Here Are 5 Republicans Who Hated Trump Before They Became Loyal, Obedient Supporters

These days, anti-Trump Republicans are much harder to find on Capitol Hill than they were in early 2016.

House Speaker Paul Ryan and Sen. Ted Cruz

The modern-day Republican Party is full of horrible ideas, from opposing Net neutrality to promoting fossil fuels over green energy to trying to deprive millions of Americans of health insurance. But Republicans do have incredible discipline as a party—a lot more than Democrats, unfortunately—and these days, anti-Trump Republicans are much harder to find on Capitol Hill than they were in early 2016.

President Donald Trump has been a highly divisive figure within the GOP, and some well-known conservatives—from columnist George Will to former Rep. Joe Scarborough at MSNBC—have expressed their disdain for him by leaving the party they belonged to for decades. Other anti-Trump voices on the right have remained in the GOP while criticizing the president frequently, including Florida-based GOP strategist Rick Wilson, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and the Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol. But Wilson, Kasich and Kristol are the exception rather than the rule: most of the GOP establishment is rallying around the birther-in-chief in 2018, even some of his strongest critics from 2016.

Here are five prominent Republicans who hated Trump before becoming loyal, servile, obedient Trump supporters.

1. House Speaker Paul Ryan

In 2016, it was obvious that House Speaker Paul Ryan couldn’t stand Trump and was hoping to God that someone else would receive the GOP’s presidential nomination. When Trump insisted that Gonzalo Curiel—

the Indiana-born judge who was presiding over a lawsuit against Trump University—could not be objective in the case because of his Mexican heritage, Ryan denounced Trump’s assertion as “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” But eventually, Ryan endorsed Trump and went on to work closely with him no matter how much it repulsed him. Nicolle Wallace, a right-wing Trump critic and MSNBC’s self-described “non-practicing Republican,” has asserted that she’s quite disappointed by Ryan’s spinelessness. Ryan’s actions, however, speak much louder than his words, and his decision to not seek reelection in the 2018 midterms speaks volumes about his disdain for Trumpism no matter how reluctant he has been to criticize the president publicly. As Bloomberg.com’s Albert R. Hunt wrote on April 11, “Paul Ryan didn’t want to be speaker of House. He grew to hate the job when serving with President Donald Trump.”  

2. Sen. Ted Cruz

When Trump and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz were competing for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016, their attacks on one another became downright nasty. Trump insulted Cruz’s wife, Heidi Cruz, more than once and implied that the senator’s Cuban heritage made it impossible for him to be a true Christian Right evangelical. Sen. Cruz, meanwhile, called Trump everything from “utterly immoral” to a “serial philanderer” and was booed when he refused to endorse him at the Republican National Convention. These days, however, Cruz is a submissive Trump supporter and insists that the two have long since buried the hatchet. And with Beto O’Rourke, Cruz’ Democratic challenger in the 2018 Texas Senate race, not far behind him in recent polls, the Texas senator is imploring Trump to please go to Texas and campaign for him. 

3. Sen. Marco Rubio

The contempt that Trump and Sen. Marco Rubio had for one another when they competed for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016 was obvious. Trump repeatedly belittled the Florida senator by calling him “Little Marco Rubio,” and Rubio denounced Trump as a charlatan and a liar who was destroying the Republican Party. But during Trump’s presidency, Rubio has been an obedient Trump supporter. Rubio loves to tweet Bible verses and brag about his Catholic faith, yet allegations that Trump had extramarital affairs with an adult film star (Stormy Daniels) and a Playboy model (Karen McDougal) and paid both of them hush money to keep quiet don’t bother him. And Rubio is so pro-Trump these days that unlike former First Lady Laura Bush—who compared the separation of families at the U.S./Mexico border to World War II-era Japanese-American internment camps—he has enthusiastically defended Trump’s immigration policy and made the ludicrous assertion that Barack Obama is somehow to blame for it.

4. Kellyanne Conway

Kellyanne Conway, one of the most shameless opportunists on Capitol Hill, has been so consistent a mouthpiece and apologist for Trump that it is hard to believe she was once a vocal Trump critic. But back when she was still supporting Ted Cruz’ presidential campaign in 2015 and early 2016, Conway described Trump as someone who “built a lot of his businesses on the backs of the little guy.” In a compilation of CNN interviews put together by Media Matters for America, Conway can be heard asserting that the “victims of Trump University” showed how untrustworthy Trump was, describing Trump’s demeanor as “unpresidential” and stressing that GOP voters needed to support someone other than Trump if they wanted to see a Republican president in the White House in 2017. But Conway’s disdain for Trump was quickly replaced with adulation when, during the summer of 2016, she became his new campaign manager (a position once held by Paul Manafort, now on trial in Alexandria, Virginia for multiple federal counts of bank fraud and tax evasion).

5. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell

In 2016, Trump was the last person that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell wanted to see receive the Republican presidential nomination. But  when Trump won the nomination as well as the general election, the Kentucky Republican became a loyal supporter—at least on the surface. Behind closed doors, however, McConnell no doubt wishes another Republican were president. As Alexander Burns and Jonathan Martin wrote in a New York Times article on August 22, 2017, there has been ongoing tension between Trump and McConnell behind closed doors. And according to Burns and Martin, McConnell privately regards Trump as someone who is “entirely unwilling to learn the basics of governing.” Nonetheless, McConnell avoids expressing his anti-Trump thoughts publicly—no matter how many embarrassing tweets the president posts on a regular basis. 

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Alex Henderson is a news writer at AlterNet and veteran political journalist. His work has also appeared in Salon, Raw Story, Truthdig, National Memo, Philadelphia Weekly, Democratic Underground, L.A. Weekly, MintPress News and many other publications. Follow him on Twitter @alexvhenderson.