On social media, I see some former supporters of other GOP candidates starting to rally around Donald Trump now, as the presumptive Republican nominee for president. If you dare suggest you won’t vote for either him or Hillary Clinton, the counter arguments boil down to: Yes, but, Hillary will be far, far worse. And then the list of conservative sacred cows is trotted out, everything from second amendment rights to tax policy, all with the warning that Hillary would decimate various rights, while Trump, for all his flaws, would protect them.
To which I ask: How on earth can any rational person make those claims about Trump? How can anyone, after witnessing his performance during the primaries, suggest that the man cares deeply enough about any conservative principle that he wouldn’t negotiate it away in some huge, luxurious deal for a priority he deems more worthy?
Because Trump’s a businessman, first and foremost, I’m going to assume that a priority for him as president will be the economy. If he managed to put together a sweet deal on that issue that he truly believed would stimulate job growth, I don’t think he’d bat an eyelash if it also included gun rights restrictions or more funding for Planned Parenthood or an enlargement of Obamacare, or even, say, slightly higher taxes on the middle class. If you care deeply about any of those issues, too bad. He’d shrug, wave those tiny hands, and then Tweet something like, “Making America great again. Everyone has to give a little. Opponents – sad.”
But what about the Supreme Court, his new supporters argue. If Hillary is president, she’ll appoint more Ginsburgs, Kagans and Sotomayors. Whereas Trump will appoint…
Okay, who would he appoint? I trust him at least not to reach into a file of ultra-liberal justice names. But if he relied on advisers to give him names, what are the chances he’d get strong constitutionalists? Isn’t it more likely he’d choose from a list of moderates, of Sandra Day O’Connor types? Or maybe even — one shudders to think — a David Souter type? In other words, do you really get any sense he cares deeply about who is on the court and what type of jurist would reason through constitutional issues the way conservatives do?
To help answer those questions, it’s useful to look at who advises him now, because the type of adviser he gravitates toward during the campaign might provide clues as to the type of men and women he’d surround himself with as president. Let’s look at a recent appointment, in particular. His new finance chairman, Steven Mnuchin, while a registered Republican, has donated more money to Democrats than Republicans, even to Hillary Clinton’s last presidential bid. Politico reports:
Overall, Mnuchin has given more than $120,000 over the past two decades to a variety of Democratic and Republican candidates and committees that disclose their donors. Of that amount, roughly $64,000 went to Democratic candidates or committees supporting Democrats, while short of $40,000 went to Republicans.
Now, you can argue that Mnuchin, like Trump, is a realist who knows that his business success might be helped if he helps the right people at the right time. That’s fine. But that makes him a pragmatist. Not a conservative. And a pragmatist might get good things done. But he also might sacrifice good principles to do it. (See: Mussolini, making Italian train schedules great again).
Trump supporters who believe that their guy will save them from the risks to conservative principles a Hillary Clinton presidency represents are fooling themselves. They’re engaged in a suicide pact to blow up the conservative movement. Trump might be a flimflam artist, but his supporters don’t seem to need much help in being conned.
Libby Sternberg is a novelist who will write in a name for president, probably Carly Fiorina’s, unless things change drastically before November