Democratic Virginia gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe touted the support of neoconservative royalty this week on the debate stage.
The GOP’s populist revolution has left onetime conservative thought leaders behind — and even pushed some into alliance with the Democrats
McAuliffe — a former Virginia governor and former Democratic National Committee chair, and a close Hillary Clinton ally — went out of his way to embrace Bill Kristol during the gubernatorial debate against Republican nominee Glenn Youngkin.
Terry McAuliffe: "Tonight, I have the leading conservative in America here, Bill Kristol, who has endorsed my campaign for governor." pic.twitter.com/N8e1eznV8D
— Greg Price (@greg_price11) September 28, 2021
Kristol, who recently endorsed McAuliffe, is the son of the late “godfather of neoconservativism,” Irving Kristol, the founder of defunct neoconservative magazine The Weekly Standard and one of the ideological midwives of the Iraq War.
- Since the rise of former President Donald Trump, Kristol has renounced the GOP, launched the anti-Trump blog The Bulwark and become a Democrat in all but name.
“The Revolt of the Conservative Elites,” as the title of one recent book described the “Never Trump” phenomenon, started before Trump was elected.
- National Review famously tried and failed to kneecap the “MAGA” movement with its February 2016 “Against Trump” edition, in which Kristol and a small army of conservative writers argued the then-Republican candidate was a disgrace to conservative principles.
Kristol and fellow anti-Trump “revolutionaries” — like activist Evan McMullin, Washington Post columnist George Will and pundits David French, Erick Erickson and Jonah Goldberg — have since spoken of being shunned by the new right, which prefers nationalist “winning” to traditional conservative policy restraint.
Once-leading Republicans — like former House Speaker Paul Ryan, Sen. Mitt Romney of Utah and Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — who haven’t kept up with the right’s populist energy have been effectively purged from the GOP high command.
- Ahead of the 2022 midterms, Trump has declared hunting season on the “RINOs” in Congress who voted for his impeachment, leading Rep. Anthony Gonzales of Ohio to retire this month and seriously threatening the reelection of at least four other Republicans.
- Trump has also been gunning for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, arguably the last surviving GOP establishment bigwig left in leadership.