There Is No Civil War, Republicans And Conservatives Have Already Surrendered

Forget all the talk about a civil war in the Republican Party, the truth is that Republicans and conservatives have already surrendered to Trump and Bannon.

Surrender Flag

While the past week has been filled with talk about a civil war within the Republican Party between those who support the President and his agenda and more traditional Republicans and conservatives, the editors of The Weekly Standard look around and see a surrender:

Everyone’s talking about the civil war in the Republican party. It seems more like a surrender to us.

The great bulk of elected Republicans have surrendered to the forces of Donald J. Trump. And they didn’t even put up much of a fight. Has a hostile takeover of a historic institution ever been accomplished with less resistance?

The flag of surrender went up before many blows were even landed.

A reporter for Politico recently asked John Cornyn, the second-ranking Republican in the Senate, for his views on a potential bipartisan compromise extending cost-sharing payments under Obamacare. “I’m with the president,” Cornyn told Seung Min Kim. When she asked him where, exactly, Trump is on the plan, Cornyn threw his hands in the air. So Cornyn doesn’t know what Trump’s position is—but he knows that he shares it.

Perhaps such capitulation by the GOP establishment was to be expected. But movement conservatives who pride themselves on their obstinacy have also managed to go along in order to get along.

When Ted Cruz was asked the other day about the criticism of Trump by his Senate colleagues Bob Corker and Jeff Flake, the Texan unloaded. “It’s like you’re back in junior high. . . . We’ve got a job to do, dammit, and so all of this nonsense, I got nothing to say on it. Everyone shut up and do your job is my view.”

This is the same Ted Cruz who pointedly refused to shut up in 2016, declining to endorse Trump in his convention speech and making an impassioned plea for the defense of a party of principles, a party of conscience. “We deserve leaders who stand for principle, who unite us all behind shared values, who cast aside anger for love,” he said from the rostrum in Cleveland. “That is the standard we should expect from everybody. And to those listening, please don’t stay home in November. If you love our country and love our children as much as you do, stand and speak, and vote your conscience.”

But now it’s 2017. The base is said to be unhappy with dissent. will criticize you. Steve Bannon may fund a primary challenger. Dissent is so 2016.

It is much the same outside of government. A day after Trump addressed the Heritage Foundation, the think tank’s president, Ed Feulner, waxed rhapsodic in a pitch to donors. “This morning I woke up still in awe of what I heard last night. As you know, President Trump addressed a group of Heritage members. He confirmed, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that he is on our side.”


The GOP is being transformed because incumbents are accommodating their new masters before serious challengers are even on the horizon. The New Left didn’t defeat many old-fashioned liberals at the polls. But, because of retirements and individuals accommodating themselves to the new political reality, there were soon no more than a handful of pro-life Democrats or strongly anti-Communist Democrats or color-blind-civil-rights Democrats. The Walter Mondale who ran for president in 1984 was very different from the Walter Mondale who entered the Senate as a disciple of Hubert Humphrey in 1964.

In the case of the Democrats, the transformation was a reasonably clear—if unfortunate—ideological turn. The current transformation of the Republican party is more confusing. At times, it seems the GOP might be becoming a Bannonite nationalist party. At others, it seems more simply a Trumpian cult-of-personality. The result, right now, is a party that is simultaneously corrupted by Trump and disfigured by Bannonism.

None of this should be surprising, of course. While there were some sixteen candidates opposing Trump in the run for the Presidential nomination, none of them really took on Trump effectively or speaking out against the outrageous comments that began the very day he started his campaign in June 2015. Several of them, such as Ted Cruz, spent much of the time before voting actually began cozying up to him in the hope that they could scoop up his supporters when he ended what many people believed even as late as December 2015 was some kind of publicity stunt that he would walk away from rather than risking the humiliation of a defeat. It was only when it was too late that the so-called “Never Trump” movement began to coalesce and when they did they rallied around schemes allegedly designed to deny Trump a majority of the delegates at the convention and force a brokered convention or back a third-party candidate that would syphon conservative votes away from Trump in the General Election. Both efforts were doomed to fail, of course, in no small part because they began far too late to be effective. In addition, though, it was clear by that point that the Trump had won over the base of the Republican Party, including the supposedly conservative Tea Party movement that these same Republicans had ridden to power from 2009 going forward.

Once Trump became the nominee, much of the resistance to him inside the Republican Party melted away quickly as leaders, elected official, and party hacks dutifully lined up behind the same man that they spent much of the previous year laughing at or attacking. There were some exceptions, of course, and it took some officials like Speaker of the House Paul Ryan more than a month to come around to formally endorsing Trump, but they eventually all fell in line. Even when the Access Hollywood tape was released, we didn’t see Republicans and conservatives waiver in their support for the nominee. Yes, there were several Republicans who distanced themselves from the candidate but once they saw that he wasn’t going to drop out of the race (not that there was ever any likelihood of that) or that he was being hurt in the polls by those revelations they quickly abandoned that position. And, of course, once Trump actually won the election there was no question but that Republicans on Capitol Hill and around the country would line up behind him.

There have been some exceptions, of course, but as I noted earlier this week, for the most part, this has consisted of Senators and Congressmen who either aren’t facing imminent re-election battles or, like John McCain, have nothing left to lose. By and large, the Republican Party and the vast majority of so-called conservatives have laid down their arms and dutifully lined up behind the President notwithstanding the fact that he continues to act in the same manner that he did before he was a candidate and while he was a candidate and despite the fact that he has spent the last nine months derailing his own agenda and the agenda of Republicans on Capitol Hill via his increasingly frequent irrational outbursts on Twitter and in campaign speeches. As I noted yesterday, they are acting this way either because they are true believers, because they believe they can use Trump to advance their own agendas, because they are cashing in, or because they are simply afraid of being attacked by Trump or primaried by a candidate backed by the likes of Steve Bannon. Whatever the reason, though, the editors of The Weekly Standard are right. Republicans and conservatives aren’t fighting back against Trump, they’ve already surrendered.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug Mataconis held a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010 and contributed a staggering 16,483 posts before his retirement in January 2020. He passed far too young in July 2021.


  1. Jen says:

    Yes. And they are going to stand by him, no matter what eventually comes out. They’ll just turn around and say either: it’s Obama’s fault; or it’s Hillary’s fault; or [insert whatever] isn’t happening.

    They are all complicit and professional gaslighters.

  2. CSK says:
  3. Teve tory says:

    I just take one small issue with all this. Republican politicians and conservative politicians have surrendered to Trump. Republicans and conservatives in general haven’t surrendered to Trump, they like Trump. The politicians however are a bit more educated and sophisticated than the voters. They’ve surrendered to Trump. The GOP voters like Trump. 83% approval rating as of like yesterday.

  4. gVOR08 says:

    None of this should be surprising. Conservatives argue all the time about what “Conservative” means. In practice it comes down to nothing more or less than protecting and enhancing the wealth and power of the currently wealthy and powerful. The political game comes down to conning enough middle class and poorer people into voting for candidates who will turn around and screw them with a program of tax cuts, benefit cuts, and deregulation that benefit only the 0.1%. .

    Race and religion have worked well for this purpose, but they always thought they had to moderate and dog whistle to avoid turning off the soccer moms. They also need a front man, someone like Reagan or W Bush who will reliably support the 0.1% while somehow coming across as folksy. (It helps a lot that the electorate aren’t exactly discriminating.) Trump has shown he can appeal to enough of the 99% and that all the moderation and dog whistling wasn’t necessary. Why wouldn’t the GOP pols line up behind him? They’re careerist spit weasels almost to a man.

    When you speak of “populist”, don’t lose sight of the fact that Bannon is a creature of the billionaire Mercers and Pence of the billionaire Kochs. Long ago and far away populism was sometimes a bottom up thing. This ain’t.

  5. Scott F. says:


    This has it about right. The only real difference between the “traditional” Republicans and Trump is Trump is saying out loud what the traditional GOP would prefer to be dog whistles.

  6. michael reynolds says:


    Exactly right. Not entirely surprising. I’ve been saying since I first started hanging out here that the Republican Party was incapable of winning elections without the racist vote. And I’ve always known that so-called ‘fiscal conservatives’ were just greedy sociopaths, and that social conservatives were just haters, and that evangelical Christians were just less honest haters, and that the Tea Party was just the same old greedy, nasty, racist, misogynist bunch the GOP has been for decades.

    The degree to which these people were willing to sign up to a cult of personality built on a stupid, unhinged clown, that was a surprise. I get that weak-minded people need a fuhrer, but this is Lord of the Flies, these people are worshipping a fly-covered pig’s head.

    The willingness to parade their stupidity and their amorality and their weakness so shamelessly is a bit of a shock. But not much of one. I’ve never had any doubt that people like @JKB would gas black people if he ever got the chance, or that @MBunge would sieg heil til tears ran down his little cheeks. @Guarneri would just look to turn a profit selling Zyklon B.

    These people are good Germans, spineless men with no prospect of achieving the importance they think is their due. I’ve said before that I’ve never in my life had my opinions so thoroughly vindicated. The only error has been in trying to temper my contempt. Turned out they were more contemptible than even I imagined.

  7. MBunge says:

    Reynolds, haven’t you found an ointment for that butthurt?

    And I think everyone needs to remember that the Republicans and conservatives Mataconis is lamenting…

    1. Couldn’t admit the Iraq War was a mistake in 2016. Not 2004. Not 2008. 2016!!!!!!

    2. Normalized fiscal terrorism through using the debt ceiling limit to extort concessions from Democrats. Bob Corker wants to threaten global economic catastrophe in order to gut entitlement spending. Donald Trump does not.

    3. Fully support tax cuts for the wealthy and budget cuts for everyone else…except the military industrial complex.

    4. Still mindlessly support military intervention around the world whenever and wherever possible.

    5. Spent YEARS lying to their own voters and telling them to believe one stupid and crazy thing after another.

    6. Actually thought the American public would vote for Jeb Bush in 2016.

    7. Indulged in white resentment politics long before Donald Trump came along.

    8. Still manage to put the Democrats to shame when it comes to kissing the behind of Wall Street.

    9. Ginned up anti-gay marriage sentiment in 2004 to help re-elect George W. Bush.


    Why exactly are we supposed to weep for the GOP and fear Trump? Because Trump might turn out to be half as destructive and damaging a President as George W. Bush?


  8. Davebo says:

    They are playing the cards they were dealt.

    What they’ll never admit is that they stacked the deck for decades trying to get something close to this hand but had no idea they’d pull the royal flush.

  9. michael reynolds says:


    Reynolds, haven’t you found an ointment for that butthurt?

    Well, there’s the six figure tax break your god wants me to have.

    Now answer @Neil Hudelson’s question. Here’s a convenient link.

  10. Davebo says:

    At this point Doug you guys need to consider a pie filter around this joint.

  11. An Interested Party says:

    Reynolds, haven’t you found an ointment for that butthurt?

    Perhaps that is on the same shelf where you can find some relief for your perpetual lockjaw condition…

  12. CSK says:

    CNN reports that charges have been filed in the Mueller investigation. Arrests to come Monday.

  13. michael reynolds says:

    Oh, Bungie? Remember just yesterday pretending that we weren’t talking about Russia? Turn on your Twitter machine.

  14. Modulo Myself says:

    Trump’s morons are getting their ass-kissing ready for when fires Mueller.

  15. Modulo Myself says:

    *he fires*

  16. Hal_10000 says:


    That’s the mirror image of the sort of sentiment in conservative circles that culminated in the election of Trump: misrepresent your opponent’s beliefs so it’s easier to demonize them, straw man every argument, see them as evil rather than just wrong. I suppose it stokes once sense of moral superiority, but it accomplishes nothing politically.

  17. Daryl's other brother Daryll says:

    It’s Mueller time.
    So much winning…

  18. Terrye Cravens says:

    The ones that did not surrender, like me, left. The Republicans who support Trump are the people who stayed. The party is getting smaller. Trump will squeeze the life right out of it.

  19. Anonne says:

    That’s wishful thinking, Terrye. Trump is a reflection of the current GOP. The approval numbers prove it. He’s squeezing the more mature, thoughtful people out. It’s the new Know-Nothing Party, and they are proud of it, now with even more racism!™

  20. Tony W says:

    @michael reynolds: The trouble is that Trump and his toenail-collectors like Bunge here get quite triggered when you repeat the actual things he says.

    It doesn’t matter if they are true or not.

  21. MBunge says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Yeah, you got me. Spending weeks completely ignoring Russia despite numerous significant stories in mainstream media outlets like The Washington Post only to jump back on the subject the instant you can pretend it’s only about Trump, that TOTALLY disproves my point.


  22. MBunge says:

    @michael reynolds: Well, there’s the six figure tax break your god wants me to have.

    Dude, everyone here knows you made a decent bit of coin cranking out YA pablum that a not-terribly-discerning audience forgets about five seconds after they finish the last sentence. You’re not all that humble about it. But we’ve all also seen you whine about taxes so much that we know you’re not really that rich. I admit I don’t understand why you think I care what you do or don’t pay in taxes.

    See, here’s the difference between you and me. Neither one of us thought Trump was going to win. Neither one of us wanted Trump to win. I can put his victory into the proper context as the end result of very serious and long standing problems, however, while you are a butthurt little boy who can’t get over everyone seeing how wrong and unimportant you are.


  23. michael reynolds says:

    You’re a toady devoid of intellectual or moral integrity. That’s the difference between us.

  24. An Interested Party says:

    Neither one of us wanted Trump to win.

    Oh really? For someone who claims he didn’t want Trump to win, you sure are a good little fluffer for the Orange Mange…

  25. Kylopod says:


    Neither one of us wanted Trump to win.

    Here’s what you wrote on Election Night:

    “Seriously, if I had a couple bucks I’d probably still put ’em on Hillary but it’s damn nice that a lot of arrogant douches are having to sweat it out a bit.”

    Whether intentionally or not, that’s one of the clearest statements you’ve ever made here about your basic value system.

    Donald Trump is the most unfit person ever to assume the American presidency. Electing him has imperiled health care for millions while attempting to give tax breaks to millionaires. But that’s just the “normal” Republican politics you claim to decry, though, I should point out, none of that would have happened if Hillary Clinton had become president, and you damn well know it.

    He has also launched an unprecedented assault on liberal democracy and opened up the very nontrivial possibility of a nuclear meltdown from a Tweet war, something that would have sounded absurd just a few short years ago. Dr. Strangelove has become reality.

    All this is very nearly worth it to you–or more than worth it–simply because it puts “arrogant douches” in their place. That’s all that matters to you. Whether or not we take you at your word that you would have preferred a Clinton victory, it’s clear where you get your jollies from, and it’s not from worrying about the very real consequences of a Trump presidency.

    In a way, you remind me of the late journalist Michael Kelly. You will probably object to the comparison because he was one of the media’s biggest cheerleaders for Bush and the Iraq War. But to him, it was never about the substance of the issue; he just seemed obsessed with tearing down what he saw as self-important liberals. The lives of the people involved couldn’t have mattered less to him. Like him, you think you’re speaking truth to power, when you’re doing precisely the opposite.

    But what’s truly pathetic is that you’ve proven again and again that you don’t have the faintest idea how to defend your thin arguments. As I’ve noted several times before, you repeatedly flee threads as soon as people cogently and eloquently dismantle your arguments. Then you just slink away and wallow in the delusion that you’ve accomplished something other than getting your ass handed to you. I know you’re trying to give the impression that you’re just some disaffected dude who doesn’t give a fig what others think of you, but what you’re actually proving is that you’re a closed-minded fool who thinks so highly of his own opinion he cannot even comprehend the possibility that others might be right, much less convincingly confront any challenges to his self-satisfied viewpoint.

    Maybe your claims are correct and our Trump-hatred has blinded us to more deep-seated institutional problems (as if the two are mutually exclusive), but if that’s the case, your attempts to “debate” these views in a reasoned manner cannot be described as anything less than laughable.

    This is actually the first thread in a while in which you’ve started to engage in a little back-and-forth instead of your usual shtick of dropping a stink bomb and then leaving. But all you’ve done in this thread is descend into a juvenile “your mama’s so fat” pissing contest. That’s the level you operate on. Brave truth-teller indeed?

  26. CET says:

    Ok….I know this is a little bit feeding the trolls, but I’m genuinely curious:


    And I think everyone needs to remember that the Republicans and conservatives Mataconis is lamenting…

    I share pretty much all of those criticisms of the GOP establishment, but I don’t see how that leads to supporting Trump. He isn’t the antidote to those problems, he is their apotheosis.

  27. CET says:

    “Has a hostile takeover of a historic institution ever been accomplished with less resistance?”

    My read of this is that most sitting GOP politicians think this is something they can wait out. If they just stay in the root cellar for a little while, they can go back to the way things were once the tornado moves on.

    Maybe they’re right. But I think there’s a non-trivial chance that the reality is much worse: Trump has shown that it’s possible to win a presidential election on a platform cribbed from the Spanish Falange. He may be too much of a screw-up to do much permanent damage, but how much are we willing to bet that the next Falange candidate will be as inept?

  28. Rick Zhang says:

    You know that Russia has a team set up to troll different major websites and blogs to stir the pot and ferment divisions among Americans along sectarian and ethnic lines. I guess OTB should be honoured to be considered a major enough blog to receive rotating trolling from the usual suspects.

    Notice also that JKB, Mbunge, and Guarnari don’t all comment at the same time? As I said, they take shifts trolling.

  29. CET says:

    @Rick Zhang:

    “Notice also that JKB, Mbunge, and Guarnari don’t all comment at the same time? As I said, they take shifts trolling.”

    I’d be surprised if that is the case here. In no particular order:

    1) The Chinese trolls I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with over at The National Interest are pretty transparent. Maybe Russia is better at faking American attitudes, but I’d be surprised if they were that good.

    2) I know plenty of people IRL who could easily be any of those three commenters.

    3) They have different enough voices/issues that I’d be surprised if they were the same person.

    4) There is a tendency at OTB for the left of center commenters to assume all of the right of center commenters are sock puppets of the same Russian/4chan troll/whatever. The extent to which that is revealing about the state of politics in the country is left as an exercise to the reader….