Anti-Trump Republicans Will Not Go Gently Into That Good Night
Throughout the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump faced massive divisions within his own party. A significant portion of Republican elected officials, right-leaning commentators, and other GOP figures openly opposed his candidacy, with some prominent conservatives even endorsing Hillary Clinton. But of course, Trump won, and that brought with it some rallying among his party. Even some of the staunchest Republicans who had opposed him, like Jeb Bush and Mitt Romney, have appeared to come around. In fact, Romney has since met with Trump and is reportedly under serious consideration for a job as Secretary of State.
But as the reality of Trump's presidential administration is becoming clearer, it is also becoming clear that whatever honeymoon he briefly experienced may already be reverting to the state of the campaign. While most of the Republican leadership has rallied around Trump and made plans to enact an agenda along with him, there are already signs of cracks within that "unified Republican government."
Many of the prominent conservative commentators that rejected Trump before his election have continued to do so since he has been elected. Perhaps the most high-profile denouncer has been Glenn Beck, who was a prominent critic of the Obama administration but has since walked back much of his opposition and spoken out repeatedly against Trump, especially on his alleged connections to white nationalism and the alt-right.
Beck is not the only one to try to build dividers between pre-Trump and post-Trump conservatism. Evan McMullin, a former Republican Capitol Hill staffer who ran for president as an independent to give a conservative alternative to Trump, has continued the same opposition he held during the campaign, speaking out against the rise of white supremacists who are trying to align themselves with the president-elect.
But the issue that is starting to cause the most outspoken rejection is Trump's seeming lack of compunction about potential corruption and conflict of interest, especially in the wake of his campaign message of "draining the swamp" in Washington and getting rid of special interests. The often right-leaning editorial board of the New York Post published an editorial calling on Trump to find a better system for avoiding conflicts of interest due to his businesses, ending with, "if the election had gone the other way, we’d right now be furiously denouncing the idea of letting Chelsea run the Clinton Foundation." They are not the only prominent conservative-leaning commentators taking issue with how business and government interests are melding in Trump's administration.
Wall Street Journalist columnist and former Ronald Reagan staffer writer Peggy Noonan has continued her criticism of Trump:
Justin Amash, a Republican House member from Michigan who had opposed Trump during the election, also denounced Trump's handling of his business interests now that he's president-elect.
It's still unclear whether these kinds of rebukes will become anything more substantive than mere tweets, but it's a sign that the "give Trump a chance" moment may be losing steam.