Trump’s Doing Nothing to Win Over Anti-Trump GOP Voters

Estimated read time 6 min read

There are perfectly rational reasons why someone who supported the GOP prior to Donald Trump’s rise would consider voting for Joe Biden as the lesser of two evils. And more and more old-school Republicans, it seems, are starting to figure this out.

In fact, The New York Times’ David French has explicitly made this case. As French notes, Biden’s support for Ukraine against Russia is more consistent with a Reaganite foreign policy. And if you’re a fiscal conservative, both Biden and Trump have spent like drunken sailors (with Trump being the bigger spender).

Trump’s character deficiencies are another obvious problem for social conservatives who, after all, railed against Bill Clinton. On the other hand, the issue of abortion is a litmus test preventing many Republicans from voting for Biden.

But, as French notes, abortion rates decreased during Obama’s presidency, and the overturning of Roe v. Wade has (for now, at least) created a backlash against pro-life policies. For those who believe instilling a culture of life is more important than passing anti-abortion laws, this issue becomes more complex than it once appeared.

French also taps into something that the liberal political analyst Bill Scher noted recently: Despite his warnings about “American carnage,” the riots and civil unrest of 2020 happened on Trump’s watch. Putting it all together, French concludes that in 2024, “…it’s the Democrat who can say that he’s tougher on Russia and better on crime, and overseeing an economy that’s the envy of the world.”

To be sure, overt support for Biden is still a very small minority position within the GOP. But if recent history is an indicator, it will only take a sliver of the electorate in a few key states to swing this election. (This is true on both sides of the aisle; that’s also why Biden should be worried about Arab American voters in Michigan and the threat posed by third party candidates Cornel West, Jill Stein, and Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.)

“What has Trump done lately to pacify Reaganite concerns? Nothing at all. In fact, he has gone out of his way to alienate old school Republicans.”

In the past, Never Trumpers were, by definition, against Trump. Many would just stay home on election day or to write-in “Ronald Reagan.” Realizing that depriving Trump of their votes was a more realistic goal than getting them to vote for a (gasp!) Democrat, anti-Trump groups were founded to persuade Republicans to do just that. This helped Biden in 2020, but not as much as an affirmative vote would help in 2024.

This time around, whether they come to this decision on their own, or with some prodding, more Never Trump Republicans will be tempted to pull the lever for Biden.

Indeed, a super PAC urging non-Republicans to back Nikki Haley in the primaries has now pivoted to calling itself: “Haley Voter for Biden.”

The question for groups like this is whether they will actually do much voter contact.

I reached out to my friend Emily Matthews, a senior adviser for “Haley Voters for Biden,” who cited hundreds of thousands of Americans who voted for Haley in the primaries. “Through targeted outreach in key states,” she said, “‘Haley Voters for Biden’ encourages these voters to continue defending democracy by voting for Joe Biden in the general election.”

Again, because our presidential elections tend to be so close these days (and because Haley garnered 40 percent of the GOP primary vote in some states), efforts like this could matter. So why is this happening now?

For one thing, Republican voters who dipped their toes into apostasy four years ago have been emboldened. The world didn’t end. They are now inured to the feeling of being an outsider or a traitor to their old party.

They have also seen their former party decide to double down on Trumpism, passing on the chance to nominate Ron DeSantis or Nikki Haley. It’s also true that Trump hasn’t extended much of an olive branch to Never Trump Republicans.

This wasn’t always the case. Back in 2016, Trump chose a mild-mannered evangelical running mate, hired “adult” staffers meant to assuage concerns about his temperament and commitment to conservatism, and relied on a list of possible Supreme Court Justice nominees approved by The Federalist Society.

What has Trump done lately to pacify Reaganite concerns? Nothing at all. In fact, he has gone out of his way to alienate old-school Republicans.

Trump said on Truth Social that anyone who made a “contribution” to Haley would be “permanently barred from the MAGA camp.” Biden, conversely, has said “there’s a place” for Haley fans in his camp, and his team has been reaching out to her donors.

It’s also true that we know even more about Trump than we did in the past. This is four-time indicted Trump. This is twice-impeached Trump. This is found-liable-for-sexual-assault Trump. And, probably most importantly, this is Jan. 6 Trump.

It’s difficult to remember, but prior to Jan. 6, Liz Cheney was a Republican in good standing who voted for Trump and voted against his first impeachment. Today, Cheney is one of the most outspoken advocates for stopping a second Trump term, although she is not yet on the Biden bus.

During an interview with ABC News’ This Week on Sunday, Cheney said that “There’s a lot that has to be done to begin to rebuild the Republican Party, potentially to build a new conservative party,” but “that has to wait until after the 2024 election because our focus has got to be on defeating Donald Trump.”

Cheney suggests, but does not say, that Never Trumpers might want to vote Biden in 2024, before turning their efforts toward creating a new conservative party. Of course, it’s at least possible that starting a new party won’t be necessary.

It is, after all, reasonable to conclude that the only way to save the GOP is for Trumpism to be completely vanquished.

And the best way to do that is for Trump to lose. Again.