The GOP Establishment’s “never Trump” Mantra

Endorsement: Send Mike Levin back to Congress

As I began writing this column, the House voted to formally invite the former U.S. Rep. Mike Levin to run for a fourth term in the U.S. House in November. It’s another example of the way the GOP establishment has used the “never Trump” mantra to prevent a viable liberal candidate from getting their attention.

While that’s a legitimate strategy that has worked with other candidates (see Sen. Elizabeth Warren for an example of how it’s done), it fails when it comes to Levin. A former congressman and House budget committee chairman who helped lead the way for the 2010 economic stimulus, Levin was the last major Republican to serve in Congress from New York during the Gingrich era. Though he never held elected office, Levin rose to become one of the most prominent liberals in Washington. He was a key member of a key group of liberal Republican policy leaders, including former Democratic House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (then head of the Budget Committee), who decided that they could only be successful if they were willing to take a centrist approach to the conservative economic policies championed by Paul Ryan’s former running mate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Ryan and House Speaker John Boehner ultimately endorsed Levin in favor of a centrist candidate in order to prevent what would have been a costly presidential campaign.

As I wrote in my book, The Great War for the Soul of the Republican Party:

But there were more liberal Republican officeholders and strategists willing to embrace the party’s populist appeal and take on Republican orthodoxy – in particular Paul Ryan and Eric Cantor (now the Speaker). These were the ones in the room when House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, as the head of the NRSC, asked Ryan at the 2011 Republican National Convention to endorse Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, only to reject his nominee after Obama won the White House. House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) pushed for Speaker John Boehner’s endorsement of an eventual bipartisan agreement on Obama’s health care bill in the fall of 2009. By 2012, when Boehner’s GOP-led House controlled by his own allies had a narrow majority in the chamber, McCarthy had

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