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Why Are These People Calling Me a Whore?

The Never Trump divide over the biggest question in our politics.
June 2, 2021
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It’s not every day you get called an arrogant whore on the internet. Well, actually, strike that, I get called a whore on the internet quite a lot. But it’s not every day that it is part of an invective-filled rant, and the ranter is not just some rando with an anime avatar but a prominent ostensible ally in the cause of Never Trumpism.

And yet . . . that’s what happened last Friday, when Cliff Asness, a Never Trumper and longtime funder of center-right Republican campaigns and think tanks, went on an extended Twitter screed about us deranged Bulwarkers, stemming from his view that our support for a commission that would investigate the January 6 insurrection is an unacceptable sop to our new Democratic allies. (Everyone has to draw a line somewhere, I guess.)

You can look up Asness’s many tweets on the topic for yourself, if you want, but the gist is that while Bulwark types “are right about Trump,” we are “insane and gross” and “slimy.” We are “grifters” and “whores and liars.” And why? Because we abandoned our “lifetime principles” and “stated beliefs”—and we are supposedly “new progressives” since “that is where [our] bread is buttered.” (FWIW, I explained my political evolution at great length here for anyone interested to read it.)

I hate to elevate this silly little bit of pre-holiday-weekend shit-stirring, but the outburst was reflective of a broader trend I’m noticing among the Never Trump diaspora, and of other fissures in our nation’s politics today, so I thought it worth saying a bit about it at a greater length than Twitter affords.

While an outsider might assume that the natural foes of the Bulwark are the MAGA populists and possibly the Bernie wing of the Democratic party, the further we get away from the 2020 campaign, the clearer it is that some of the most passionate battles are taking place much closer to home. When you think about it, this makes sense. With Trump exiled to Liberace Lagoon in South Florida, much of the heat is lost from our old confrontations. There are only so many times that a moron in a MAGA hat can hurl impotent insults at you before everyone gets bored.

It’s the family breakups that are the most bitter. Just ask Adam Driver and ScarJo. Well, it turns out that’s true of our little Never Trump family, too. It was always a tenuous alliance. We were united not by unanimity on an issue or a view of government per se, but more in revulsion to one ignoramus obviously unfit for the presidency.

We Never Trumpers always had differing views on some of the particulars. We could argue about how much of the regulatory state to dismantle or which gun reforms encroached too much on liberty. But we were singing the same tune, if not always in perfect harmony. We shared what we thought were some foundational views—certain values that we consider fundamentally American: pluralism, freedom of speech and religion, free markets and free people. That whole deal.

So over the past six months it has been jarring to discover that for all the things we agree on, it turns out that we have a deep disagreement on a few matters that some people consider cardinal.

Speaking only for myself (although I believe this is true of most of my Bulwark colleagues and many of the “red dogs” out there in America): I look at the current state of politics and have assessed that the biggest threat to the country by far is the racist, nationalist Trumpers who just tried to steal an election and are prepping the ground for an encore. Trump and his potentially more competent imitators imperil our entire democratic experiment. And the first, second, and third priorities for ensuring our kids and grandkids enjoy the blessings of a small-l liberal America is relegating those who are complicit in this anti-democratic scheme to the museum of historical failsons alongside George Wallace, Charles Lindbergh, and Jefferson Davis.

If you have that perspective and you see people whom you thought were your allies enabling and making excuses for these fascistic shitbirds, it really pisses you off. You will forgive me if I get kind of hot when I hear people talk about voting for Edmund Burke and Ronny Reagan’s ghost when the actual choices on the table were a replacement-level capitalist Democrat and an inveterate liar with authoritarian aspirations who threatens everything you hold dear.

It beggars belief that someone who agrees with my general assessment of Trump could then look at the choice between him and Biden and throw up their hands and call it a wash. There’s plenty to criticize about the Biden administration, and I won’t be shy about it, but the idea that it isn’t preferable by a gazillion miles to having the country run by the people still flirting with a MAGA coup, well, I find that to be completely bonkers.

So all that rattles around the old brain for a while. You get more and more upset about your former compatriots equivocating. You see them send a tweet or two mocking the people who think like you. And you wonder: What is wrong with these fuckers? Are they running a grift? Are they on the take? After all this, could they be secret fascists, too? And sometimes you lash out. Twitter isn’t great for restraint, you may have heard.


Then on the other side you have the view of people like Asness. I think his perspective is shared by some of our friends over at the Dispatch and the assorted Never Trumpers scattered around other more MAGA-friendly conservative media outlets. My sense from conversations with these folks is that, as much as they detest Trump, they see him as impotent and beatable within the old GOP infrastructure, and the Democratic alternatives as unacceptable. They look at our politics and see a very different threat—AOC, the “woke” discourse, and the leftward drift of the Democratic party. They consider Biden’s big spending proposals, the San Francisco school board’s craziness, and the All-Star Game being moved as evidence that it’s the socialists and the “cultural Marxists” who imperil America.

If that’s your point of view, then you look at people whom you consider to be enabling and making excuses for socialistic shitbirds, and that pisses you off. It rattles around the old brain for a while. You get more and more upset about it. You see the Bulwarkers send a tweet or two criticizing Rob Portman or Tim Scott or defending Democrats you think are terrible and begin to wonder: What is wrong with those fuckers? They have sold out all their principles! They must be running a grift for that sweet, sweet Substack cash!

And so one day, after a few pops, you find someone (me in this case) who is guilty of siding with the Democrats on a commission to investigate a coup attempt, you consider that a betrayal, and you fire up your best Sean Connery on Celebrity Jeopardy impersonation, shouting, “Whore! Whore!” After all, the idea that someone who shared your general conservative disposition could abide the “other side” only makes sense if they are on the take.

Now to be honest, I find the perspective of these folks pretty crazy. If someone were to put a gun to my head and order me to choose between turning America into Sweden or Hungary, I’d say Sweden before the gun was even out of the holster. But that’s kind of a false choice anyway, given that Biden resoundly defeated his socialist challenger just last year. As for woke-ism, while there are certainly some concerning elements to the Robin DiAngelo-fication of American life, on balance I consider the most recent racial awakening a net societal plus. As to the idea that the GOP is salvageable, well. . .

But of course I would think those things! That’s the point. Despite sitting in the same section of the chorus, some of us are ending up on opposite sides of the imaginary lines that are likely to define our politics for the foreseeable future.

Negative partisanship comes for all. Even those of us in the mushy middle, the politically homeless, the remnant. Of course this is a bit reductive. There will be exceptions that prove the rule and those who straddle the line (our tribe over-indexes on squishiness), or vacillate based on events or steadfastly resolve that “all threats are bad, this is not a binary choice!” But in general, a person’s answer to the question “Does Trumpism or socialism/woke-ism threaten our republic more?” will give you the answer as to which side of the family feud they fall, at least for the time being.

As in any family feud, as the divide widens, there will surely be some hurt feelings. But my hope is that this conversation will help us better understand what the good-faith disagreement between us is about, rather than always jumping to assume the worst or impugn the motivations of our former compatriots. After all, as the challenges that face the country change, and the lines get redrawn, hopefully we’ll be able to reunite with our fellow choristers and sing together again.

Tim Miller

Tim Miller is The Bulwark’s writer-at-large. He was previously political director for Republican Voters Against Trump, communications director for Jeb Bush 2016, and spokesman for the Republican National Committee.