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Never Trump is—still—a movement that is about more than just one man. It stands in opposition to everything Donald Trump has done to American civic life, and rejects those who would wear his mantle.
But first, here are three new stories from The Atlantic.
In one of the most appalling appropriations of a political banner in years—or at least since Trump decided in 2012, after years of changing party registrations, finally to settle on calling himself a Republican—some of the conservatives hoping to salvage the GOP’s fortune after the 2022 midterms are trying to seize and redefine the term Never Trump to mean a rejection of “only Trump, and no other Republicans who are like him.” This is important not as some internecine fight among the right but because it is a preview of how many Republicans (and especially those coalescing around Florida Governor Ron DeSantis) intend to rehabilitate the GOP brand in 2024.
The strategy will be to make Trump the sin-eater for the entire party, designating him as the GOP’s sole problem, and then rejecting him—and only him. The goal will be to scrub away the stain of having accommodated Trump while pretending that the Republican Party is no longer an extension of his warped and antidemocratic views. This will require an extraordinary suspension of disbelief and an expenditure of gigawatts of political energy on the pretense that the past seven years or so didn’t happen—or didn’t happen the way we remember them, or happened but don’t matter because Trump, having escaped Elba to contest the primaries, will finally be sent to St. Helena after his inevitable defeat.
This will be the new Republican line, and it is nonsense.
As one of the original Never Trumpers—an appellation adopted by disaffected Republicans and conservatives who swore never to support Trump—I think I have a pretty firm handle on what the term means. I do not speak for every Never Trumper, but I am confident that virtually all of us would affirm that we were not just making a choice about a candidate but opposing the movement that coagulated around Trump. We did this not only by expressing disapproval—which is easy—but by actively voting for his Democratic challengers, which for some of us was harder to do but was part of actually “stopping” Trump. In this, we became a movement ourselves. We were not merely choosing one flavor of ice cream over another; we were examining our own beliefs, and then advocating for others to join us in defending those ideas in the public square.
We knew that Trump represented an existential threat to everything that we and millions of other Americans, regardless of party, cherished. He was an avowed enemy of the rule of law, cared nothing about fidelity to the Constitution, and could never be a responsible steward of the awesome powers of the presidency. (It is no accident that the first Never Trumpers were heavily concentrated among those of us with connections to national security.) We were certain that Trump would bring racism, misogyny, and religious bigotry to the White House. And we were right.
But Trump exceeded our worst fears. We expected him to bring a claque of opportunists and various other mooks and goons with him to Washington, but we underestimated the ability of the GOP’s immune system to fight off a complete surrender to Trump’s parasitical capture of the party. We appreciated the threat of Trump, but we were surprised by the spread of Trumpism—the political movement that arose as a malignant mass incarnation of Trump’s personality, based on racism, nativism, isolationism, the celebration of ignorance, and a will to power that was innately hostile to American institutions. Trumpism is now the only real animating force in Republican politics; indeed, DeSantis, the great GOP hope, is so much a Trump sycophant that he has even learned to stand and gesture like Trump.
The idea that Never Trump means more than the rejection of one vulgar and ignorant man—that it also means Never Trumpism—infuriates a lot of people on the right. (The folks over at National Review, some of whom have apparently jumped on the DeSantis bandwagon, have seemed particularly agitated in the past few days.) The immediate circumstance that precipitated all this online whining about the Never Trumpers and generated the sweaty attempts to seize their mantle was, of course, Trump’s dinner this weekend with an anti-Semite and a white supremacist. Top Republicans who should be desperate to scour the stink of Trumpism off the GOP but who fear Trump and his base once again went weak in the knees. Most stayed quiet; others employed careful circumlocutions. Mike Pence said Trump should “apologize” for the dinner, as if it were a faux pas. Senator John Thune blamed Trump’s staff—always a handy dodge in Washington.
Only a very few were specific and unequivocal. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell finally weighed in today with a shot at Trump’s ambitions, saying that “there is no room in the Republican Party for anti-Semitism or white supremacy,” and that “anyone meeting with people advocating that point of view, in my judgment, are highly unlikely to ever be elected president of the United States.” But Senator Bill Cassidy was more direct: “President Trump hosting racist antisemites for dinner encourages other racist antisemites,” he tweeted. “These attitudes are immoral and should not be entertained. This is not the Republican Party.” Cassidy’s words are admirably clear, but while he argues that such attitudes are not the Republican Party, they are, in fact, espoused by people widely tolerated by the base of the Republican Party—starting right at the top with Donald Trump.
The Republicans know they have a problem. Many of them seem to believe their only recourse now is to say that they were all Never Trumpers in the hope that voters will somehow draw an unwarranted distinction between Trump and the party he has captured from top to bottom. But those of us who said “Never Trump” years ago—and meant it—know the difference.
- A bipartisan group of congressional leaders said it plans to pass legislation to avert a nationwide rail strike.
- The U.S. won its World Cup match against Iran, 1–0, advancing the American team to the knockout round of 16.
- Several states in the American South are at risk of flooding from severe storms today and tomorrow.
I’m Scared of My Baby Monitor
By Damon Beres
You can now know everything about your baby at all times. An expectant parent of a certain type—cash-flush and availed of benzodiazepine, or maybe just fretful—will be dizzied by the options.
Consider the $300 “dream sock,” for sale again after a hiccup with the FDA, which latches on to your infant and beams numbers to your smartphone—numbers such as “110 beats per minute” observed from baby’s little heart, and “97% average O2” for the air inhaled by baby’s little lungs and distributed to baby’s little bloodstream. You might rent the Snoo, a popular bassinet that shimmies when your baby makes a peep, with various intensities depending on the nature of that peep. It transmits further health-tracking numbers to your mobile device; Snoo was rocking my child with Level 3 vibrations for 25 minutes last night, you will think to yourself, and seriously too. Many parents will use an app to parse the color of poop (you can generally rest easy, even when it’s green) and a smart thermometer that remains affixed below the armpit for up to 24 hours.
More From The Atlantic
Read. “Father of Clarity,” a poem by Tim Z. Hernandez.
“Each day the same now: / I wake her up—she’s a woman / in the making, and me, / I’m still a boy, given this responsibility / of another …”
Watch. Big Mouth, on Netflix, is one of several modern animated sitcoms showcasing a well-adjusted father.
Some folks on Twitter were surprised to find out that I am an avid computer gamer. (These must be new followers; I am a complete nerd about posting pictures of my personalized, lit-up gaming rig and I regularly opine about my favorite games.) But I understand the surprise: I am just shy of turning 62, and most people see me online as the stuffy, self-important curmudgeon who is constantly lecturing people about airline etiquette—which, I can’t lie, is also part of my personality.
I find computer games engrossing and relaxing, and though they have a reputation for eating up time, playing them clears my mind enough to get back to work. I am a fan of historical strategy simulations, postapocalyptic adventures such as the Fallout series—although I hope those remain science fiction—and the so-called world builders, where the player has to navigate decisions aimed at sustaining virtual communities. The one concession I make to my age and personality is that I abhor online multiplayer games; otherwise, you’ll find me at my desk refighting the Battle of Kursk, evading mutants in the wasteland, or deliberating how close I should put a lumber mill to a school. You’re never too old to have some meaningless fun.
Isabel Fattal contributed to this newsletter.