Trump fans have spent the last few months assuring conservatives that even if they don’t like Trump, they must vote for him: after all, they say, the West even sided with Stalin to stop Hitler. Why then can’t conservatives consolidate around Trump to stop Hillary?
This historic analogy doesn’t work. It doesn’t work not only because Hillary isn’t Hitler. It doesn’t work because the Allies didn’t make Stalin president and grant him leadership of the West. They formed a temporary alliance, which ended the moment that Hitler had been defeated. Donald Trump will not become the object of some sort of Republican Cold War after becoming president.
There’s another historic analogy that may work better: Dunkirk. (For the historically ignorant who want to wait until the new Christopher Nolan film comes out to find out what happened at Dunkirk, here’s your spoiler alert.) After the Nazis ran roughshod through France, pushing the British Army all the way back to the English Channel, the British had two choices: they could fight to the last man and be annihilated, or they could evacuate across the Channel back to Britain. The British mobilized, down to the smallest fisherman, to smuggle the soldiers back across to Britain, preserving the Army.
But didn’t they understand the cost of leaving France to the Nazis? Didn’t they have an obligation to fight to the last man?
Of course not. They had an obligation to preserve the British military - the only actual hope of winning the greater war. Churchill spoke in the House of Commons, where he called “what has happened in France and Belgium…a colossal military disaster.” He then added:
We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender…
In the end, the British Army’s flight from France preserved Britain itself, and perhaps the entirety of Europe.
That’s the choice Republicans face now: annihilation or strategic withdrawal.
Of course a Hillary presidency will be an utter disaster. Like the loss of France, it will be an unprecedented defeat that will cost us dearly. But at least we will live to fight another day. If we chose this moment for our last stand, we will truly lose the greater war.
That’s for two reasons.
First, there is no victory for conservatives here. Trump is not going to appoint conservative Supreme Court justices outside of a pipe dream; he’s not going to govern in a small government fashion; he’s not going to restore constitutional boundaries to government itself. Trump is a typical union Democrat, and he will govern that way.
The danger to conservatives is that their movement is fully coopted by a man who already insists that his allies eagerly lie for him and cover up his myriad sins, lest he unleash hell upon them publicly. And that will have an impact for years to come.
If you believe that conservatism is the only philosophy that can save the country, the army must be preserved, not perverted or marginalized. Right now, polls show that young Americans prefer not only Hillary, but Gary Johnson and Jill Stein to Trump, who earns approximately 9 percent of those under age 30. He’s running at 1 percent among black voters. His numbers are negligible among Latino voters. He’s not even running on par with Mitt Romney among white voters. Not even close. If conservatives convert to Trumpism, they lose a generation of voters. Better to disassociate and live to fight another day, conservatism still intact.
Second, Trump is not going to win. That’s not because of disaffected conservatives. That’s because he’s a joke of candidate. Right now, he’s down more than seven percent in the latest RealClearPolitics poll average. He’s losing in Georgia. He’s running even in Arizona. He’s putting South Carolina and Utah in play. If polls hold even close to where they are now (a big if, but a plausible one), he’s not just going to lose, he’ll be destroyed on a historic level. And Republicans in the Senate – people like Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania and Ron Johnson in Wisconsin -- will pay the price for having to answer questions about him day after day. So will Republicans in the House. All to defend a guy who has no loyalty to conservative principles or legislators, and who says he doesn’t care if the Republicans lose the Senate.
And even if Hillary does somehow snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and Trump somehow becomes president, many of his own policies – to the extent he has articulated any – are themselves far to the left of any modern Republican president.
In other words, the battle is already lost.
This is Dunkirk.
Save your army.
You’ll need it later.
Or you could simply look at how bad Hillary will be and decide that it’s worthwhile to burn all your ammo and destroy your men on the cannon shells of the enemy, all the while bragging that you're doing the right thing because hey, somebody has to stop the bad guys right now. That, after, all, would be the dedicated play, wouldn’t it?