At a stately home in Washington’s Diplomatic District, Never Trump luminaries gathered Saturday for one of the city’s most exclusive literary evenings, where many of the capital’s elite political reporters rubbed shoulders with Republican operatives who broke up with the former president – often at great risk. to their careers and mental health.
Over spreads of sushi, flatbread pizza and endless cups of vodka soda, the crowd of a hundred people exchanged gossip and discussed “Why We Did It,” the terrifyingly personal and sometimes flamethrower of Tim Miller, a former Republican insider who was once a rising star with access to the highest levels of power inside the GOP
Over the course of a decade or so, Miller gradually broke not only with the Trump-aligned forces that gradually took control of the Republican Party beginning with Sarah Palin’s running for vice president, but also with the so-called party establishment. Those “normal” Republicans who made up his network of friends and colleagues, he said, were the not-so-ideological “adults in the room you hear so much about.”
So why, as the title of the book demands, did he do it?
“Partly atonement, partly a sincere feeling that despite all of this for six to seven years, I still don’t understand why my former friends and colleagues and I kept doing this,” Miller said in an interview while picking up an Acela between New York and Washington.
When we spoke, Miller was on his way to the Politics and Prose bookstore in the leafy Cleveland Park neighborhood of northwest Washington. The store happens to be on the same block as Comet Ping Pong, a beloved pizzeria that was stormed by a confused gunman in 2016 looking for a ghost child sex ring. amplified online by some of the very people associated with Trump’s rise.
The new book is marbled with pearls of wisdom, observations on human psychology and whole chapters of hard soul-searching that only an insider like Miller – who, by all accounts, is an extremely talented and a communications strategist who has had a direct hand in everything from planting hit coins on various politicians to Breitbart to stabbing rivals – could pull it off.
“At one point my editor told me to take off the hair shirt,” Miller said, because there was too much culpa in his mea culpa.
Publisher Eric Nelson runs Broadside, the conservative imprint of Harper Collins, making him a particularly suitable partner for the project. Nelson has turned conservative intramural skirmishes into a cottage industry, working with other prominent figures in Never Trump circles like Amanda Carpenter and Ben Howe, while landing books from hardcore MAGA luminaries.
Coming out of the GOP mainstream, Miller blew up every bridge he had built during his years in Washington, fled to Oakland and adopted a daughter, Toulouse, with her husband.
Friends say Miller “came off a cliff” to a future that could mean ostracism and threats to his mental health and physical safety. His book, which chronicles his relationship with the Republicans he left behind, attempts to understand why he did what he did and why they did what they did.
Donald Trump, post-presidency
The former president remains a powerful force in Republican politics.
“Few people have been both brave and successful,” said Juleanna Glover, public affairs consultant and former press secretary to Vice President Dick Cheney, who hosted the party last weekend. His home has become something of a haven for various causes over the years, from Syrian refugees to Americans held hostage in Russia.
A hip crowd
Glover’s evening was a particularly eye-opening moment not only because of the exclusive company, but also because it revealed how small the world of serious Republican strategists who rejected Trump really is.
There was Sarah Longwell, a close Miller ally who was the mastermind behind Republican Voters Against Trump, one of the anti-Trump groups that has spent millions helping Democrats in key states like Georgia in 2020.
Jeremy Adler, one of Rep. Liz Cheney’s top communications advisers, walked down the stairs with Sam Cornale, the executive director of the Democratic National Committee, while Andrew Bates, a deputy White House press secretary, walked down the stairs. found a quiet corner to line up with one of the hundreds of pings he receives daily from the Washington press.
Many of the capital’s hippest journalists were also in attendance, including Ryan Lizza and Alex Thompson of Politico’s Beltway Insider Playbook franchise; Josh Dawsey, former Politico reporter and scoop maker now at the Washington Post; and Mark Leibovich, a longtime New York Times writer who is now at The Atlantic. Leibovich wrote a 2013 book about such scenes called “This Town,” a title that has become something of an archaic metonym for all things Washington.
Also there was Marcus Brauchli, the former Washington Post and Wall Street Journal editor who now directs Donald Graham’s overseas investments in journalism projects, as well as Neera Tanden, Twitter’s staff secretary. at the Biden White House and a frequent guest in Washington. parties.
Why some Republicans left and most stayed
On the central question the book seeks to answer, Miller comes to no firm conclusion, one ring to rule them all, to explain the mystery of why some Republican agents stayed with Trump and who Miller sees as the new GOP MAGA overlords, while a few others, like him, bowed out.
Nor was there a Eureka moment where he decided he could no longer compromise his values by working for politicians he despised, he said. But he noted that Republicans from marginalized groups, such as the LGBTQ community, seemed more likely to be offended by Trump’s rude behavior than others.
For Miller, leaving the Republican establishment has been a bumpy, zigzag personal journey. He worked for Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican candidate for governor of Virginia in 2013, despite Cuccinelli’s opposition to same-sex marriage and his defense of the state’s anti-sodomy law.
And in early 2017, while doing what he calls “corporate PR shenanigans” to make ends meet, Miller took on Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Protection Agency, as a client. of the environment, who then resigned following a series of ethical investigations.
Feeling deeply ashamed of his own actions, these experiences brought Miller into therapy, which he says helped release emotional self-awareness to write the book and feel at peace with his decisions again.
The book is as much a warning as it is a searing exploration of his own self-loathing. By most indications, Trump appears to be gearing up for another presidential race in 2024, and the same pathologies that drove Miller from the Republican power centers he once ran through have only grown more cancerous, by his estimation. .
“Maybe,” he said, “I should have called the book ‘Why are we still doing this?'”
What to read
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