At a stately house in Washington’s diplomatic quarter, Never Trump luminaries gathered on Saturday for one in all the town’s more exclusive book parties, where lots of the capital’s elite political journalists rubbed elbows with the Republican operatives who broke with the previous president — often at great risks to their careers and sanity.
Over spreads of sushi, flatbread pizzas and limitless cups of vodka sodas, the gang of 100 or so traded gossip and discussed “Why We Did It,” the wrenchingly personal and at times flamethrowing latest memoir by Tim Miller, a former Republican insider who was once a rising star with access to the very best levels of power contained in the G.O.P.
Over the course of a few decade, Miller progressively broke not only with the Trump-aligned forces that steadily took over the Republican Party starting with Sarah Palin’s vice-presidential run, but in addition the so-called establishment of the party. These “normal” Republicans who made up his network of friends and colleagues, he says, were the not-as-ideological “adults within the room you hear a lot about.”
So why, because the book’s title asks, did he do it?
“Partially atonement, partially a real sense that despite living through all this for six to seven years, I still didn’t quite understand why my former friends and colleagues and I kept going together with it,” Miller said in an interview as he took an Acela between Latest York and Washington.
After we spoke, Miller was on his technique to the Politics and Prose bookstore within the leafy Cleveland Park neighborhood of northwest Washington. The shop happens to be on the identical block as Comet Ping Pong, a beloved pizza parlor that was stormed by a confused gunman in 2016 in quest of a phantom child sex ring amplified online by a number of the very people related to Trump’s rise.
The brand new book is marbled with pearls of wisdom, observations on human psychology and full chapters of harsh self-reflection that only an insider like Miller — who by all accounts is a supremely talented opposition researcher and communications strategist who had a direct hand in every little thing from planting hit pieces on various politicians in Breitbart to knifing rivals — could pull off.
“At one point, my editor told me to take off the hair shirt,” Miller said, because there was an excessive amount of culpa in his mea culpa.
The editor, Eric Nelson, runs Broadside, the conservative imprint of Harper Collins, making him an especially apt partner for the project. Nelson has turned conservative intramural skirmishes right into a cottage industry, working with other distinguished figures in Never Trump circles like Amanda Carpenter and Ben Howe, while also landing books from hardcore MAGA luminaries.
On his way out of the mainstream G.O.P. class, Miller blew up every bridge he had built over his years in Washington, fled to Oakland and adopted a daughter, Toulouse, together with his husband.
Friends say that Miller “walked off a cliff” right into a future that might mean ostracism and threats to his mental health and physical safety. His book, which chronicles his relationships with the Republicans he left behind, tries to unpack why he did what he did and why they did what they did.
How Donald J. Trump Still Looms
“Not loads of people have been each brave and successful,” said Juleanna Glover, a public affairs consultant and former press secretary for Vice President Dick Cheney who hosted the party last weekend. Her home has turn out to be a refuge of sorts for various causes through the years, from Syrian refugees to Americans taken hostage in Russia.
A plugged-in crowd
Glover’s soiree was an especially revealing moment not only due to exclusive company, but in addition since it revealed just how small the world of great Republican strategists who rejected Trump really is.
There was Sarah Longwell, a detailed Miller ally who was the mastermind behind Republican Voters Against Trump, one in all a constellation of anti-Trump groups that spent hundreds of thousands helping Democrats in key swing states like Georgia in 2020.
Jeremy Adler, a top communications adviser to Representative Liz Cheney, glided down the steps with Sam Cornale, the manager director of the Democratic National Committee, while Andrew Bates, a White House deputy press secretary, found a quiet corner to field one in all the a whole bunch of pings he gets every day from the Washington press corps.
Most of the capital’s most plugged-in reporters were there too, including Ryan Lizza and Alex Thompson of Politico’s Beltway insider Playbook franchise; Josh Dawsey, a former Politico reporter and scoop machine now at The Washington Post; and Mark Leibovich, a longtime Latest York Times author who’s now at The Atlantic. Leibovich wrote a 2013 book about such scenes called “This Town,” a title that has turn out to be an arch metonym of sorts for all things Washington.
There, too, was Marcus Brauchli, the previous Washington Post and Wall Street Journal editor who now directs Donald Graham’s overseas investments in journalism projects, together with Neera Tanden, the Twitter-happy staff secretary within the Biden White House and a frequent guest at Washington parties.
Credit…Sophie Berard Photography
Why some Republicans left, and most stayed
On the central query the book seeks to reply, Miller reaches no firm, one-ring-to-rule-them-all conclusion to elucidate the mystery of why some Republican operatives stuck with Trump and people Miller sees because the G.O.P.’s latest MAGA overlords, while a couple of others, like him, bowed out.
Nor was there any single Eureka moment when he decided he could now not compromise his values by working for politicians he despised, he said. But he noted that Republicans from marginalized groups, comparable to the L.G.B.T.Q. community, seemed more prone to be offended by Trump’s boorish behavior than others.
For Miller, leaving the Republican establishment was a zigzagging personal journey of suits and starts. He worked for Ken Cuccinelli, the Republican nominee 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 P.R. skulduggery” to make ends meet, Miller took on as a client Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, who later resigned under a series of ethics investigations.
Feeling deeply ashamed of his own actions, those experiences landed Miller in therapy, which he says helped unlock the emotional self-awareness to put in writing the book and again feel at peace together with his decisions.
The book is as much a warning because it is a searing exploration of his own self-loathing. By most indications, Trump appears to be preparing for an additional presidential run in 2024, and the identical pathologies that drove Miller out of the Republican power centers he once ran in have only grown more cancerous, in his estimation.
“Perhaps,” he said, “I must have called the book ‘Why Are We Still Doing It?’”
What to read
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