The more I observe politicians, the more I notice their tendency to over-correct. Obamacare was an over-correction to real problems plaguing our healthcare system. The Iraq War was, I think I am safe in saying, a costly and unnecessary over-correction in the War on Terror. But I think that voters sometimes over-correct, too. And Donald Trump’s current popularity among conservatives strikes me as a prime example.
My explanation begins with the recent lack of success we conservatives have had, not only in winning high-profile elections, but also in having our leaders enact real change once they achieve or maintain office. It was not easy to lose to Barack Obama twice, much less with two “moderate” candidates who failed to generate much conservative enthusiasm. Likewise, it has been exasperating to see Congressional Republicans (even many conservatives among them) cave en masse to their Democratic counterparts on one bill/issue after another. This all had understandably left many conservative voters feeling frustrated, angry, and lacking hope for our 2016 situation.
Enter Donald Trump. He’s loud, he’s cocky, he’s funny, and he isn’t afraid of offending anyone…including other Republicans. Add to his “Non-PC” brand a very strong anti-illegal immigration stance, and you have the primary reasons he has garnered massive conservative support for far longer than most pundits anticipated. As some have pointed out, Trump has done this despite his non-conservative record on multiple issues (abortion, healthcare, gun control), his past support for Democratic candidates, a lack of proven political accomplishment, and questionable (to say the least) judgment.
Why is this happening? Too many conservative voters are over-correcting. They are supporting Trump because his sassy defiance feeds their long-held anger and frustration. Tickled that he “takes it to the opponent” in interviews and debates, and perceiving that past unsuccessful Republican candidates lacked his fire, they have stopped caring about records and articulate stances. Having been emotionally sucked in by his style, these conservatives are ignoring or downplaying his substance. It FEELS good to support Trump…to see him verbally flip off libs and “RINOs” (a term that has leaked meaning for a long time now).
But at the core of this excitement lies a hollow reality – it’s not much different than what fueled President Obama’s run back in 2008. Remember how we once chided his supporters that they were backing B.O. for superficial reasons (his race, his fluffy speeches, and his celebrity-like profile), and in spite of his slim record of accomplishment? And yet here we are enabling Trump in similar fashion. I find this to be more than a little hypocritical. Even if by some chance Trump wins, it will feel like a Pyrrhic victory – as if we ceded some of the moral authority we thought we always had.
I get it. I’m angry, too. I want to win. But I don’t want to win badly enough that we kill the ant with the sledgehammer and end up ruining much else in the process. In our haste to defeat the Democrats, and do it in style, we must not go so far past the goal that we end up with a loose cannon in the White House. Trump’s volatility and latent liberalism could well flare up at any time during the campaign, or when he’s in office. And when it does, it may well set back the cause of conservatism so much that we might as well have not won at all. Remember, this guy is famously fickle and unpredictable. Meanwhile, there are several Republican candidates with impressive conservative records and stances on the issues. If we are thinking, and not just feeling, we should choose one of the latter. Otherwise, we will be like the liberals we rightfully criticize.