There is a principled conservative opposition to Donald Trump that has nothing to do with being sore losers or finding Hillary Clinton acceptable.
First, there is no denying that this is a binary race. Not voting for one candidate in the party you would normally support is giving aid to the candidate from the other party. Bernie Sanders’ supporters have coalesced around Hillary Clinton, so why can’t the supporters of Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio and others get behind Trump? Well some have.
That is where #neverhillary comes from. They may not like or trust Trump. He may have been their 18th choice out of the 17 GOP candidates. But they know exactly what the country is getting with scandal-ridden Clinton and so they will vote Trump as the lesser of two poor choices.
But some conservatives simply cannot have their hands on a Trump presidency. This is not an invalid position. Here’s why.
The reasonable argument by Trump supporters and conservatives who will vote for him is that not voting for him — voting for someone else or no one — is essentially a vote for Hillary Clinton. So when #nevertrumpers choose not to vote for him, #protrumpers make the case that they are casting a non-vote in favor of Hillary Clinton. Therefore, they argue, they are in part responsible for a Hillary presidency. That is a compelling case.
However, just as compelling is that by voting for a candidate, there is the sense in which your fingerprints are directly on their presidency. You have more direct responsibility for their actions than does someone you did not vote for. Also compelling.
Think of it this way for the #nevertrumpers. Your choices are Hitler and Stalin. (Neither of these are Hitler or Stalin, so let’s not lose focus.) Stalin is your party, Hitler the other party. You’d never vote for Hitler. But how can you vote for Stalin? How can you have your fingerprints on the deaths of millions. But if you don’t, and Hitler wins, then are you partially culpable for his deeds? This is what #nevertrump conservatives face. They don’t find Clinton acceptable at all. They aren’t sore losers. They just cannot make themselves vote for Trump.
This has resulted in an open civil war in the GOP — one that will not end after the November election. There was the obvious split during the primary, when people supported different candidates. But many Trump supporters figured the party would unite behind him after the nomination.
But it has not, at least nothing like happened in the Democrat Party. #NeverTrumpers include conservatives such as Mark Levin, Bill Kristol, Ben Shapiro and Jonah Goldberg and libertarians such as Glenn Beck, along with several members of Congress and the Senate. They are attacked mercilessly by conservative Trump supporters such as Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich and others for torpedoing Trump’s candidacy and potentially aiding in the election of Clinton. And they may be right; it could be the practical result. But it stems from a principled stance. They don’t find Clinton acceptable. They just cannot be directly responsible for Trump.
This is not a small rift. This could change the GOP in completely unpredictable ways.