One of the most interesting things about this current presidential election is the fact that both left and right agree that the choices we have are very ugly. Our political process has produced two elderly, dishonest, privileged grifters and is demanding that we take one or the other. This is the first time I can recall a substantial number of articles being written on why one candidate is WORSE than the other.
The one argument to vote for Hillary (as opposed to merely abstaining or casting a protest vote) that I see over and over is the claim, and I underscore claim because it is predicting the future using the same skill set that failed to predict the rise of Donald Trump, that a Trump presidency will spell the end for conservatism. One of the best examples comes from The Federalist, 7 Reasons You Should Vote For Hillary Instead Of Donald.
Before delving into the meat of the argument, I want to demonstrate what people who make these listcicles are up against.1. Donald Trump Is a Serial Liar (And Hillary isn’t?)
2. Donald Trump Is Not a Conservative. (And Hillary is?)
3. Donald Trump Promotes Political Violence (Okay, good one)
4. Donald Trump Is a Gleeful and Unrelenting Debaser of Women (and this distinguishes him from Hillary’s vendettas against Bill Clinton’s mistresses in what way?)
5. Donald Trump Is An Unabashed Flip-Flopper (Are we now arguing that Hillary is an “abashed” flip-flopper?)
6. Donald Trump Is Avowedly Anti-Free Speech (I would argue that Hillary is simply more circumspect about her anti-free speech nature and this isn’t necessarily a virtue)
Of the first six reasons we find, really, no grounds to differentiate between Trump and Clinton beyond the stylistic and then we need to ask ourselves who is really more dangerous? A guy who claims he is going to try to crush free speech? Or the elderly hag who will use the power of the IRS and the Justice Department to do it without telling you?
The last one, though, is what caught my interest.
7. Donald Trump Could Ruin the Reputation of Conservatism
It is clear, as I wrote above, that Trump is no conservative: he is simply a liberal who has seized upon conservatism because it is convenient for his own selfish purposes. With Trump in office we might be treated to something along the lines of a third Obama term: government-run health care, heavy-handed federal involvement in education, hostility to free speech, an invasive and overbearing government.
But because Trump is an unreliable, abrasive, and egomaniacal crackpot of a politician, he could do serious damage to American conservatism simply because people will come to associate conservatism with Trump.
Just think: in addition to all the insane, cruel and unbalanced behavior listed above, Trump entertained and promoted wild-eyed conspiracy theories about Cruz’s father; he intimated that Mexico is “sending” rapists to the United States; he mocked a decorated war veteran for being captured by enemy forces; he called for banning the entirety of Muslim immigration to the United States; he promoted the idea that Jeb Bush’s immigration policies were inspired by Bush’s wife’s ethnicity; he indirectly praised the Chinese government for the Tiananmen Square massacre; he stoked fears that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered; he openly and gleefully mocked a journalist with a physical disability; and he has in general comported himself with narcissism, self-aggrandizement, vanity, and deliberate boorishness.
A man like this—a man with these psychological hang-ups, these awful tendencies, and this kind of reckless behavior—would do incredible if not fatal damage to American conservatism. For at least four years, if not more, the media and the Left (but I repeat myself) could point to Donald J. Trump and say, “That’s what American conservatism is. That’s what conservatives are all about.”
Many, many people would believe it. Come 2020 or 2024, conservatives would be up the creek, and liberals could be looking at a generation of smashing victories at the federal, state, and local levels. All because of Trump.
Let’s back up for a second. What did #2 say? The one titled “Donald Trump Is Not a Conservative.”
Let us imagine for a moment that Trump has stopped lying and will tell the truth for the rest of the campaign season. He is still unfit to be president under the banner of the Republican Party, for the simple reason that he is not a conservative. He himself admitted almost as much a short while ago: after assuring us that he is in fact a conservative, he recently told George Stephanopoulos: “This is called the Republican Party. It’s not called the Conservative Party.”
So, how does this work? Trump denies he’s a conservative, and conservatives deny that Trump is a conservative, and Trump will do very un-conservative things but the American people will associate those actions with Conservatism because Trump says he’s not conservative. I think I developed a brain lesion, or at least threw my neck out, in trying to follow this.
In short, this is a lunatic proposition.
Already, by virtue of the government shutdown, the primary defeat of Eric Cantor and John Boehner’s ouster, there is general acknowledgment in the political media that “conservatives” are a faction within the GOP but are often at loggerheads with the GOP. Actions by the GOP do not necessarily hurt conservatives, rather we have conservative members of Congress and conservative Senators because they have run against the numbskullery of the GOP.
But it could happen. If we allow conservatism to be associated with Trump. If you want to see how that works, watch the direction Evangelicals are going. (Erick’s commentary on that budding romance is a must-read)
As we get closer to November we are going to find a growing number of men and women who we think are conservative making peace with Trump because they are convinced not that a Trump presidency will hurt conservatism but because they believe they can influence a Trump administration and moderate its worse impulses. The GOP leadership is already at the point where they own Trumpian craziness, it is not beyond the realm of possibilities so see conservatives making the same mistake. If conservatives remain true to their principles, and don’t sell out to further their careers and access to power and perquisites, they can oppose a Trump presidency as easily as they can a Clinton one. In fact, a Trump presidency would give conservatives an opportunity to differentiate themselves from the GOP leadership by their opposition and, if our philosophy is truly attractive, expand our ranks.
The fate of conservatism is not tied to Trump’s failure or success unless we tie ourselves to Trump.