After the Virginia special election, conservative pundits began blaming Never Trump Republicans, those of us who who refused to support candidate Donald Trump or serve in his administration, for the chaotic, erratic, and contradictory policies it has produced. They accuse those of us who broke with Trump of throwing in our lot with the Democratic party, as Senator Jeff Flake is doing in the Alabama senate race between the disgraced Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones. As a recent ad from Jones featuring testimonials of Republicans endorsing him illustrates, Democratic candidates see the prospect of gaining Republican support. Expect that pitch to gain traction as the 2018 midterm elections approach.
The president’s supporters are also sure to blame Never Trump conservatives for any losses—and they will be right in doing so. There’s an ongoing battle for the soul of the Republican party. But the idea that those of us who wouldn’t support Donald Trump are to blame for his failures as president is pernicious, and shifts blame from those making government decisions to those who are not.
Some assessments of Trump’s governing difficulties make it seem as though, because establishment Republicans blanched at joining his team, he had no choice but to rely on family members and second-rate staff to staff his administration. But his prior behavior suggests he would have brought them to Washington anyway. Trump has always shown a proclivity for putting family members in executive positions, and has never seemed concerned with hiring first-rate people. Many of his appointees would not hold positions even remotely comparable, were they forced to compete against the market’s clearing rate of talent. What we are seeing in the White House is a continuation of his business-management style.