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'Never Trump' Conservative Calls Election 'Amazing Earthquake'


Now let's turn to Mona Charen, a Republican who was part of the Never Trump conservative movement throughout the election season. She's a syndicated columnist at National Review and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. We spoke with Mona several times throughout the year, and we would like to hear her thoughts post-election. Welcome back, Mona. Thanks so much for joining us once again.

MONA CHAREN: Thank you for having me. Good to be here.

MARTIN: So take us back to Election Day or the day after, let's say. What was your reaction when you realized that Donald Trump would be our next president?

CHAREN: Well, it was an amazing earthquake because whereas in the days and weeks before the election there had been a lot of talk about how after this election, which pretty much everybody assumed was going to be a loss for Trump, that there was going to be a big civil war within Republican ranks. And everybody was sort of wondering how severe will it be? Is this the end of the Republican Party? Well, after the victory, now the talk is all about the Democratic Party being in disarray and the Republican Party is, for now, putting off all those fights. Honestly...

MARTIN: But are the Republicans really putting off those fights, too?

CHAREN: So for now, there is a sense of, you know, whatever people might have thought about Donald Trump's suitability, he is now the elected president the United States - president-elect. Everybody owes him the courtesy and the country needs to have us put aside the battles of the campaign and give him a chance without criticism to do the right thing. His initial signals were really good. They were gracious. That's important because it was about the most vile and ugly campaign I think we've - any of us has ever lived through.

MARTIN: Well, but to that end though, the reasons that you, among many others, did not support him - I mean, part of the reasons we were happy to have a chance to talk with you again is that National Review is a respected conservative outlet and not one, not two, not three, but two dozen conservative writers of stature wrote pieces saying that Donald Trump is not just temperamentally unfit but that his policy positions are incoherent and certainly not conservative. So where do you go with that having made that case? What's your state of mind?

CHAREN: My state of mind is nervous. I'm very, very cautiously optimistic because there is a chance that we could get a good Supreme Court appointment. There is a - or maybe more than one. There is a chance that we could get a good health care reform bill that repeal Obamacare, put in a really good health care plan. There are opportunities here for genuine reform that I think would be good for the country. So all those things have me slightly happy and optimistic.

I described it the next morning in my column. I said, look, this election, from the point of view of a conservative, is like a beautiful BMW in your driveway - brand new - but instead of having a bow on the top, it's got a vial of nitroglycerine. We don't know whether he will choose to seek popularity in bad ways. You know, he's going to want to be popular. We know that. But will he do it by implementing, for example, a trade war and demonizing foreigners? That would be terrible for the economy, but it might be popular. And that's scary.

MARTIN: You told us last time you were on the program that you would be supporting independent candidate Evan McMullin, who described himself as an independent conservative. I wondered if you have any regrets about that decision now because you said you couldn't support Donald Trump but you couldn't support Hillary Clinton either. Any regrets about that?

CHAREN: I have no regrets. I'm proud of the vote that I cast. And I think McMullin stepped up because he, for very good reasons, he felt that there was no conservative on offer and that, for a variety of reasons that we don't need to rehash now, Trump was unacceptable. And so I was glad that I could pull the lever for someone I was proud to support.

MARTIN: So where are you now? What are your hopes for the party as it moves into this new era and how do you move forward as a member of the Republican Party and the conservative movement?

CHAREN: So my job hasn't changed. I'm simply going to call it as I see it. I've made lots of people unhappy this year. I'm aware of that. They are very vocal. And that - it isn't my job to be popular, necessarily, it's to just try to be honest. And so if I think that Donald Trump is doing things that are good for the country, I will praise him. If I think he's doing things that are bad or dangerous or destructive, I will condemn.

I do hope to see more of the Trump that we saw on election night. I do think he should reassure people that he wants to be president of all Americans. I also would like to see less of the flag burning and destruction of property and freak out among people in the streets. I think there is no call for that. He hasn't done anything, OK? He's just been elected. You have to respect your fellow citizens and their choice enough to hold back and give him a chance.

MARTIN: That was Mona Charen. She's a columnist for National Review, a conservative publication, also a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center. She was kind enough to join us here at our studios in Washington, D.C. Mona Charen, thanks so much for joining us once again.

CHAREN: My pleasure, Michel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.