Never Trump Seeks New Moorings

Upside-down right now would be great. Upside-down has a comprehensible symmetry.

There is no symmetry in this chaos, no star to steer by. Not for old-style Republicans--once our crucial political center, now merely the vacant eye between left- and right-wing populist storms.

I volunteered enthusiastically for John Kasich, then mulled the Libertarian ticket until it imploded. In supporting Republicans for Clinton, I urged swing-state Republicans to vote for Hillary--as even Bill Weld seemed to want us all to do. Yet after failing to secure a last-minute trading partner on TrumpTraders.org, I cast my own protest-cum-conscience vote, in the safety of dark-blue New York, for Evan McMullin.

By 9:15 PM on election night, I was tweeting: "Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada: I've never been so happy to see a Democrat I've never heard of doing so well in a state I don't much like." A few hours later: "Never been so upset about my taxes going down for a change. Oregon require a visa?" By lunchtime on Wednesday, I confessed "a 9/11 feel" on the streets of New York.

While better thinkers than I ponder the fate of republic and party, here's how I'm holding it together.

1. Cardio. The results aren't all just in your head, but plenty of bad stuff is. Hit the gym and clear it out.

2. Bank the moral victory. You were on the side of the angels. So were more than half of voters in the Republican primary--and more than half the voters in the general nationwide. In fact, many, though not all, of those who voted Trump on Tuesday did so explicitly in spite of his glaring faults. So retire those lines of attack. They did what they could; all they will do now is send you back to the gym or the bottle.

3. Accept the move to a policy footing. Barring impeachment, Donald Trump the man is no longer on trial. But the long-suffered grievances that carried him to office demand attention, and a host of destructive leftist policies require reversal by executive or legislative action. Reallocate your energy to substantive matters. The debate on a host of subjects ignored during the campaigns is finally upon us.

4. Watch the players.
Trump brought on Mike Pence for a reason: to serve as "ambassador to the Republican party." With Chris Christie's transition portfolio now transferred to Pence, a man I derided after the Indiana primary as a "minor collaborator" now looks to play a major role in keeping Trump tethered--to reality, to party norms, and to important parts of Paul Ryan's legislative agenda.

I hear, reassuringly, that Heritage's excellent Bridgett Wagner is playing a key role staffing the administration. Smart rank-and-file mean more to the success of changes in the Affordable Care Act than who wins the current Chief-of-Staff horse race.

5. Push forward. The flip side of Trump's vacant policy slate is that it now needs to be filled. All the grassroots levers you pulled in the primaries for your candidate, and against Trump? Pull them now to press for policy objectives that are now politically achievable, and will always be ethically defensible.

Reversing the effects of Defense sequestration, constructive healthcare reform, tax structure: join, or start, these conversations. It's the best way to crowd out navel-gazing on social media, in your local GOP organization, and in your contacts with elected officials.

6. Push back.
Similarly, if you see something (ahem) deplorable, say something. As new players start to push for an achievable policy agenda (see how it all strings together?), push back on emerging distractions that echo Obama's tragic early overreach, and might threaten positive legislative momentum or the reputation of the Republican governing coalition that now stands between us and ruin.

Make principle personal, too. Reach out to those feeling particularly threatened; set an example of (to coin a phrase) compassionate conservatism. You wouldn't be reading right now if you weren't doing so already. Denounce, disavow, disparage and discourage intolerance of any kind. Like Reagan did.

7. Look around. What's next? Who knows. Don't wait for a new party to form, or for "the old GOP" to reassert itself. You can push back or forth without cover of a party hat. But keep an eye on social-media-era networks and institutions like R4C16.org, RestartGOP.com and No Labels. The populist storm was bottom-up, and there's no reason the coming calm won't be too.

If we don't, who will? In this storm, the best mooring we have is each other. Lock arms and look sharp. Wise man say: This fever won't last forever.