One of the more annoying side effects of Donald Trump’s rise to the top of the Republican party’s power structure has been watching the conservative politicians and operatives who count themselves among the #NeverTrump brigade scrambling to make sure that the man’s stench doesn’t rub off on them. The party they built and the base they cultivated selecting a white supremacist leader has nothing to do with them, they’re eager to assure anyone who will listen. For some reason, The Ringer is now assisting one such schmuck in this endeavor.
Yesterday, Bill Simmons’s sports/pop culture/tech/politics site ran a piece under the headline “The Conservative Case Against Trump.” It was written by Tim Miller, a former communications director for Jeb Bush and a co-founder of the America Rising PAC. The piece itself is bland and forgettable; what’s remarkable is the fact that The Ringer even decided to run it in the first place.
(This being so, the article does have some rich lines. “Conservative Hillary haters: Donald Trump is not your friend,” Miller writes. “He is a lifelong New York liberal whose few policy proposals have had more in common with European nationalist parties than anything Ronald Reagan would support.” Can someone remind this dude about Reagan conjuring the image of a “strapping young buck” using food stamps to take T-bone steaks out of the mouths of hardworking white Americans? The only real difference between Trump and Republicans from the Reagan mold is that he’s learned how to get mileage out of making classic dog-whistle language explicit and unambiguous. Also, let’s not pretend that Trump’s policy platform isn’t mostly a generic GOP platform, complete with a call for precisely the kind of big, bold tax cut that Reagan made a sacred Republican campaign issue.)
It’s hard to imagine that many conservatives who are also fans of The Ringer still need to be convinced that the crazy racist guy is a bad choice for president; this being so, the piece, which is nominally a bit of persuasive writing, would seem to have no reason to exist. As is, it just allows Miller to present himself as a Reasonable Conservative, a sensible guy heartbroken by the sight of his noble political party being dismantled from within by an insurgent madman. But why should Miller be allowed to let himself off the hook?
One of the greatest lies told by Republicans during this election cycle is that Donald Trump is somehow not a Republican. People like Miller want you to believe that he arrived from some political Mordor, wielding a new and incomprehensible power which he used to conquer one of the two major American political parties before anyone could mount a resistance.
The truth is that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president because, as my colleague Tom Scocca put it, half a century of Republican ideology and strategy paved the way for him. The people who participated in shaping this ideology and strategy are people like Miller, and it was precisely the work done by him and his fellow khaki-clad, Reagan-humping operatives that put the idea of voting for a candidate like Trump into the heads of Republican voters.
Miller used to work for Jeb Bush, who, despite what sympathetic pundits might have you believe, is still a member of one of the most destructive conservative dynasties in American history and much more of a monster than he is a joke. Miller also co-founded a conservative PAC that has spent the last few years producing ads like this:
PACs like the one Miller co-founded have been trying to convince Republican voters that ISIS is coming to behead them and that Hillary Clinton is an unlikable and untrustworthy bitch for years, and we’re supposed to believe they had nothing to do with the guy who openly hates women and swings the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism” like a warhammer winning the Republican nomination?
Miller’s piece isn’t about him being a principled conservative who wants to save his party from a maniac—do you think he would have written this if Ted Cruz, a man who pals around with people who think gays should be executed, had won the nomination?—but about him being ashamed. Feeling shame over how the work you’ve done helped to produce one of the most dangerous presidential candidates in American history is understandable, and I get why Miller would want to distance himself from it. What I don’t get is why The Ringer would help him do so.