Last weekend's Principles First Summit of Never-Trumpers who have effectively been banished from the Republican Party was generally a somber—even depressing—affair.
Panels at the downtown D.C. event included the jaunty topics of "Can the GOP survive?" and “Looking to 2024: Hope and Despair — but Mostly Despair,” according to Politico.
But even as their Republican counterparts simultaneously romped at the MAGA-fied Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) across town, these weary conservatives truly could rejoice in one thing: the comically abysmal showing of Donald Trump's hand-picked midterm candidates.
"It’s all loserville over there at CPAC," quipped one-time GOP rising star Barbara Comstock, a former congresswoman who was swept out of her northern Virginia district in the anti-Trump wave of 2018.
To be sure, Comstock's political future has been all but snuffed out by Trumpism, but she's not wrong about the MAGA cohort in Maryland either. Although they were zealously rocking the CPAC event, they've proven to be a bunch of bonafide losers for three consecutive election cycles now. In fact, the 2022 midterms proved that the more precisely defined candidates are by their anti-democratic MAGA credentials, the more likely they are to get crushed at the ballot box.
That electoral reality is something anti-MAGA Republicans are just as thrilled by as Democrats. And it's a reminder that at least at this moment in time, Democrats and many never-Trumpers share common cause even if we disagree on an abundance of policy questions.
So while Trump was disparaging old-guard fiscal conservatives and neocons as "freaks" and "fools," some of those so-called freaks and fools were openly embracing Democrats.
“It turns out that once you let the toothpaste out of the tube, so to speak, demagoguery and bigotry and all that, some people like it. It’s hard to get it back,” remarked longtime conservative, neocon, and never-Trumper Bill Kristol. “You can’t just give them a lecture.”
“We need to defeat the Trump Republicans. And if that means being with the Democrats for a while, that’s fine,” Kristol added. In fact, Kristol went so far as to imagine a Democratic 2024 ticket of Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Rep. Abigail Spanberger of Virginia. “That’s fine with me,” he said.
To be clear, the Principles summit had an unmistakable pity party vibe to it more than an actual strategy session.
“There are members of my family that don’t speak to me. They actually think I’m an enemy of the state,” said former national security official Olivia Troye, who resigned from Vice President Mike Pence’s office in August 2020. “It’s almost like you’re trying to teach critical thinking to someone again.”
Former Rep. Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, a veteran who served on the House select committee investigating Jan. 6, said he had a falling out with his former co-pilot in the U.S. Air Force.
“I had my co-pilot in the war that told me I should have just stayed a pilot because I’m a terrible politician,” Kinzinger said. “And he was ashamed to have fought with me.”
That is just brutal.
Democrats may not like many of these Republicans to varying degrees, but in many ways the meager slice of the conservative electorate they represent is the difference between Georgia being represented by Democratic Sen. Raphael Warnock or MAGA right-winger and serial abuser Herschel Walker, or Arizona being led by Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs or MAGA election denier Kari Lake.
For now, we can all unite around ensuring that CPAC remains loserville.