I have an idea. Let’s approach each other and our points of view with good faith. We say the following with respect and seriousness Ma’am. Our hand is open and we need to work together or we are going to lose America. The fight will last for many years.
— Steve Schmidt (@SteveSchmidtSES) December 12, 2020
But others in the rogue NeverTrump operation, despite seeing the likely success of their top priority—ousting the sitting GOP leader—now face a grim and uncertain future in which they are reviled by both Right and Left.
“Is there a market for an anti-Trump Republican Party now?” one prominent member told Politico. “I would say no.”
The Lincoln Project has, itself, been notably denounced as “grifters” for accepting donations from wealthy left-wingers to run what seemed to be a counter-productive online video campaign against President Donald Trump.
Critics noted that in many battleground areas where the group targeted its pre-election messaging to woo conflicted GOP party members, Trump tended to receive stronger support as a result.
Several key figures now appear to be splintering from the group—and distancing themselves from Republicans in general.
Jennifer Horn, a charter Lincoln Project member and former chairwoman of the New Hampshire Republican Party, said in a USA Today op-ed that she, too, was bailing on the GOP.
“I have found myself fighting for what I thought were the principles of my party in the face of the ever-deteriorating character and integrity of party representatives,” she complained.
“They have revealed their impotence and decrepitude as they have fallen, one by one, at the feet of the most corrupt, destructive and unstable president in the history of our country,” she continued. “It seems there is no assault on human dignity too great, no attack on democracy too extreme, to inspire the Republican weaklings in Congress to speak up or stand up to President Donald Trump.”
Trump will likely remain the GOP’s defacto party leader for the next four years, regardless of whether he stays in office or decides to run for president again in 2024.
Polling shows many GOP conservatives are strongly behind him, and are open to the idea of a rematch against Democrat Joe Biden or his running mate, Kamala Harris.
Nonetheless, the Lincoln Party and other cottage industries built on a disdain for Trump fear the dissipation of their message with the boogeyman who drove their sense of purpose likely stepping out of the seat of power, if not the spotlight altogether.
“Can we recruit never-Trumpers to run? Can we find moderate candidates to run, is that the best thing to do? Is the best thing to do to be more helpful to Biden? I don’t think there’s any clear answers right now,” said Tim Miller, a former spokesperson for Jeb Bush.
Miller announced on Nov. 22 that he was “transitioning” away from the Republican Party.
Some Trump-hating ex-GOP members are hoping to throw themselves into the effort to court their new Democrat overlords.
“We can be a reminder that it’s a dangerous path to start moving too far left,” Mickey Edwards, a former GOP congressman and co-founder of the Heritage Foundation, told Politico.
“I have friends already who are going to be in good positions in the administration, and that’s just a phone call,” he continued. “We’ll have a pipeline into the administration.”
Bill Kristol, one of the NeverTrump effort’s top figureheads, agreed.
“Never-Trump Republicans are a small but potentially important part of the overall Biden governing coalition,” he said.
The former Washington insider expressed optimism of nudging a Biden administration back toward center and seeking opportunities for bipartisan coalition-building.
“It could be ads. It could be private meetings. It could be talking to business leaders or to … members of Congress,” he told Politico. “Never-Trumpers can help the Biden administration govern successfully.”
Others see work left to be done in the trenches from “within” the party that they claim to want to salvage in a post-Trump era.
“We want to be there to help provide air support for Republicans who are trying to find a way to work together on sensible things,” said Sarah Longwell, founder of the NeverTrump group Rule of Law.
Yet, more than a dozen Lincoln Project leaders told Politico that they wish to continue its mission by targeting Trump disciples who remain in power.
“At this point, we’re as much never-Republican as we are anything else,” co-founder Reed Galen told Politico.
Galen said that the legislators and attorneys general who backed Trump’s legal efforts to challenge the projected election outcome have now made themselves targets for the venom of Trump’s enemies.
They’re “not going to get a free pass,” he told Politico. “They don’t get to run themselves through the car wash on Jan. 21 and say, ‘Just kidding, we didn’t mean it.’”
Among the ongoing efforts, some are working with activists like Stacey Abrams in Georgia to defeat the two incumbent Republicans facing a January runoff and hand majority control of the Senate to Democrats.
In a sense, they fancy themselves as wielding something of the disruptive, king-making force that AOC’s Justice Democrats used to drive the Left farther to the progressive fringes.
Failed former third-party candidate Evan McMullin floated the idea of splintering off into a (presumably more centrist) third party in a New York Times op-ed recently.
He name-checked some of Trump’s biggest congressional allies as being vulnerable to primary challenges, including Reps. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas; Andy Biggs, R-Ariz.; Jim Jordan, R-Ohio; Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.; and Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wisc.
But that formula—trying to run squishy, dubiously Republican candidates against conservative incumbents—has a long-shot of success in the party currently driven by outrage over the dishonesty and corruption that transpired in the recent Nov. 3 election.
Among traditional conservatives, there may be little appetite for compromise and reconciliation—not to mention a lack of support for strong, centralized government bureaucracy and pro-corporate institutions that have failed, if not betrayed, Republican principles.
“I don’t see a place for me to get elected to anything in the next four years because Trump and Trumpism is going to dominate,” said former Rep. Joe Walsh, who abandoned his bid to challenge Trump in the GOP primaries earlier this year. “I’m going to probably be in the political wilderness for the rest of my life.”