"Never Trump" needs to recognize the good aspects of Trump
Does Trump have a flawless record? Most certainly not. But he did deliver significant conservative policy while he was President.
Part of the problem with the "Never Trump" wing of the Republican Party (which I have re-joined thanks to Trump's absolutely abysmal public character and lack of self-control) is that they do not want to recognize when Trump actually does good things. And while Trump cannot earn my vote again, there were good things he did as President. This brings me to David French:
Though he pledged to be socially conservative as president, he was a thrice-married libertine who kept a framed photo of himself on the cover of Playboy in his office. His economic program was more populist than libertarian, and his foreign policy was far more isolationist than those of previous G.O.P. presidents and presidential nominees.
Trump's personal character aside, he was socially conservative as President. Trump defended religious liberty, defended due process for men on college campuses, undermined ObamaCare's mandates, and - most importantly - appointed three Supreme Court justices who were a critical part of the 5-4 decision to overturn Roe v. Wade a year ago. That French cannot see past Trump's personal behavior (which is indeed abominable) to recognize the policy Trump implemented (which is what Trump promised to do) illustrates that French has a bias and personal animosity that damages his objectivity.
French is right about Trump's economic policy, but he fails to take all of Trump's record into account. Trump's economic policy was indeed populist, and his primary departure from free-market conservatism is raising import taxes. He also did it without Congressional approval, which is inconsistent with the traditional conservative support for the rule of law. Trump made absolutely no effort to restrain government spending and even demanded more spending in December 2020. But Trump also signed a significant tax cut during his first year in office, and one of the first things he did was start repealing expanded regulations on the economy implemented during the Obama presidency.
The debate over whether Trump was conservative or not on foreign policy is part of a significant split in the Republican Party. The populist position is "America First," which has always been a significant part of the Republican voter base. Trump did intervene in Syria, bombing the Assad regime in response to human rights abuses and bombing Islamic State forces. (Again, he did this without Congressional approval.) Trump also moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem and helped craft unprecedented peace deals between Israel and Arab states. Trump was not as "isolationist" as French claims.
As I have said before, I will not vote for Donald Trump in 2024. So why am I making these points? If the "Never Trump" wing of the Republican Party is to have credibility, we have to recognize the good things Trump did as President. We cannot dismiss Trump as a non-conservative. Does Trump have a flawless record? Most certainly not. But he did deliver significant conservative policy while he was President. Our criticisms of Trump will not have credibility if we deny the many areas where Trump governed as a conservative.