With the Trump presidency going back in history and Trumpism as a political force no longer existing between elections, it is imperative for its opponents to honestly reckon with their own past. Anti-Trump forces used all their might to defeat him, and the fact of victory does not mean that every tactic was effective or necessary. Indeed, some of the anti-Trump manifestations, like the cults that have sprung up around former FBI director James Comey and special adviser Robert Mueller, seem particularly dubious and counterproductive.
The hopes that have been pinned on such robust establishment numbers to bring Trump down now seem like pipe dreams, as focusing on possible Russian collusion has produced partial evidence at best and almost no real political results. In the end, Trump was defeated the normal way most political figures are, with his opponents forming a larger political coalition and winning at the ballot box.
Even in the field of electoral politics, there were some dubious bets. Many Democrats dreamed of Never Trump Republicans’ potential to break Trump’s hold in the GOP. Over the past five years, former Republicans like David Frum, Charles Sykes and William Kristol have gained surprising new audiences among liberals eager to hear their anti-Trump message.
The pitch that Republicans made of Never Trump was often based on a compelling redemption narrative. They had worked in the GOP and knew all of their dirty tricks. Now they looked like Dr. Frankenstein recognized the evil that they had created and were determined to destroy it. Understanding the monster better than anyone, they could be trusted to lead the charge.
This was the argument the Lincoln Project, a political action committee formed in late 2019, made to donors. The group was founded by four veterans of Republican politics: Steve Schmidt, John Weaver, Reed Galen, and Rick Wilson. They were all men with a reputation for political hardball. Wilson, for example created The infamous 2002 ad accused Democratic Senator Max Cleland, a veteran who lost his legs and an arm during the Vietnam War, of being gentle with terrorism.
Write in Mashable in November 2020, just before the presidential election, Rebecca Ruiz asserts,
The Lincoln project is arguably a liberal dream. It is a one-time reversal of happiness. Used to being at the mercy of Republican activists, Liberals can now watch them use the same dreaded tactics to elect a Democratic president. Even better, their team of thugs insists on targeting the blows directly at the president and those who are pushing his agenda, which the Democrats did not do with the same consistent fearlessness.
The Lincoln Project published a number of anti-Trump attack ads, many for social media only, although some were also broadcast on television. These ads were particularly personal, sometimes focusing on Trump’s verbal slip-ups suggesting that he suffered from impaired mental health. You certainly had the ability to get under Trump’s skin, which is what led the former president to do so Rail against the group as “Losers” and “RINO Republicans”.