The battle over whether conservatives should vote for Donald Trump to stop Hillary Clinton from attaining the White House will undoubtedly continue all the way up until Election Day. Trump himself makes no bones about his distaste for conservatives who oppose him – he said today that he doesn’t need them. “I am confident that I can unite much of it,” Trump said of the Republican Party, “some of it, I don’t want. There were statements made about me that those people can go away and maybe come back in eight years…But honestly, there are some people I really don’t want. I don’t think it’s necessary.”
Perhaps he’s right. If so, his followers certainly don’t get to complain about the conservatives to whom Trump refuses to reach out refusing to vote for him.
Nonetheless, whether or not to vote for Trump over Hillary is a serious question because Hillary is such an awful, corrupt, screeching leftist pterodactyl. The prospect of a Hillary presidency throws conservatives into justified spasms of terror and rage. By the same token, Trump is the man who just successfully ripped the heart out of the conservative movement and replaced it with a nationalist populist godking worship movement.
Here, then, are five arguments for voting for Trump – and why, ultimately, they fall short:
1. But Hillary’s Worse! This is the most common argument from the conservative Trump supporters – no matter how bad Trump is, Hillary is worse. There are two problems with this argument. First, it may not be true. Yes, really. Hillary is corrupt and her ideology is evil; Trump is similarly corrupt, and he has no ideology other than personal aggrandizement and ad hoc authoritarianism. Conservative Trump supporters liken supporting Trump over Hillary to allying with Stalin to stop Hitler. But here’s the truth: this election is more like trying to choose whether to ally with Stalin or Hitler in 1936, not 1941. We don’t know what Trump will become. He shifts his policies every five minutes – except for his policy of personal power maximization.
We do know that he’s not a conservative. He opposes entitlement reform; he backs trade barriers; he wants to raise taxes on the wealthy; he’s an isolationist; he praises Planned Parenthood and supports the falsehood of “gender constructs”; he campaigns based on racial handouts; he has never mentioned Constitutional limits on power. In a few areas, Hillary is actually more conservative than Trump. Hillary isn’t an anti-free trade extremist; Trump is. Hillary hasn’t threatened to pull our troops from South Korea and cut off funding to our allies based on personal pique; Trump has. Hillary may present a vulnerable server to Vladimir Putin; Trump apparently talks to Putin behind closed doors. Hillary wants Citizens United overturned to stop corporations from talking about her; Trump says that his opponents shouldn’t be allowed to say mean things about him, and wants the First Amendment changed to allow him to sue his political critics. Hillary is a calculated political manipulator, a criminal in plan and action; Trump is an unstable con man.
Second, because Trump isn’t a conservative, turning over the keys to the Republican car to Trump is surrendering our movement. Hillary is the random trespasser defacing your gate. Trump is the brother-in-law you can’t stand throwing you out of your house altogether. You’d better be damn sure your brother-in-law is going to do a good job redecorating before you go along with his action plan.
2. But Trump Will Change! This is perhaps the most laughable defense of voting Trump. Conservatives keep trying, like Charlie Brown with the football, to convince themselves that this time, Trump/Lucy won’t deceive them. So far, it’s not happening. Literally the day after winning the nomination, Trump doubled down on his attacks on Ted Cruz’s father by talking up the National Enquirer, and announced that he would consider raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour. Conservatives who keep waiting for Trump to magically emerge from his hotel suite mirroring Ronald Reagan will be waiting for quite awhile.
3. But Trump Will Work With Republicans! The likely outcome of a Trump presidency would be a Democratic Senate with whom he’d deal, not a Republican one. And Trump would revel in cutting deals with Democrats – he has bragged about such deals his entire career. It’s his only plausible excuse for funding far-leftists from Harry Reid to Nancy Pelosi.
But let’s assume, for just a moment, that Trump miraculously ends up with a Republican House and Senate. Does anyone think he’d push entitlement reform? That he’d work to restore military might? That he’d sign onto decent trade deals? That he’d allow for restrictions on the executive branch? Trump isn’t implacably leftist like President Obama, but he’s implacably Trumpian. That’s bad enough. Trump might work with Republicans better than Hillary would, but it’s simply foolish to suggest that Trump would set a common agenda with Republicans. He'd govern significantly worse than Bush, and Bush brought us a Democratic House and then Barack Obama.
4. But The Supreme Court! Trump, the logic goes, will select a more conservative Supreme Court Justice than Hillary Clinton. There is no evidence to support this contention. Again, Republicans are highly likely to lose the Senate to Democrats. Does anyone truly think Trump has the stomach to fight for a constitutional conservative on the Court when he thinks that Supreme Court justices prosecute crimes and sign bills? Ronald Reagan missed two out of three Supreme Court picks. George H.W. Bush went one for two. George W. went one for two. Ford went zero for one, and Nixon went one for four. Does anyone think that Donald Trump will do better than any of these people? Trump has never backed a constitutional balance of powers; he doesn’t know what that phrase means. If you’re hanging your hopes for a conservative Court on Donald Trump, you’re being conned.
Beyond that, the Supreme Court is not the best hope for the Constitution. That hope lies at the state level, and in resistance to unconstitutional legislation and decisions.
5. But Sitting Out Is Moral Cowardice! A vote is two things: an instrument of policy, and a moral imprimatur.
As an instrument of policy, we’ve been told we have to choose between the lesser of two evils. But what if there is no lesser of two evils – or, just as possible, that we don’t know which of the evils is the lesser? What if Trump is elected president and proceeds to government from the left and gut the conservative movement in the process? What if Hillary is elected and proceeds to be Obama’s third term, up to and including a mass amnesty? Nobody has a crystal ball.
Which brings to the moral certainty: placing the imprimatur of legitimacy on a bad human being like Donald Trump is sure to stain you. Your vote doesn’t just say something about the future of the country. It says something about you. Republicans just broke their party by stamping Trump with credibility. It’s up to individuals whether they want to do the same to their own sense of decency and purpose for the future.