ALSO PUBLISHED AT AMERICAN THINKER:
The inspired nomination of Judge Neal Gorsuch to the Supreme Court is, among other things, a moment of validation for the reluctant conservative Trump voter above all. It is frankly an embarrassing rebuke to the hard-headed #NeverTrump advocate to be sure, and yet, on the other extreme, this pick has nothing to do with the influence of the early adopting hard-core Trump support either. This, even as some who fit the latter category are embarrassing themselves in the media with childish sore winner triumphalism, not to mention a total lack of logic and history, over how the pick came to be.
A sober study of the events leading to the pick of Judge Gorsuch makes it crystal clear that the Gorsuch pick, and in fact Trump’s entire list of 21, was a reaction to, and a creation of, reluctant conservative supporters. I will connect these dots, but first, it is important to define a few terms — and have a little fun.
The #NeverTrump voter is pretty easy to identify. These were the stubborn members of both the Republican establishment, and yes, some from the Tea Party-limited government-liberty wing, who failed to realize that general elections are indeed practical nonemotional binary civics exercises. No one’s conscience was on the ballot, and it almost never is, given that no single person’s conscience is responsible for the choices available. The choices are the choices. Conscience votes are for primaries.
Also consider Jonah Goldberg’s “crap sandwich” analogy, one where he said he’d just skip lunch, thank you very much. It’s cute and represents a big part of #NeverTrump logic, but it’s flawed. Jonah, you can’t skip lunch, because none of us can. Just like us, you were either going to have a President Hillary or a President Trump, and not voting was never going to exempt you from the problems or benefits of either result. Open mouth, insert sandwich — and it matters not that you refused to order from the menu.
As for the crap sandwich itself, the pick of Gorsuch proves that Trump was not as bad as #NeverTrump imagined. If crap sandwiches give us Gorsuch, I’ll take two, thank you very much. Hillary would not have given us Gorsuch, and crap is too polite a word for what is in her sandwich.
Seriously, #NeverTrump was #NeverSignificant in the first place. It was a small handful of media figures, who vote in deep blue states for the most part, and have negligible impact on moving the needle in the national discussion. Besides, a number of #NeverTrump types came around to voting for him, or at least, against Hillary, in the long run anyway.
On the other side of the gulf are the early adopting hard-core Trump supporters. These are the people who were on the Trump train long before the list of 21 judges emerged, and they demanded nothing of Trump in this regard, or any other. Whatever Trump did or said was their agenda. Many in this universe insisted that anything short of total devotion to Trump was proof of one being an establishment hack, a cuckservative, or a globalist.
These hard-core supporters cheered Trump when he was conservative, but showed an amazing flexibility to instantly convert to the liberal positions on Kelo, the ethanol scam, Code Pink trutherism and universal health care to stay lock stock in sync. A couple prominent talk show hosts (ahem Rush, Sean…..) exhibited an amazing ability to remain oblivious to these developments.
Many in Camp Hard Core simultaneously insisted that Trump “tells it like it is” and “is a man of his word,” and yet, “everything is just a negotiating starting point.” They cheered his deportation squads, and also his decision to send only the bad hombres back, not to mention his nonsensical touchback amnesty ideas. And so forth.
When they weren’t sure what Trump was up to, they insisted he was playing a kind of mystical 4-D chess, while the mere mortals who trod the soil were playing checkers and thus could not fathom his genius at work. Under no circumstances was fallibility even considered. Ever.
In the happy middle of these two camps are the people who were reluctant Trump voters. Perhaps unenthused would be a better term. These were voters who were somewhat lukewarm to Trump — to those who were cold to Trump, but simply were #NeverHillary under any circumstances. Those votes each counted one, just like the dead people and illegals who voted for Hillary, and are far more legitimate, by the way.
As it turned out, Trump dominated two voting blocs; voters who couldn’t stand either candidate (49-29), and those who considered the Supreme Court picks as issue numero uno (56-41). Both of those groups would fit under the reluctant Trump umbrella, and had he not dominated both subsets, Hillary would be president today.
The latter category is key, as most of those who voted for Trump, and listed the court as the most critical issue, were indeed reluctant Trump voters. How do we know? Because the full-on supporters were on the train before any talk of the court even came up. They cheered him when he criticized Antonin Scalia with racially charged left-wing talking points, as well as when he was somewhere between Barack Obama and Justice Roberts on government-run health care. Trump’s list was in no way aimed at his early adopters. They didn’t care. Clearly.
No, this list idea didn’t come about until he had clinched the nomination in fact, during a period when there was much doubt about his ability to unite the party behind him.
Enter Rick Santorum, who at the time was indeed a reluctant supporter. He rebuffed Trump’s first request for an endorsement, and on Trump’s next try, Santorum agreed with one condition: that Trump release a list of potential appointees to which he would stick, and that this list must include Judge Hardiman, a personal friend (and excellent judge). The list was not aimed at Santorum so much as it was the wider universe of resistant conservatives.
Members of the Federalist Society and the Heritage Foundation, two groups well to the right of Trump, worked on the list. When acceptable to Santorum, he endorsed Trump. The list was then used, wisely and widely, as a comforting commitment to reluctant supporters. Charles Krauthammer, no Trump fan, hailed the list on Fox News as having a “dramatic effect” while observing that “the one thing holding back people who have resisted supporting Trump or at least the major thing is the fear of what a Clinton presidency would do to the Supreme Court and how it would change it for a generation. Now you get a list of 11 who are quite sterling.”
He was right on all counts. This list, and the inherent promise, gave us reluctant Trumpers some much needed fodder as we jousted with our #NeverTrump friends. And we did, often.
The roll was then expanded by ten more names, including that of Judge Gorsuch, with input from Steve Bannon and Leonard Leo of the Federalist Society. Bannon clearly knew where Trump’s support was too weak, and was determined to firm it up. Yet again, the list of 21, and the late addition of Gorsuch to that list, was a creation of, and a reaction to, one group of people: conservatives reluctant to support Trump.
This is not to discredit Trump in any way. He agreed to have a list, and to release it, and then he stuck by it. Good for him, and good for America. Such outside the box thinking and follow through is rare in politics, and refreshing. The important lesson, however, is that reticent supporters perform a very valuable function for Trump. They are the much needed guardrails for a president who is admittedly nonideological, and who’s base support refuse to ever criticize him.
Without them, plus the Republicans in Congress they helped elect, there is no chance of ever having a justice named Neal Gorsuch. Now that would be a crap sandwich indeed.
Edmund Wright is a contributor to American Thinker, Breitbart, Newsmax TV and Talk Radio Network. He has written several political books, and worked directly with Steve Bannon at Breitbart