So, the conventional wisdom goes, the pressure is now on #NeverTrump.
The logic goes something like this: now that Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee, #NeverTrump supporters will stab Trump in the back if they don’t support him. We must all unify behind the authoritarian con man who believes in precisely zero conservative principles; if we don’t, we’ve betrayed the country.
There’s enough irony to go around here.
There is a certain irony to the fact that triumphant Trump supporters who have been touting the strength of their candidate for months – who have, in fact, suggested that those who don’t support Trump are unnecessary vestiges of an outdated philosophy – are now preemptively declaring their candidate a loser, and blaming others in the process. We told you, Trumpsters, that if you hit yourself in the face with an electoral ball-peen hammer, it might hurt. You insisted on hitting yourself in the face with an electoral ball-peen hammer. If it hurts, that’s your fault.
There’s also irony to the notion that Trump can openly proclaim that if he doesn’t win the nomination, his voters will stay home – but if his opponents say the same, they’re the traitors. But the Trump Cult has defined the enemies of the godking.
But let’s put the irony aside, and examine whether there’s a continuing argument for #NeverTrump.
Back in early March, I declared that I would never vote for Donald Trump. Here was my reasoning:
In every election cycle, the establishment insists that we unify behind a candidate who does not reflect conservatism because elections are always a choice between the two worst options. They blackmail conservatives into supporting candidates who undermine the message and morality of our mission. Now Trump does the same. The establishment created the Donald Trump phenomenon with their “best of two bad options” logic, and now Trump is using that logic to destroy conservatism openly….if we don’t say “no” to Donald Trump now, we will continue drifting ever further left, diluting conservatism into the vacillating, demagogic absurdity of Trumpism. Conservatism will become the crypto-racist, pseudo-strong, quasi-tyrannical, toxic brew leftists have always accused it of being. And we will have been complicit in that.
Looking beyond this election cycle – looking beyond Donald Trump – is the centralizing principle behind #NeverTrump. Here’s what I wrote in mid-March:
We calculate that Donald Trump taking over the Republican Party for the foreseeable future and transforming the conservative movement into European-style authoritarianism, complete with riots, is far more dangerous to the future of the republic than Hillary Clinton continuing us toward the cliff for four years. If Trump wins, he guts the only movement we have. If Hillary wins, there may be a future for our movement yet. And no, Trump won’t shut the border, fight the war on terror properly, or deport massive number of illegal immigrants. It just isn’t happening. If you believe Trump will do all those things, you’re being played.
Now, I understand why non-conservatives are willing to back Trump: they agree with his ad hoc policy incoherence, his isolationism, his domestic big government agenda, his tariff-driven trade policy, his utter disdain for the social fabric of conservatism. As one delightfully terse Tweeter who, predictably, uses Trump in a Superman costume as his avatar put it today, “Screw conservatism. Give us Trump.”
I even understand why other conservatives will make the decision to back Trump to stop Hillary Clinton: they are willing to gamble that he won’t be as bad as she will. They want what they hope is a slightly-less-bad corrupt New York Democrat to defeat a slightly-more-bad corrupt New York Democrat. They see this election as paramount, just like every other election has supposedly been, and are willing to sacrifice the possibility of a better conservatism tomorrow for the shot at beating Hillary today. Their time horizon is shorter than mine. They would have preferred Nelson Rockefeller in 1964 to Barry Goldwater. But without Goldwater, there would have been no Reagan.
But this is worse than 1964. Conservatives who back Trump to defeat Hillary are not merely willing to toss conservatism into the trunk – they’re willing to allow Trump to take it out to a hole in a cornfield, Casino-style, beat it savagely, and bury it alive. At least we won’t get Hillary, they say as they grab a shovel.
There will be long-lasting damage to conservatism from Trump grabbing the banner of the Republican Party – unless conservatives make clear now that they will not honor Trump’s hostile takeover of their philosophy.
That’s the point of #NeverTrump.
Essentially, newfound Trump supporters believe that a Trump vs. Hillary race is now the organ donor ethical problem. The famous ethical problem goes something like this: You have five people in need of organs to keep them alive. A healthy young doctor comes into your hospital. Do you kill him and take his organs to keep the five alive?
The utilitarian answer: do it. The pro-Trump answer: kill conservatism to save the country.
#NeverTrumpers think that killing the doctor is short-sighted. We’ll need him, it turns out, to heal more than five people. And being morally complicit in his murder may save some lives now, but it corrupts us for all time, too.
So, too, will Trump support.
We won’t be party to it.