George Will

George Will Leaves the Republican Party over Trump: 'Make sure he loses'

Iconic conservative commentator officially joins the ranks of independents


At a Federalist Society lunch in Washington yesterday, conservative columnist and TV commentator George Will announced that he changed his Maryland voter registration this month from Republican to unaffiliated. "This is not my party," he told the crowd, according to an account by PJ Media's Nicholas Ballasy.

Will, who has arguably been the most biting and prolific member of the conservative anti-Trump club, reportedly cited House Speaker Paul Ryan's endorsement of Trump as one of the last straws, and was noncommittal about whether he would support Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson. Asked by Ballasy to recommend what conservative anti-Trumpers should do now, Will said: "Make sure he loses."

But what about that last-gasp reason, resonant among many of the legal thinkers at the libertarian/conservative Federalist Society, for backing even a revolting Republican—the Supreme Court? Will's answer was revealing: "Sure, but I'm also concerned with the fact that I do not really believe Republicans think clearly enough about what they really want in judges," he told Ballasy. "Having a Republican president is not an answer in itself."

Will over the past half-decade has become one of the leading critics of the muddled conservative doctrine of "judicial restraint," frequently citing Damon Root's "wonderful book" Overruled: The Long War for Control of the U.S. Supreme Court. In conversation with Nick Gillespie and I four months ago at the International Students for Liberty Conference, Will explained it this way:

The most interesting argument in American governance today is not between Republicans and Democrats, it is between conservatives—using the term inclusively here—who believe that we need, as conservatives have been saying for years, a deferential judiciary, passive and deferential to the majoritarian branches of government; and, on the other hand, those like Clark Neily, who wrote the wonderful book Terms of Engagement…Damon Root, me, others—Randy Barnett—who argue on the contrary that what we need is an engaged judiciary asserting the fact that the essence of America is not majority rule, it is liberty.

That conversation, in which Will refers to Trump as "Voldemort" and warns of America's looming "authoritarian moment," can be seen below:

Gillespie and I also interviewed Will about his libertarian evolution in 2013, which you can read here and watch here.