#NeverTrump Is Not, and Never Was, 'Anti-Trump'

Sunday morning, as I sat in my church's cafe enjoying a pre-service coffee, a friend and fellow believer took the seat beside me and offered a mischievous smile. He took a moment to frame his words, then launched into politics.

"Did you see my response to your Facebook post this morning?"

I knew immediately which post he was referring to. I had shared an article from The New York Times relating how Republican leaders seek to distance down-ballot candidates from Donald Trump. I had noted that any effort to that effect now was too little too late. You don't get moral credit for taking a stand when there's nothing to lose, I wrote.

"I think you might be a little too dogmatic," my friend offered gently. I invited him to continue.

"Don't you think that, by being consistently anti-Trump, you might draw attention away from the greater threat to the American people?" He cited claims that recent mysterious deaths had ties to the Clinton campaign, intimating that Hillary might actually kill people. He asked, in essence, why I would oppose Trump if the Republican nominee stands as the only viable alternative. This is, of course, the perpetual question directed at #NeverTrump. Shouldn't Clinton be opposed at all costs?

A couple different premises lurk unspoken in that question, and in the particular way my friend phrased it. The first premise is that #NeverTrump means anti-Trump. It doesn't.

If I were anti-Trump, then I would oppose him no matter what he said or did. Certainly, it proves easier to dismiss the #NeverTrump conviction if you regard it that way. But you would be hard pressed to find anyone who meets that description. In truth, the #NeverTrump conviction emerges from an adherence to certain principles, values, and standards. Were Trump to experience a conversion on the proverbial road to Damascus, were he to suddenly yet sincerely strike a completely different tone, were he to become contrite and respectful and embrace real conservative values, his support would instantly skyrocket. I would be first on my feet to applaud him. #NeverTrump is not about opposing the man. It's about refusing to endorse his conduct and rhetoric. It's about upholding certain principles, values, and standards. That's number one.