2016 Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump is in the process of browbeating establishment figures into supporting him out of fear of Trump Riots and Hillary Clinton. It’s working. The calls for party unity have begun. Paul Manafort, Trump’s new brain, has been telling delegates that Trump will magically transform into a combination of Ronald Reagan and Winston Churchill if handed the nomination. Trump himself now says he wants “Little Marco” as part of his campaign if he’s given the nomination, and Rubio says that he’ll support Trump as the nominee (“I’ve always said I’m going to support the Republican nominee, and that’s especially true now that it’s apparent that Hillary Clinton is going to be the Democratic candidate”). Establishment figures are lining up behind Trump.
There is an argument to be made for supporting Trump to stop Hillary. This assumes firstly, that Trump would be a better president than Hillary – a dubious proposition, given Trump’s authoritarian tendencies, his willingness to cut deals with the left, and his uncontrollable impulses. Hillary will be a guaranteed horror show, but she’ll be a typical corrupt leftist Democrat we can fight from the outside, not a wild-eyed tyrant with whom we must be forced into alliance. As Alexander Hamilton – you know, the guy from the musical! – once said, “If we must have an enemy at the head of government, let it be one whom we can oppose, and for whom we are not responsible.”
But there is a second assumption that must be made in order to back Trump to stop Hillary: that Trump will not pervert conservatism itself.
That assumption is blatantly incorrect.
It’s not merely that Trump is a leftist. He is, but conservatives could simply point that out and then hold their noses. It’s that a solid contingent of conservatives, desperately in search of a leader, are willing to follow Trump in hollowing out conservatism. So, for example, we’ve seen heretofore conservative Trump supporters championing mass-murdering abortion ring Planned Parenthood because Trump did it. We’ve seen heretofore conservative Trump supporters embrace Trump’s economic protectionism because Trump did it. Now we will see the establishment massage itself into quasi-support for men peeing next to little girls.
How far will this go? As far as Trump will take it. In 2012, I wrote of Mitt Romney:
Yes, defeating horrible politicians like Barack Obama is the top goal — but that doesn’t justify redefining conservatism entirely…. When we deliberately broaden conservatism to encompass government-forced purchase of health insurance or raising taxes or appointing liberal judges or enforcing same-sex marriage or using taxpayer money to bail out business or pushing trade barriers, we destroy conservatism from within. If we do that, why would our politicians even bother to pay lip service to the standard?
The same holds true of Trump now, but more so – and more dangerously so, since Trump hijacks not merely conservatism but the anti-establishment wing of the Republican Party to push leftist positions far more consistent with establishment Republicanism than conservatism. And Trump, unlike Romney, demands personal loyalty, not merely the loyalty of convenience.
So, should anti-Trump forces sit down, shut up, and vote Trump? Only if they want to contribute to the continued dilution of conservatism into a meaningless word that can act as a mask for leftist policy.