In the aftermath of the election, shocked Americans flocked towards anyone who appeared to know how to fight Trump. Equally shocking, though, is how many of these figures lean conservative. From ex-CIA agents to former Bush speechwriters, a few Republicans and Republican-supporting figures have emerged as sources of knowledge and leadership not just for anti-Trump conservatives, but many liberals too.
It’s certainly a strange sight to see liberals turn to conservatives like this, but perhaps their vocal opposition to Trump—and distortion of facts—is obscuring the full nature of their conservative beliefs, many of of which are anathema to even the most centrist Dems. Whether you feel they’re worth listening to or allying with is a decision you can make on your own, but it’s not one you should make without knowing what these prominent anti-Trumpers actually believe, want to do, and have already done to push the world rightward. To help you, we’ve gathered the info on five of the most popular:
WHO HE IS: A year ago, Evan McMullin was a former CIA operative and Goldman Sachs investment banker few had heard of. But since launching his failed independent campaign for president, he’s gone from 135 Twitter followers to 278 thousand and become the subject of a slew of glowing pieces in high profile outlets like The New Yorker. The devout Mormon’s rejection of Trump’s bigoted rhetoric, opposition to the travel ban, denunciation of torture, and formation of an anti-Trump nonprofit has led outlets to cast him as both conservatives’ subconscious and civic superego, supplying the kind of conservatism lefties can disagree with but still respect.
WHAT HE BELIEVES: McMullin’s love of democratic norms does not extend to the most basic norm of voting—his campaign’s plan was never to win, but to deny Trump and Clinton 270 electoral votes, which would throw it to the House of Representatives, who’d then—for some reason—anoint him the unelected President of the United States. Similarly, his condemnation of Trump’s torture advocacy rings hollow when you consider he supports both waterboarding and keeping the torture-friendly Guantanamo Bay prison open.
The former Romney-Ryan campaigner also endorses Trump Supreme Court pick Neil Gorusch, (consistent with his promise to nominate justices “in the mold of Scalia and Thomas” were he elected), in part because he’s extremely anti-choice and wants to overturn Roe Vs. Wade. This may also be why he abrogates another norm by supporting the GOP’s obstruction of Merrick Garland’s nomination. He hedges on LGBT rights and agitates for war against Iran too, but perhaps most incredible his desire to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare in order to grow the US defense budget just the highest in the world, but higher than the next seven countries’ combined he thinks it’s too low.
Sure, listen to him if you’d like, but don’t forget how much of his desired shifts in government priorities sound like those of the man he’s making his name opposing.
WHO HE IS: The former George W. Bush speechwriter behind the famed “Axis of Evil” speech has since gained recognition as a prominent conservative critic of the Republican party’s increasingly extreme direction, especially when it comes to the Tea Party and Trump. Today, he’s hailed for writing resistance-y sounding articles like “How To Build An Autocracy” and “What Effective Protest Could Look Like,” dispensing advice to both the right and left on how to defend America from Trump’s authoritarianism and kleptocracy.
WHAT HE BELIEVES: It’s impossible to talk about David Frum without talking about this role in selling the Iraq war, which, in case you forgot, was based on a complete lie (the original fake news?). An apology for his actions exists, but not only does it weakly elide responsibility, it blames the Iraqi people for the hundreds of thousands of deaths the US invasion caused.
Unsurprisingly, Frum has attacked the Iran nuclear deal, presumably out of the standard neocon desire for increased tensions culminating in an invasion. Domestically, he isn’t just fighting against marijuana legalization, but once wrote a piece titled “Did Pot Trigger Giffords Shooting?”. Worse, he applauds the Trump administration’s mass deportation policies, and advocates ethnic cleansing in Europe.
And while you’d think claiming Iraq had WMD’s would be enough to put someone off making totally baseless claims about the Middle East, it was only 2015 when he declared photos published by Reuters and The New York Times of traumatized, injured Palestinians at a Gaza hospital to be “fake,” which he eventually apologized for by citing further conspiracy theories. Hey, maybe that’s why he’s okay being married to someone who writes columns bragging about her own racial profiling of Arabs.
Is any of this enough to disregard his prescriptions for resistance, which involve moving way to the right At the very least, it’s worth keeping in mind.
WHO HE IS: Kurt Eichenwald had a long run as a successful investigative journalist, before a very strange episode led to his departure from The New York Times. Shortly after, he pivoted towards covering American politics at Newsweek, but it wasn’t until the 2016 election cycle that his profile was truly born anew. His coverage of Trump’s shady foreign connections have provided ample ammo against the administration’s rampant corruption, making him a popular source for info involving ties to Russia, whether proven, or merely alleged.
WHAT HE BELIEVES: While Eichenwald’s politics aren’t totally clear, his attacks on Nader voters, who he blames for getting George W. Bush elected, become a little stranger when you realize he voted for Bush himself. Yet his biggest issue isn’t hypocrisy, it’s that he constantly makes big claims that are, on a purely factual basis, wrong. Especially when it comes to third party voters, Bernie Sanders, and Russia.
For starters, his claim that Jill Stein voters cost Clinton the election doesn’t hold up to the scrutiny of basic math, and his revelation of a GOP oppo file of “new” info he says would have doomed Sanders in a general election was composed entirely of info that was already public, as we’ve already covered. He’s also said Edward Snowden is a Chinese spy (???) and falsely attacked him as a Putin loyalist for not criticizing Russia (he has). His viral piece declaring the leaked DNC emails to be “doctored” is false because it’s based on a misquote—and when the young journalist responsible for the misquote came forward with the truth, Eichenwald tried to coerce him into silence. Most impressively, his announced game-changing scoop that Trump had been “institutionalized in a mental hospital for a nervous breakdown in 1990” never materialized, turned out to have no evidence, and the tweetstorm announcing it has since been deleted.
Whatever you think of Eichenwald’s political analysis, there’s plenty of reporters without long, ongoing records of publishing falsehoods (or murky ethical violations) out there. Donald Trump is the President—do you really want to deal with another person you’ll always have to fact-check?
WHO SHE IS: A “comm strategist, political organizer, [and] progressive activist” whose insider knowledge of electoral politics and policy has earned her a large online following. Her criticisms often extend beyond Trump and to the left wing of the party as exemplified by Bernie Sanders and his supporters. She’s defended politicians like Hillary Clinton and Cory Booker from left criticism, like when Booker caught flack for voting against a budget amendment that would lower the cost of prescription drugs, by explaining how those decisions aren’t what they appear to be.
WHAT SHE BELIEVES: To be fair, Albright has mostly worked to elect Democrats and expresses pretty standard Clintonite Democratic beliefs that position themselves against the right. We’ve covered her smear-based commentary on the latter before, but even worse is what she’s used her career in politics to actually do, which is work for Republicans, and particularly noxious ones and that.
In 2010, Albright worked as New Media Director for Republican Robert Bentley’s primary campaign, which led to his election as Alabama Governor. By any liberal measure, Bentley is awful—he faces potential impeachment over ethics charges, and signed into law some of the country’s most draconian anti-immigrant laws. But, what does it say about someone who believes the main reason Democrats have lost 1000 seats in the last three elections is GOP voter disenfranchesment, when the GOP governor they worked to elect has helped disenfranchise over a quarter million of them
This can’t even be attributed to a one time conservative evolving towards a more liberal position either, since her work for Bentley, and for the Newt Gingrich campaign in 2012, took place between her stints with Democrats. She’s defended her short time with Gingrich, which was confined to the primary, but whatever the reason, it doesn’t change the fact that she, y’know, worked for the Newt Gingrich.
You’d think actively campaigning to put multiple Republican bigots in power would disqualify someone from demanding the left’s uncritical fealty to the Democratic party, or lecturing Bernie Sanders and his supporters as driven by ego, but it seems that’s a call we all have to make for ourselves.
WHO HE IS: Where do you even start with this guy? The founder and editor of conservative opinion mag The Weekly Standard is not just a bog standard neoconservative, but virtually every prediction he has ever made has been wrong. He dislikes Trump enough to have tried to recruit his own candidate, which went about as well as those predictions did.
WHAT HE BELIEVES: As a neocon (and son of “the godfather of neoconservatism” Irving Kristol), Bill Kristol’s main thing seems to be an obsession with invading Iran, which is pretty impressive, since before that he had been agitating for a similar invasion of Iraq, which did not exactly work out. He was also key in making Sarah Palin a national figure by pushing her VP nomination.
Okay, look, we could pore over what exactly Kristol’s views are, and why he thinks Trump’s values clash with his own equally abhorrent ones, but honestly, who cares? This guy has little knowledge, and considering how the once influential Republican’s anti-Trump efforts went during the primary, it seems his clout has dwindled too. An alliance with Bill Kristol wouldn’t just be allying with someone who has bad politics, it’d be allying with someone who’s bad at politics. Sure, the decision is still up to you, but… come on.
is a freelance writer and member of the NYC DSA Climate Justice Working Group.