Sabotage. That’s a pretty strong word for the pretty standard notion of voting for the person you prefer, or simply stating your opinion about something. BUT…

But, when you are the great and powerful leader of a sinister movement, it fits just fine. Just so in the case of Evan McMullin, who destroyed the GOP’s chances in Virginia. At least, that’s so according to conventional pro-Trump wisdom this week.

Mollie Hemingway wrote quite reasonably at The Federalist this morning that “Republicans Have to Start Delivering on Their Campaign Promises.” That’s true. I said the same thing here at RedState.

But on Twitter, the morning of election day, Hemingway made a … different observation.

Sabotage.

As I said, a strong word. That notion of so-called NeverTrump culpability was one shared by more than a few people, as Sarah Rumpf wrote in a guest post this morning. It continued throughout the day, implicating more people than just McMullin (some of whom we interview below.) Here is a good post-election example:

This is, by the way, the same theory of electoral politics that the Trump movement advanced last November, repackaged for Virginia’s gubernatorial race.

Sarah rightly notes there is no such thing as a monolithic “NeverTrump” movement. There are, though, people who don’t like Trump. There are some who criticize him. There are others who analyze the impact that dislike of Trump has on election results. There are people who think he is a negative factor. Maybe even some of those people voted for Trump.

But by today’s conventional pro-Trump wisdom, they are all “Never Trump.”

Even Gillespie himself is being lumped in, after embracing and being endorsed by President Trump.

Trending

I am a hypocrite!

Believe me, it goes on. If that’s not absurd enough for you, I don’t know what is.

Wait, yes I do.

In addition to blaming NeverTrump in general for the loss, something for which there is literally no evidence, Evan McMullin in particular is singled out as the leader of this evil group, with Rick Wilson taking a close second. Also Bill Kristol, Jay Caruso, all sabotaging Gillespie. Gillespie, who we are also supposed to believe was secretly Never Trump himself.

So I decided to ask a few people about this conspiracy against Ed Gillespie.

Quin Hilyer, writing for National Review, said late Tuesday night that the GOP losses in Virginia could be attributed to a Trump-effect.

This continues a trend demonstrating that Trump is undermining Republicans all over the country.

I asked Quin if this was part of some directive from Evan McMullin.

HOWE: Does Evan McMullin influence your opinion or who you might vote for?

HILYER: Not in the least. I didn’t support him last year, and I certainly take no cues from him.

HOWE: Would you have voted for Ed Gillespie?

HILYER: Absolutely. I’ve know Ed for 25 years. He’s one of those rare people who started with somewhat sharp elbows but who has become nicer, more principled, and in general a better person the older he has become. And he always has been a solid conservative.

HOWE: Do you believe Evan McMullin or other so-called Never Trumpers sabotaged the Virginia elections?

HILYER: The very idea is ludicrous. Blame Trump, not McMullin, and certainly not other NeverTrumpers, most of whom supported Ed.

Hilyer added:

I took great offense at a number of pundits — including friends who are thoughtful, wonderful people but who happen to be at least somewhat Trump-friendly – who took the opportunity of the McMullin Tweet to make overgeneralized, blanket allegations that NeverTrumpers in general are actively rooting for Republican losses. I’m sick of the over-generalizations. I’m sick of the attribution of bad motives. It’s unfair, obnoxious, and frankly despicable. We are not some monolithic movement, indeed not even a loose affiliation any more. We are just principled conservatives who are appalled by Trump.

Hilyer, it should be noted, took to Twitter to criticize the McMullin tweet that was characterized as “NeverTrump sabotage.”

I emailed Steve Deace, too. The popular radio host and commentator, who supported Trump’s candidate Roy Moore in Alabama. Deace is fiercely conservative, covering all legs of the stool. He’s as pro-life as they get, and unabashed in his commentary. Yet Deace, too, is frequently targeted as part of this apparently McMullin-led monolith of Gillespie-hate and secret liberalism.

HOWE: Steve, does Evan McMullin influence your opinion or who you might vote for?

DEACE: I didn’t even vote for Evan McMullin, but the Constitution Party candidate instead. In fact, I actually had to mute Evan on Twitter months ago, because I found his methods of attacking Trump as fantastically asinine as the methods Trump’s shills often deploy to defend him.

HOWE: Would you have voted for Ed Gillespie?

DEACE: I view Gillespie as the very progressive, corporatist Republican that drove me away from the party in the first place — and thus created the environment that gave birth to whatever is Trump. So unless he could absolutely convince me he really was strongly pro-life, the answer is no.

HOWE: Do you believe Evan McMullin or other so-called Never Trumpers were able to influence, decide, or sabotage the Virginia elections?

DEACE: Evan McMullin is like Lena Dunham in my world. In that I would have no idea what they’re saying if it weren’t for seeing folks I follow on Twitter reacting to them. So, no.

Still, I wanted to be thorough, so I really pushed him.

HOWE: Did you and Evan McMullin collude to stop Ed Gillespie?

DEACE: The only person I’ve ever colluded with was my wife to have children. Or maybe that’s called conception? My vocabulary is kind of all over the place.

Definitive.

I spoke, too, with Jim Geraghty, of National Review. Jim writes about campaigns in particular, in addition to his general commentary, and is a widely read expert. He wrote last night about the election, saying it was “as bad as it gets” for Republicans.

I asked the same questions, which I will still include inline for clarity. (Also, the third question was unique to Jim.)

HOWE: Would you have voted for Ed Gillespie?

GERAGHTY: I did vote for Ed Gillespie.

HOWE: Do you believe Evan McMullin or other so-called Never Trumpers were able to influence, decide, or sabotage the Virginia elections?

GERAGHTY: Only in the sense of their own votes and perhaps a small circle of personal friends influenced by their perspective.

HOWE: In your work following elections and campaigns, have you before or will you in the future consider #NeverTrump to be a voting bloc and/or would you define it as a “movement” the way one might characterize, say, the Trump movement? If not, what would you call it?

GERAGHTY: #NeverTrump in the form of Evan McMullin and Bill Kristol, etc. is a bunch of guys. Trump-skeptical or anti-Trump Republicans — or maybe even Republicans who are disappointed in the Trump presidency so far — is a much more sizable demographic, and part of the reason Republicans up and down the ticket got nuked in the suburbs Tuesday.

This is particularly important. The stark difference between a Capital Letters Movement and the fact that there are just people who think a certain thing about a certain dude. I sort of touched on this myself, on Twitter.

Certainly opinion writers hope their opinions matter to someone. Certainly the intent is convince people of something, show them something, or in some way influence their perception of an issue or person. But to translate that into a defined and ill-willed machine of sabotage is, well, a bit ridiculous.

But let us go on. In the interest of RedState transparency, I asked our own former Assistant Managing Editor, Jay Caruso, lately of the Dallas Morning News, what he thought.

HOWE: Jay. As my former minion, would you have voted for Ed Gillespie?

CARUSO: Yes. Sir.

HOWE: Did you collude with Evan McMullin to ruin the GOP in Virginia?

CARUSO: My invitation for collusion got lost in the mail. So, no.

HOWE: Were you “rooting” for Democrats to win, as some have accused so-called NeverTrumpers of doing?

CARUSO: I never root for Democrats to win. Period.

Me either. Nor did I vote for any, last year or this.

Of course, nothing compares to getting an answer straight from the horse’s conspirator. I actually spoke with the Lieutenant Governor of Evil himself, Rick Wilson, Republican Strategist and commentator. After showing proper deference to the great hoary hosts of the netherworld, we had this exchange:

HOWE: Rick, I’ve seen people attributing Gillespie’s loss to you, or claiming you take credit for it. Do you?

WILSON: Donald Trump is responsible for Ed’s loss. Top to bottom, full stop. He is a President with the lowest approval ratings in modern history, and his behavior motivated Democrats in VA to record levels. I don’t not take credit for it, nor did I seek it. I warned it was coming, and that the political poison of Trumpism in swing states would have this outcome. Do I hope it clarifies for elected GOPers how much damage is coming because of Trump’s pathetic approval ratings, erratic behavior, and the cult of Bannonism? That’d be the only upside.

HOWE: Would you have voted for Gillespie?

WILSON: I would have. I’ve known Ed for a long time, respect him, and believe he was a good man stuck in a bad situation.

HOWE: Does Evan McMullin take credit for Gillespie’s loss?

WILSON: I haven’t spoken to him about it, and hadn’t spoken to him before the tweet the other day, but I would presume he does not.

HOWE: Do you think Gillespie lost because of sabotage and “never trump” or would you say there was a different reason?

WILSON: Mollie’s assertion (and those of a few others) that some 5th column of Never Trumpers sabotaged Ed’s campaign is pathetic and laughable. A handful of conservative holdouts against Trump OR a massively unpopular President who has failed time and again, and who excused the white-supremacists in Charlottesville? Occam’s razor is pretty clean on this one; Donald Trump is the cause of Ed’s loss, and any other explanation is intellectually bankrupt and dishonest.

All but one would have voted for Ed Gillespie. I would have too. I should note here that the fact of our vote counts exactly as negatively as would our saying we would not vote for him.

In other words, if Rick Wilson, Quin Hilyer and I would NOT have voted for Ed Gillespie, it’s proof that Never Trump sabotaged him, and therefore the loss is not Trump’s fault.

If we would have voted for him, then it’s proof Gillespie himself is evil, deep state, never trump trash and therefore the loss is not Trump’s fault.

The key is that it not be Trump’s fault, you see. A theory, you may be completely unsurprised to learn, shared by Trump.

I’m not sure why it is that people intensely want to have a named group they can point at and blame for their losses. Is that something in human nature? (I’m being obnoxious, here. Of course it is in human nature. But it isn’t helpful. The Democrats needed to learn from 2016, and perhaps they have. Now it’s the GOP’s turn to learn.)

I did not email these questions to Sean Davis or Mollie Hemingway, on the grounds that their tweets already exist. I didn’t email them to the three Trump tweeters above, on the grounds of decency.

Oh, as for me? I would have voted for him. I haven’t colluded. I have no particular problem with, or affection for, Evan. I think he’s a fine tweeter, tweeting his personal opinion. Like with any other person, sometimes I may agree, sometimes I may not. It’s Twitter. Not a wedding.

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But look, maybe once everyone is done blaming some phantom movement, or some sinister puppeteer, they can remember what Mollie and I both wrote today. (You really should read her article.)

What we both said was that the GOP needs to learn a lesson about themselves, and start to deliver on their promises. Shouldn’t that be the focus? Not a mysterious #NeverTrump army out to elect Democrats?

Besides, even if you did incorrectly make it about Trump and NeverTrump exclusively, it would be bad news for 2018. Because when it gets down to it, if this supposed NeverTrump cabal of people writing things on the internet can turn the election in favor of Democrats out of mere spite of Trump … well that wouldn’t speak very highly for the power of Trump anymore, would it?

In any case, let’s hope the GOP is figuring out a few things. Paul Ryan, at least, may be ready to start coming through.

There is a lot to learn from the numbers. But even more from what the voters are telling, and have been telling the GOP for years. They’re almost out of time. And scapegoats.