The Case of the Never Trumpers: Tether Your Camel

y kendall
8 min readSep 19


I was watching a YouTube excerpt of Jonathan Capehart’s Sunday Show on MSNBC. If you don’t know, Capehart is an MSNBC staple, a young attractive sartorially smart gay black man with tightly trimmed hair (no afros, no way) who tends toward the inoffensive. He colors well inside the lines so, unlike Don Lemon, he’s unlikely to upset anyone and is therefore likely to have a long career in TV presenting. Nothing wrong with that, just not my cup of tea.

But to be fair to a young brother on the come-up, I watch a bit from time to time. Today seemed like a good time because he had two high-profile conservative women, Tara Setmayer and Sarah Longwell, on the show. I’d been watching a few Lincoln Project and Bulwark podcasts, respectively in the past few weeks, trying to keep tabs on the Never Trumpers, so I was interested to see what his two guests had to say outside their native pods.

Longwell and Setmayer

Both are highly accomplished women in their respective spheres. Tara Setmayer typically cohosts The Breakdown, a YouTube product of the Lincoln Project, with former Republican strategist and Florida man Rick Wilson. LP is a group of former Republican campaign strategists who have pretty much been Never Trump from the get-go. Their TV ads are expert at exposing and trolling MAGA and their pyrite idol.

Ms Setmayer is a black woman in her forties with skin on the lighter side, hazel eyes, and hair died near platinum blonde. Her mother was of Italian/German descent; her father, a police officer, was of Afro-Guatemalan descent. She is a New Jersey Republican and has been since she was seventeen. She served as a communications director for a GOP congresswoman from California and makes frequent appearances as a political contributor for CNN, ABC, NPR… So. What we have here is a Black woman supporting the racist, misogynist party until Trump. Okay.

Sarah Longwell typically cohosts The Next Level with Bulwark colleagues Jonathan V Last (known as JVL) and Tim Miller. The Bulwark is a political magazine of former Republican writers and campaign strategists who checked into the Never Trump campsite just after the Lincolners. Longwell is publisher, JVL is editor; Miller, a former strategist for Jeb Bush, makes frequent appearances on Showtime’s The Circus and on MSNBC.

Ms. Longwell is a gay white woman in her forties, a natural blonde (as far as I can tell). This Pennsylvania native has worked as a PR executive for an agency lobbying on behalf of the alcohol industry against lowering of the alcohol standard for DUI. Ms Longwell was the female first board member for the Log Cabin Republicans, a group in the LGBT community that supports conservative causes. First female. She quit them when they endorsed 45 for re-election. So. Bottom line: What we have here is a gay white woman supporting the homophobic, misogynist party until Trump. Ohhhkie-dokie.

Wait a minute, I’m pretending I’m okay with this, but what the absolute hell? Why would smart black and gay women, or any independently minded woman support this party? I don’t get it. I’ve never met any such woman in person.

I usually don’t like going to the zoo, but their podcasts are like a zoo or aquarium where I can see fascinating creatures I’d never see in the wild, whose existence I’ve always doubted a bit. Turns out that platypi and hammerhead sharks actually do exist.

Mostly Setmayer and Longwell seem sensible, intelligent, self-assured — my kind of woman in today’s world. But if you listen long enough, it’s like we used to say back in the day, “your slip is showing.” Both pretty much avoid discussions of race or gender and, in Longwell’s case, sexual orientation. I got the 411 on this odd avoidance from Tim Miller. He talks about keeping his orientation as a gay male under wraps for years, catering to the greater political good. Of course, as a white male, that would likely be to his advantage, but for women, regardless of race? WTF?

After decades as a Republican comms specialist, Setmayer now considers herself part of the fierce resistance against MAGA world, but she consistently criticizes the Democratic party. “You have to go on offense!” She’s patronizing to Michelle Obama’s “when they go low…” concept. It’s as if the former first lady — one of the few black women at Harvard’s Law School in her time, who was then able have a strong career, raise two accomplished daughters under the glare of political spotlights and physical threats of racists in this country, and do it all with grace and humor — is naive, some kind of fool, a chump.

Setmayer forgets that the Democrats did not create the demonic presence now presiding in the hell of the GOP’s own making (check Nixon’s Southern Strategy, Reagan’s speech at Neshoba County and treatment of the AIDS epidemic, Bush I’s Willie Horton ad, et al). She forgets that Democrats deposed an incumbent president and put up a dam that blocked the much-vaunted “red wave,” breaking the tradition of the party in power losing seats in off-year elections. She also forgets that it is the offense strategies of her chosen party that became so offensive that Trump could spread his hate and grievance, taking it right into the White House.

In addition to publishing The Bulwark, Longwell specializes in focus groups of Republicans and Independents (more like Republicans-lite, but whatever). She notes, with confusion, that many in the groups seem inconsistent. Some, for example, love Trump but think he’s got too much baggage, so they’re interested in Tim Scott and Vivek Ramaswamy. Or so they say.

If you don’t know, Scott is the black Republican senator from South Carolina, who admits to suffering from racism throughout his life but asserts that the US is not systemically racist. As NewsOne notes, White racists love Black people who downplay racism. Scott is currently under GOP suspicion of being gay because he’s unmarried. His response? People are too racist to point at his race, so they say he’s gay.

Ramaswamy is an Indian-American hedge fund manager who believes his singular success in raiding and gutting companies proves there is no racism. Now he seems to be part of Big Pharma, having reportedly bought a drug that was didn’t test well, hyped it, made tons of money, then sold it for more. He’s the one that took an affirmative action scholarship in a year that he made $750,000. Of course, he’s against affirmative action.

Both Scott and Ramaswamy agreed to vote for Benedict Donald even if he were a convicted felon.

The “Independents” really like both, they tell Longwell out loud, but when the vote is anonymous, these two Republican men of color (practically an endangered species) are stuck in their 2 and 3 percent ghettos. She can’t seem to figure it out. “Ooo, ooo, pick me, pick me!” I yell at the computer screen when she starts this mess, “I know the answer!”

She also can’t seem to figure it out — though, to her credit, I’m beginning to see glimmers of consciousness — why Independents who voted for Trump in 2016 and Biden in 2020, who admit that Biden is doing a good job with the economy, deficit, and job numbers, now say they’re not sure they can vote for him again. He’s too old. They might have to go back to Trump (who is only three years younger, btw). What’s going on? she queries with furrowed brow.

Ummm, Kamala Harris. That’s what’s going on, Sarah. Your focus groupers are more frightened of a bi-racial (neither of the races being white) woman with a law degree, a former law and order prosecutor, attorney general, elected senator from one of the most populous states in the union, who has never to our knowledge broken the law, whose husband has no ethical conflicts; they’re more frightened of her than a jury-confirmed rapist/sexual assaulter, openly racist, scam artist who put national security at risk by stealing and keeping secret documents, who lies with virtually every breath, and who tried to overthrow the government with those lies and violence.

And in a crime against humanity if ever I saw one, he also took babies from their mothers to punish immigrants, as though his own grandparents weren’t immigrants escaping government service in Germany. That’s who these voters would prefer over any black woman, no matter how accomplished. There, Karen, I mean, Sarah, fixed it for you.

I was already prepped to turn off the sound when Setmayer started singing her old tune about how Democrats need to be more aggressive, but when Sarah mispronounced Kamala Harris’ first name as “kah-MAH-la” as if the first female and first person of color to serve as Vice President of the United States of America is not even worth learning three correct syllable accents, I turned these NTers all the way off.

Yes, we all agree that Trump is unfit and democracy is at stake, but bigotry is a deal breaker for me, so all Republicans are unfit in my eyes. All of them. Each and everyone of them. These non white-male Republicans remind me too much of Liz Cheney, former representative from Wyoming. Like her “shoot ’em in the face and make ‘em apologize” father, she wasn’t even living in the state when she decided to run for office.

Yes, Cheney did creditable work on the J6 Committee, but she also said waterboarding is not torture (is it another kind of unpaid internship like slavery?) and that people are performing post-birth abortions. Post-birth abortions. No, Lizzie, there’s no such thing as post-birth abortions. That’s called MURDER and that’s not standard practice in the medical community.

Setmayer does creditable work in producing ad buys and videos for the Lincoln Project, but no, Tara, aggression and accepting racism is what got us into this quagmire of hate in the first place. And say what you will, the GOP has not been the party of Lincoln since, well, Lincoln. They’d put us back in chains in a hot New Jersey minute. Why do you think they fight against reasonable immigration status to protect all the workers we so obviously need? Slavery 2.0

Longwell does creditable work polling and interviewing voters who have supported Trump at some point, but no, Sarah, none of those bigots are going to vote for Haley or Scott or Vivaswamy and no, it’s not Biden’s age that scares these bigots as much as it’s the possibility that a black woman might be president. And say what you will, the GOP is never going to accept lesbians as equal, so you can have your tax cuts, but you won’t be getting bodily autonomy. Slavery 2.5

Yet, needs must. We need to save democracy first, then get back to rights and privileges. So for now, I’ll trust these Never Trumper women within strictly limited boundaries, but best believe I’ll be sleeping with one eye open, and tethering my camel-shaped hopes for freedom and equality with a combo of tight constrictor and boa knots. Y’all are not getting my camel.



y kendall

A Stanford-trained musicologist who recently took a career swerve after 20 yrs in TX. With a Columbia MFA in writing & translation she moved back home to TN.