Opinion

Alex Beam

#NeverTrump from Day One

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trumpmeets Monday with first responders at St. Johns County Sheriffs Department in St. Augustine, Fla.
Evan Vucci/Associated Press
Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump met Monday with first responders at the St. Johns County Sheriffs Department in St. Augustine, Fla.

We allow ourselves the cautious hope that Trumpism, or Trumpery, will soon be in our rear-view mirror. What a ride it has been, with prominent politicians such as Senator John McCain and House Speaker Paul Ryan hopping on and off the Trump bandwagon as it suited their immediate needs.

So who opposed Trump from Day One, or close to Day One? In other words, who objected to Trump on principle, not because he was a Republican political opponent, or a member of the opposition party, but because he had devoted his entire life to proving that he was an odious human being?

Certainly not me. Like many people, I thought Trump was a joke for the first six or seven months of his candidacy. Then, like many others, I entered the “bargaining” phase — oh, maybe he’s not so bad. There are elements of his candidacy that I can live with, and so on.

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Unlike me, conservative columnist George Will figured out Trump pretty early. In August, 2015 — just two months after Trump declared his long-shot candidacy for the Republican nomination — Will tore into Trump’s wholesale deportation plan for Mexican immigrants and predicted that “it could spell doom for the GOP.”

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“If, after November 2016, there are autopsies of Republican presidential hopes, political coroners will stress the immigration-related rhetoric of August 2015,” Will wrote. In June of this year, Will formally left the Republican Party, citing Trump’s nomination as the reason.

In the same month that Will was fricasseeing Trump in his newspaper column, talk show host Erick Erickson disinvited Trump to the RedState Gathering, a conservative dog-and-pony show that showcases presidential hopefuls to right-wingers. Erickson said Trump’s vulgar comments about Fox News personality Megyn Kelly disgusted him: “There are just real lines of decency a person running for President should not cross.”

Remember, this is one month after Trump derided McCain’s five years spent in a North Vietnamese prison camp – yet even McCain and the GOP establishment couldn’t bring themselves to sever ties with the “short-fingered vulgarian,” as Spy magazine used to call him. Erickson showed more spine than the vast majority of American conservatives.

And the Mormons, God bless them. I know it’s hard to swallow “true blue” Mormon teachings on the sanctity of heterosexual marriage and many other social issues, but the Latter-day Saints had Trump’s number from the get-go. Mormons have felt the sting of religious prejudice in America, and — counterintuitively, perhaps — they perceive themselves as historical refugees, chased across the United States in the middle of the 19th century to their barren homestead on the Great Salt Lake.

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So when Trump started up the “build a wall” jabber and proposed a ban on admitting Muslims into the United States, the Mormons thought: There but for the grace of God go we. Members of a self-described “peculiar religion,” they remember Secretary of State William Evarts’s attempt to ban Mormon immigration to the United States, in 1879, as if it were yesterday.

In December of last year, the Utah church issued a powerful statement defending religious freedom, which was widely perceived as a middle finger genteelly aimed at Trump. The Donald predictably cratered in the ensuing Utah Republican caucus vote, placing a distant third to Ted Cruz. A Mormon outsider, Evan McMullin, is mounting an anti-Trump, write-in candidacy in Utah that may swing the Beehive State’s electoral votes to Hillary Clinton

It’s nice to see that some people’s moral compasses are still calibrated to true north. The rest of us need to ask ourselves: What took us so long?

Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @imalexbeamyrnot.