up a little and let in a little more Trump. It’s got to be less humiliating than an honest job!