Politics makes us stupid. It forces us to render black-and-white decisions in a gray world. It demands that we seek temporal solutions to eternal problems. It compels us to boil complex questions down to a vote, yea or nay. Blind partisanship and rage only serve to magnify the stupidity. The best defenses against it are humor, patience and an attempt at a fuller understanding of the issues.
Plus it helps to know your values — what it is you’re fighting for. For me, the highest political value is personal freedom for every adult American. This requires the smallest national government possible to maintain order and the greatest amount of personal responsibility. Do what you want but you pay for the consequences: the debt, the meds, the babies, the community dysfunction. The choices were yours; so are the bills.
The purpose of this freedom is the pursuit of happiness, which is found in virtue freely chosen. Charity freely given, not compelled; fidelity in love for the good of those you love; hard work for the betterment of yourself and your family. As the costs of poor behavior should be on you, the rewards for good behavior should likewise be yours.
These values seem so urgently important to me because they have not existed very often in history and have never existed to the extent they have in the United States. Once lost — once taken by force or, more likely, purchased at the price of welfare and government guaranteed “safety” — they will likely not be seen again for centuries.
Which brings me to the news of the day: Michael Cohen, Stormy Daniels, hush money, lies, and so on.
It’s clear our president, Donald Trump, is a flawed character. He plays fast and loose with the truth, he’s a bully sometimes and he’s been involved with some sleazy people and sleazy business. And yet, if we had not elected him, Hillary Clinton would almost certainly have appointed at least three Supreme Court justices without a commitment to American values like free speech, the right to bear arms and the right to life. That is not to mention all the anti-freedom judges she would have appointed at other levels, and all the Obama-era anti-freedom regulations and executive orders she would have left in place.
We don’t need to imagine what will happen if Trump is not reelected. The Democrat party has radicalized. Its candidates endorse a Green New Deal which is tyranny in all but name. Every Democrat Senator but three voted not to protect babies born alive after botched abortions. This is who they are.
Trump, meanwhile, has done a fine job. He has appointed good judges, dialed the regs way back, and been a strong defender of the right to life. My worst fears about him — that he’d be authoritarian or a crypto-Democrat — have not been realized.
To protect our freedom and achieve our goals, we now have to support and defend a man we can’t always admire or even like. We can’t allow ourselves to be swept up in a moral panic about Trump’s failings. The alternative to him is simply too stark and the damage the other side would do once in power would likely be irreversible. So — welcome to politics — our situation has some moral complexity to it but our choices are simple: yea or nay.
The Democrats understand this. They throw hysterical fits over Trump’s grotesque sexual remarks in the Access Hollywood tape, but they voted twice for accused rapist Bill Clinton. They wail over the immorality of Roy Moore’s alleged sexual sins in Alabama — but they voted for New Jersey’s Bob Menendez, whose similar sins are far less speculative. They get politics. “Winners make policy,” in the immortal words of Cocaine Mitch McConnell. “Losers go home.”
This is why I no longer understand the moral logic of the Never Trumpers. I know they are good people — some of them are pals. I know they want what is best for the country. But as they regroup from the Weekly Standard or split off from National Review in order to oppose Trump and attack his supporters, I simply cannot understand what real-life better outcome they are offering.
It makes sense to imagine the future of conservatism in a post-Trump world. But if that world comes too soon, the goals of conservatism will be out of reach for a long, long time to come.