New York Daily News (Opinion)
By Rick Wilson
May 8, 2016
The hordes taunting the Never Trump brigades of the Republican Party to understand they've lost and need to get out of the way of presumptive presidential nominee Donald Trump ought to learn a lesson from a revered American ally.
As Hitler's forces roared through Belgium and France in the May of 1940, the 400,000 men of the British Expeditionary Force in Europe were cut off.
Outnumbered and outgunned by the Wehrmacht war machine, they represented a large fraction of the British overall military forces, and now stood at the verge of complete destruction.
Nothing they had done to mount a counterattack against Germans was sufficient, and as the Allied forces collapsed around them, the British faced a choice of death and surrender, or retreat and evacuation.
In a desperate act of logistical genius, Winston Churchill and the British High Command ordered the BEF's commander, Lord Gort, to retreat to Dunkirk, where a massive evacuation effort — using any craft that could float to bring the forces home across the English Channel — would be mounted.
Churchill and his advisers knew that unless the 400,000 men were brought home, England would be nearly defenseless in the face of what was then considered an inevitable invasion by the relentless tide of German men and arms.
Although they brought Dunkirk under brutal artillery and air attack, the Germans failed to exploit the BEF's weakness for a few critical days, giving the Brits the chance to escape. While Hitler's army waited for orders, British naval forces, commercial boats, fishing vessels, yachts and even a 14-foot sailboat streamed across the Channel to rescue the troops desperate to escape Dunkirk.
Overhead, the now-bloodied RAF started to hammer the Luftwaffe, not well at first, but with increasing confidence and effect. The evacuation was executed brilliantly and swiftly, and 335,000 men of the BEF and around 30,000 French forces returned to the safety of England to prepare for the coming war in earnest.
Addressing Parliament on the June 4, 1940, Winston Churchill gave his famous "We shall fight on the beaches" speech. Churchill knew at that moment that the psychological German threat was as corrosive and dangerous as the military threat. He knew that he must stiffen the sinews of a nation convinced it was on the verge of invasion and defeat.
His timeless words were a rallying cry that echoes through history, a coda that stands for defiance in the face of evil and strength in the face of terrible odds:
"We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender."
It is Churchill's stark defiance that has been on my mind this week as the Washington establishment began its process of making peace with the Donald Trump forces, who seek nothing but its utter destruction and ruin.
One by one, with precious few exceptions, they have begun to capitulate — and say the man they viewed as such a massive threat to the party is actually acceptable now. Nothing succeeds, apparently, like success.
The forces of the Vichy GOP have already started the inevitable process of their surrender, their brutal words of criticism of Trump now forgotten and shrugged off.
The lobbyists of K Street and the ambitious operatives of Capitol Hill have looked just at the momentary flush of Trump's victory. They are unable and unwilling to game out the long-term picture we face in this election and beyond.
They may not realize it, but by buckling, they make all the nasty things that Trump said about them seem truer: They don't say what they mean or mean what they say. They can be bought. They are craven politicians, nothing more.
But at least on paper, the same D.C. insiders their leader and his cult reviled and mocked just days ago are now, them, fine Americans. The same "lifelong politicians" and "corrupt insiders" whom residents of the Trump Nation blame for everything from illegal immigration to Obamacare haven't changed their views; they've just hoisted a flag of convenience.
It tells you a lot about the power of Trump's magic that people who would have stoned John Boehner and Reince Preibus to death last week are now singing their praises for signing a surrender with Donald of Orange.
So yes, the conservatives who make up the core of the Never Trump movement — myself included — are under pressure now from all sides. The media seeks to dismiss any continued opposition to Trump as sour grapes. The Trump forces respond to our intransigence with trolling and threats.
This is our Dunkirk. This is the moment for a risky, improbable set of Hail Mary passes to save the conservative movement and the Republican Party from the invasion of Trumpism.
We won't give up. We can't give up.
We're not doing this just out of stubbornness. It would be easy to say conservatism will survive under the electoral and political disaster that is Donald Trump, but it wouldn't be honest to do so. The Never Trump movement isn't just concerned about this election; we've committed to conservative, constitutional leadership for the future.
We reject an all-powerful state, whether it's in the hands of a leftist technocrat or a bright-orange alt-right neo-fascist. That's the core of Never Trump that Trump's fans don't understand. It isn't just that we loathe him personally (though that's easy to do with his horror-show affect); it's that we reject his core political philosophy of statism.
We don't want a liberal statist in the form of Hillary Clinton, and we don't want an authoritarian statist in the form of Donald Trump.
Every day that passes gives us additional evidence of how much Trump believes he could govern through fit of pique, fiat, diktat and force of will. He either doesn't understand or doesn't respect the separation of powers and the structure of government the Founders built.
We also want a Republican — a real Republican — in the White House, and with Trump as the GOP nominee and no third-party contender on the horizon, there's zero chance we will get that.
Clinton is lavishly funded, and Trump has given her endless material with which to hammer him. The mercurial views of the Trump demographic were vital to address in the Republican primary; now, they're anathema to the vast majority of American likely voters, and that's where Hillary's message and advertising will be targeted. The media's turn from Trump cheerleaders to Trump flamethrowers will amplify her message with the same impact they had on the primary.
The movement from a flood of uncritical love to a flood of critical wrath will shock Trump followers, but it's coming. We know it. They deny it.
It would be easy to believe that Clinton is so flawed as a person and as a candidate that Trump's crude jibes and insult-comic routine will make her defeat as manageable as any challenge he faced in the GOP primary. But it isn't; this is another order of difficulty entirely.
It would be easy to say that Trump was playing a role this entire time, and he'll now run as a credible and effective candidate against the Clinton machine — but then he tweets pictures of taco salads with bone-headed statements about how much he loves Mexicans. The Never Trump movement knows that gaffes and idiotic bluster aren't what Presidents are made of.
It would be easy to believe the comforting lie that Trump can compete and win in the bluest of blue states, and put New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts in play for Trump. This is amusing, but it is never, ever happening.
While the myths that Trump is in possession of some special magic that can rewrite every political rule and redraw the electoral map are comforting to the crowd chowing down on Trump's boob-bait, they just aren't true.
Roll Call, the political newspaper, has downgraded all but one U.S. Senate contest for Republicans. That's because virtually every public poll shows Clinton ahead of Trump by double digits. The Electoral College map today looks like Hillary Clinton would beat Trump with results that top Obama's victories in both 2008 and 2012.
The Obama campaign created Mitt Romney's negatives with a massive advertising effort from Priorities USA. Trump's negatives begin in historically high territory before Clinton has even launched a real media effort against him.
And through dozens upon dozens of hateful statements, ignorant ones, petulant ones, misogynistic ones, insanely inconsistent ones, Trump has given Clinton more fodder for attack ads than any candidate has ever handed an opponent.
In the short, the evacuation of Dunkirk was a victory for the Germans; they rolled into Paris on June 14. They controlled Europe until 1944. The French government capitulated, and the Vichy regime led by Marshal Petain collaborated with the Nazis at every level, including playing their role in the arrest, deportation and murder of Jews.
Collaboration with evil comes in many forms; grudging, tacit, overt or enthusiastic. France experienced all those forms of collaboration. But Charles de Gaulle, the Free French and the resistance never faltered, never accepted the Petain regime, and never stopped fighting to recover their nation.
Never Trump's effort to hold the conservative movement together by rejecting Trump as the nominee is our Dunkirk. It is the resistance of people who genuinely believe in conservative ideas to a form of politics redolent with authoritarianism, anti-constitutionalism and personality-cult fervor that has no place in a Republic.
We couldn't defeat Trump in the primary, but we refuse to be compromised by his fundamentally anti-conservative politics and ideology.
We don't love this mission, but we're on it. Our Dunkirk won't be seen as a victory today in the atmosphere of Trump triumphalism, but it's about survival for conservatism and a principled Republican Party.
I'll leave you with another Churchill quote, as true today as it was then:
"I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once more able to defend our island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone."
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