I had not seen the term anti-anti-Trumpism until early April 2017.

I saw it when McKay Coppins tweeted a link to an article at The Week by Damon Linker, The cowardly spectacle of the anti-anti-Trump movement.

The article makes ad hominem attacks on Sean Davis and Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist for supposedly being among the worst anti-anti-Trump offenders.

What is the offense according to Linker? Attacking people who attack Trump:

There is a rising anti-anti-Trumpism on the right. And it is a sad and cowardly spectacle to behold….

One of the strangest developments in this very strange moment in American politics is the rebirth of politics by negation, this time on the right — in the form of anti-anti-Trumpism, which effectively argues that the president’s liberal opponents are somehow worse than this phenomenally bad president….

Today a few prominent #NeverTrumpers remain, many others have moved over into the explicitly pro-Trump camp, and anti-anti-Trumpism has become a safe position from which to avoid having to take any kind of stand at all. Or rather, it allows the right to indulge its hatred of liberals and liberalism while side-stepping the need for a reckoning with the disaster of the Trump administration itself….

Achieving a sense of proportion requires analysts and commentators to let go of their knee-jerk hostility to Democrats and place the good of the country ahead of other considerations. It requires that they choose between forthrightly supporting and opposing Trump. And that they refuse the cowardly evasion of being anti-anti-Trump.

I was going to write about it in early April, but ended up trashing the post. The anti-anti-Trump argument seemed so passive aggressive: Linker starts from the premise that almost everything about Trump requires opposition, and that anyone who does not agree with him is dishonest.

What prompted me to write this post, which required retrieving the prior draft from the website “trash” bin, was that Charlie Sykes wrote a similar op-ed for the NY Times. Charlie is someone I do know, at least online, and I enjoyed his radio show (which he left recently); he has made a tremendous contribution to the conservative movement. Charlie was one of the reasons Ted Cruz won the Wisconsin primary.

Here is an excerpt from Charlie’s op-ed, If Liberals Hate Him, Then Trump Must Be Doing Something Right:

If there was one principle that used to unite conservatives, it was respect for the rule of law. Not long ago, conservatives would have been horrified at wholesale violations of the norms and traditions of our political system, and would have been appalled by a president who showed overt contempt for the separation of powers….

But perhaps most important, we saw once again how conservatism, with its belief in ordered liberty, is being eclipsed by something different: Loathing those who loathe the president. Rabid anti-anti-Trumpism….

Here is how it works: Rather than defend President Trump’s specific actions, his conservative champions change the subject to (1) the biased “fake news” media, (2) over-the-top liberals, (3) hypocrites on the left, (4) anyone else victimizing Mr. Trump or his supporters and (5) whataboutism, as in “What about Obama?” “What about Clinton?”

For the anti-anti-Trump pundit, whatever the allegation against Mr. Trump, whatever his blunders or foibles, the other side is always worse.

But the real heart of anti-anti-Trumpism is the delight in the frustration and anger of his opponents. Mr. Trump’s base is unlikely to hold him either to promises or tangible achievements, because conservative politics is now less about ideas or accomplishments than it is about making the right enemies cry out in anguish.

Charlie’s argument suffers from the same problem as the original “anti-anti-Trump” attack in many ways.

Most important, it takes place in a vacuum, ignoring that the Democratic Party, entire mainstream and liberal media, and significant parts of the @NeverTrump Republican Party have devoted themselves full time to bringing down the Trump administration. Even if that meant interfering with the Electoral College vote and justifying the corruption of the federal bureaucracy through illegal leaks.

The anti-Trump movement, as presently constituted, is deserving of an “anti-” movement.

To argue that anti-anti-Trumpers presume “the other side is always worse” seems like an inversion of reality; it is the anti-Trumpers who treat anything and anyone supporting Trump or any of his policies as always worse. Defending oneself against this onslaught is not the same as the onslaught itself.

For me, the attempt by anti-Trumpers to intimidate Electors into switching their votes so as to undermine the election was a turning point, the point at which I realized the #TheResistance was a danger to the rule of law and “norms and traditions of our political system.” One leading conservative luminary even suggested that the country would be better off run by the unelected deep state rather than by the duly-elected Trump state, a position implicitly argued by many #NeverTrump Republicans.

In such an environment, being anti-anti-Trump is a principled conservative position.

I supported Ted Cruz, as did Charlie, but Cruz didn’t win even the Republican nomination. As I have argued in my “you go to war with the President you have” posts, Trump is not a conservative, but he is willing to do some conservative things. The anti-Trump movement, by contrast, seeks to drive conservatives out of the public square.

Much of the relentless opposition to Trump from #NeverTrump Republicans is not principled in conservatism, because if it were they’d have to present a viable more conservative current alternative.

Instead, it’s resume building for the possibility that #TheResistance may actually succeed in taking Trump down, likely with substantial help from Trump’s own foibles. It’s also an insufferable desire for a disastrous Trump presidency, so they can say “I told you so.” I want no part of that.

The choice now is between Trump and the conspiracy theorists, Antifa street thugs, campus anti-free speech police, Soros-funded front groups, deceptive anti-Trump media, Democrat obstructionists, and illegal leakers in the permanent bureaucracy who consider themselves above the electoral process.

You don’t need to be pro-Trump to be against those who collectively are a greater threat to our liberty than Trump.

Being anti-anti-Trump is no vice, at least not now.

[Featured Image: Berkeley campus anti-free speech riot, via Twitter]


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