If you’re alone and confined to an island, where do you go?
Theoretically, the question’s already been answered in the literary world and by Hollywood over the years. The famous British novel Robinson Crusoe wasfirst published in 1719, thought to be one of the first -- if not the first -- serious work of fiction that paved the way for an entire new genre in publishing, and also made into numerous movies in the 20th century. (Note: Of course, Crusoe was not completely alone on the island; if there weren’t his interactions with cannibals, captives and mutineers, it wouldn’t have been much of a story.)
Without straying too far off topic, the alone-on-an-island theme was explored in the 1998 film Six Days Seven Nights, which was really more of a romantic comedy starring Harrison Ford and Anne Heche than a thoughtful attempt to recreate the isolated-without-hope theme. A couple years later (2000) the film industry tried more earnestly to engender the helpless feeling in the Tom Hanks thriller Cast Away. The Hanks character survived a plane crash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean and struggled to learn how to survive and ultimately, escape back to civilization.
Tom Hanks was truly alone on his unknown island. It was compelling theater, much more so than the contemporary and silly tabloid-type stuff of the reality cable series Naked and Afraid.
But the stranded individuals I’m referring to are the last remnants of the #NeverTrump tribe of malcontents, the so-called “conservative” holdouts who held their support for the 2016 Republican presidential primary winner and then became open opponents and enemies during his four years in the White House. It would be a stretch to label the suit and skirt wearing gaggle of dissidents as cannibals, captives and mutineers (of Robinson Crusoe fame), but some might find the comparisons worthy of a glance.
Things in Republican-land have changed quite a bit in recent months, but the #NeverTrump crowd never seems to depart from their internal resistance movement. Maybe they’re just stubborn; or self-righteous, or unwilling to concede defeat or… just stupid. Their island exists only in their own minds, yet they can’t get themselves to try to get off it.
Former House Republican leadership member Liz Cheney typifies the kind. Jay Caruso (no relation to Robinson Crusoe) wrote at The Washington Examiner magazine:
“Cheney's continued criticism of the party and of Donald Trump rankles members of her caucus who think she's living in the past while giving Democrats ammunition for the future. She disagrees: ‘The path to victory is not embracing Trump. The path to victory for Republicans is to stand up for free enterprise, for life, the Second Amendment, a strong national defense, and fidelity to the Constitution. Those are fundamentally the principles that the Republican Party has stood for and should continue to stand for.’ ...
“Asked about her removal as House conference chairwoman, Cheney understands it became inevitable. ‘It clearly became untenable for me to be the conference chair because I am unwilling to perpetuate the big lie,’ she said. On winning elections, she said that the party has to ‘do the right thing, morally. And the right thing, from a constitutional perspective, we have to be built on the basis of truth. And we have to be focused on principles — conservative principles, conservative ideals — and the most conservative of all those principles are adherence to the rule of law and fidelity to the Constitution. Those are very clear and not negotiable. That is not the view of the current leadership of the party in the House.’”
Whew. I thought good ol’ establishment Liz was going to say something really embarrassing and toxic about the current state of conservatism rather than just spout her usual grandstanding spiel about how honorable she is and how great her principles are and how her feud with Trump finds her on the correct side of everything while the whole world is in error. Or something like that.
Reading Liz’s comments brought to mind a line from the old Joe Walsh song, Life’s Been Good (so far):
“It's tough to handle this fortune and fame
Everybody's so different, I haven't changed”.
The balance of Caruso’s piece portrays Cheney as a pretty standard Republican who supports being tough on China and opposing Nancy Pelosi’s and the Biden administration’s stances on the Paris climate accord, the Iran deal, Ilhan Omar and the “For the People Act”. She swears she’s not a warmonger and criticizes the current Democrat ruling elites for not spending enough on defense because it’s the best way to keep enemies at bay, like Ronald Reagan preached. The problem with the latter position is she’s all-too-eager to use those weapons in combat and to perpetuate forever wars -- which is very un-Gipper-like.
But everyone knows the beef that’s keeping her alone and terrified on #NeverTrump island is her longstanding rhetorical run-and-gun battle with Trump -- and his supporters, including the Wyoming GOP primary voters who will decide her fate next year. One hopes that the majority of the Cowboy State’s Republicans will consolidate behind one rival, which will send Liz to forced retirement rather than keep her grumpy mouth flapping on the floor of the House.
Cheney’s stated principles are fine. Her thinking that the GOP can just wholesale un-ring the proverbial bell and eliminate Trump from the official talking points is ludicrous, however. Liz’s mindset is characteristic of the ubiquitous #NeverTrump mentality, which means they’ll all be indefinitely stationed somewhere in political Never-Never-land in the middle of the political ocean and forced to play survival of the fittest with dwindling resources and influence.
Meanwhile, the primary challenges against the nine other House impeachment-voting Republicans will continue (such as Ohio squish RINO Rep. Anthony Gonzalez), and based on polls, gather momentum. The ten knee-jerk Republicans followed the crowd in a rush to judgement before learning all of the facts and condemned Trump to political Hades before a fair trial in the court of public opinion. Even worse, they joined with opportunistic Democrats to condemn the man who saved the GOP from being a relatively worthless neoconservative militant shell of a party.
Their actions and inactions won’t be forgotten. And by the looks of it, you can probably throw in former vice president Mike Pence, who isn’t doing his future electoral prospects any favors by trying to explain-away his behavior on January 6.
Saying nice things about the MAGA agenda isn’t enough. Most Republicans have already gotten onboard with the salient planks in the Trump platform -- strict immigration administration, support for law enforcement, emphasis on fair trade and favoring American industries and workers over foreigners, backing Israel in its conflicts with Iran and the Palestinians, ensuring a powerful and fight-ready military, a rational approach to climate change, unquestioning defense of the right to life and religious liberty, etc.
Not all of these issues were championed by the pre-Trump establishment. The names “Cheney” and “Bush” don’t necessarily bring positive reflections to most conservatives and Republicans these days. The status-quo favoring ruling class created the conditions for a man like Donald Trump to not only make waves in the party, but to take it over through force of personality and messaging.
Further, the candidates in the 2024 pipeline (Gov. Ron DeSantis, Sen. Rand Paul, Sen. Josh Hawley, Sen. Tom Cotton, Sen. Ted Cruz among them), including Trump himself, are all adherents to the MAGA agenda. And those who want to say occasional nice things about Trump but then stab him in the back to make the media happy when it benefits them the most -- like Nikki Haley -- aren’t going to receive much love when the time comes.
Conservative voters aren’t dumb, and they’re “woke” to the political realities of the present.
The #NeverTrumpers had better hope their survival skills are better than their public relations practices. They’re not getting off the island they’ve been banished to anytime soon, and if they’re not careful, any rescue ship will turn around once the captain recognizes who’s confined there. People like Liz Cheney and Anthony Gonzalez and Senator Mitt Romney better be good at making fire, catching fish and capturing water. It could be a long wait.
There just isn’t anywhere else to go on their island.
2022 GOP primaries