So, what now?
After Donald Trump’s commanding win in Indiana last night, Ted Cruz has suspended his campaign and there is essentially no doubt left that Trump will be the Republican nominee. According to polling, a substantial portion of the Republican base says they won’t vote for him, but the “party unity” drumbeat is already beginning, with the spectre of President Hillary Clinton to add urgency to the appeal. Particularly with Supreme Court nominations at stake, it will be terribly tempting to give in and check the box for Trump, hoping against hope that the unpredictable showman will end up being at least a bit less bad than the pathologically dishonest liberal. However, despite the pull of a grudging, desperate “anyone but Hillary” vote, there is every reason, both moral and strategic, to remain #NeverTrump through November 8.
The Moral Case For #NeverTrump
I get the logic of voting for the least-bad candidate. That’s why I reluctantly voted for Mitt Romney in 2012 and reluctantly voted for John McCain in 2008. But in some contests the least-bad candidate is still too bad to support in good conscience. In an election between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, who would you vote for? A strategic vote against the other guy is still a vote for someone to lead your country and your fellow citizens; you’re still helping to put someone into office. In a small way, you are responsible for whatever that leader does in the office you chose them for.
Donald Trump is the only politician who can out-lie Hillary Clinton. He has a boundless ego and the self-control of a toddler. He bragged on a national debate stage that he would force military officers to commit war crimes. He offered to pay the legal bills of anyone who assaulted protesters at his rallies. Just yesterday, he suggested that Ted Cruz’s father was involved in the Kennedy assassination on the basis of an insane National Enquirer story, while simultaneously declaring, “I think it’s a disgrace that he’s allowed to say [that Christians should support Cruz over Trump].” A disgrace that Rafael Cruz is allowed to say that. That’s a casual call for censorship, if you’re keeping score at home. Trump is proudly personally immoral, is almost certainly pro-choice, and has no interest in public morality. If Trump was running on the Democratic ticket, every Republican in the country would be on the warpath. Does having an R next to his name change who he is?
It is true that Donald Trump might be a better president than Hillary Clinton, particularly if he was “captured” by the right group of conservative advisors. (His total lack of political knowledge means that he is going to be captured by someone if he gets to Washington.) I could also see him trying to unilaterally suspend the First Amendment or declaring war on China because they sent him a nasty Tweet. I genuinely have no idea what a Donald Trump presidency would look like. I just know that I cannot in good conscience cast a vote which would make me personally responsible for it.
But, as we will hear repeatedly for the next six months, isn’t Trump still better than the alternative? Isn’t there a place for strategic voting for the sake of the country, particularly with one or more Supreme Court nominations at stake? Well…
The Strategic Case for #NeverTrump
When it comes to strategic voting, the absolutely essential thing to remember–so easy to forget amid a hard-fought election–is that history will continue past 2016. In fact, we will have another presidential election in 2020. And it would be very, very nice if the United States still had a meaningfully conservative party then; a party which stood, even if imperfectly, for limited government, inalienable rights, the sanctity of life and marriage, and the free market.
In some ways, Trump’s poisonous combination of celebrity, salesmanship, and luck is a one-off thing. There will never be another Donald Trump. But lessons will be learned from his candidacy, and the most important lesson that can be learned, for the sake of the Republican party and the United States, is that Trump’s path is a losing path.
In a Trumpian Republican party, the political right represents insular nationalism, Nietzschean strength, and amoral traditionalism in place of morality and rule of law. It would be a new model for America but would feel very normal to a European. In Europe, voters typically get to pick between left-wing socialists, moderate slightly-less-socialists, and ugly right-wing nationalist groups like Britain’s UKIP. American-style conservatives who stand for individual rights and limited government are nowhere to be found.
If Trump wins, or comes close to winning, he will set a course for right-wing candidates for decades to come, and the United States will be close to losing a distinctive political tradition which has made her a great nation for two hundred years. The only way to prevent such an outcome is for him to suffer a devastating loss, as Republican voters tell future candidates and party leaders this is not our candidate, not our choice, and not our path.
Can Hillary Clinton do much damage in four years? Yes. Can she appoint activist Supreme Court justices who will shape policy for decades to come? Yes. Elections have consequences. But we have to play the long game. There will be more Supreme Court justices to appoint in 2020 and beyond, and the most important battle right now is the one to ensure there is a genuinely conservative party in existence then to appoint them. Whether that party is the Republican party or some new one that emerges from the 2016 election remains to be seen, but the key battle today is to keep Trumpism from squeezing constitutional conservatism out of reconstituted Republican party. At this point, delivering the GOP nominee a stinging defeat in the general election appears to be the only gambit left.
On November 8, don’t stay home. Go to the polls and vote for conservative candidates down-ballot. With Trump at the top, they are going to need it. At the top of the ballot vote third-party, or vote for no one; but for the sake of your conscience, for the sake of the Republican party, and for the sake of the country, #NeverTrump.
14 thoughts on “#NeverTrump, now more than ever”
I agree but just wonder how much damage Hillary can do in 4 or maybe 8 years. That is only question that makes me wonder how to vote or non vote.
Monica, yeah, I know. The hypotheticals can drive you crazy. However, the country did survive FDR, LBJ, and Obama. Ultimately, I don’t know what the future holds; all I’m responsible for are my own actions–the rest is God’s problem. (One of the comforts of believing in a sovereign God!)
Dismayed is the kindest word for my thoughts on this blog entry.
I can not wrap my mind around the fact that you are telling people not to vote – never mind the rest!
And my most liberal friends, who have always yelled at people to go vote, are now taking up your call for us conservative Christians to not vote.
But never mind their hypocrisy, how did you come to be such an ideologue?
I’ve never heard of a politician with whom I agree on much more than half anyway.
Jennifer, David didn’t say not to vote. He said to go out and vote. I will vote, not for Trump, not for Hillary. I will write in my presidential candidate. I will vote for my patriotic and brave Governor and Lt. Governor. I will vote for my US Congressmen. There are many other offices to vote.
I have very personal reason not to vote for Trump. He is a danger to my previous country’s president who is the best president in Indonesian history. Trump is as dangerous as whoever that ordered CIA to bring down Soekarno and to make Soeharto the dictator for 32 years.
Jennifer, you must not have read to the bottom of the article, or you would have seen the first sentence of the last paragraph that reads, “On November 8, don’t stay home. Go to the polls and vote…”
Although there are reasons not to vote for a Libertarian Party candidate. There are not as many reasons not to vote for Trump.
If I am going to love my neighbor, I need to vote for someone who will do the least harm. Gary Johnson would be that person and would register that there ARE more choices than the two. Perhaps if enough people get that, he might actually win. I cannot think of any area of presidential influence that I’d rather have Trump or Clinton at the table than Gary Johnson.
Then, maybe we’ll have 2 (or 3) other choices in 2020.
I’m still undecided, but I’m contemplating a Libertarian Party vote (for Gary Johnson) as well. He is definitely a much better choice than the main party candidates…
OOPS. Double negatives are always hard… how about “There are far fewer reasons to vote for Trump than there are to vote for Gary Johnson”
“In a Trumpian Republican party, the political right represents insular nationalism, Nietzschean strength, and amoral traditionalism in place of morality and rule of law. It would be a new model for America but would feel very normal to a European. In Europe, voters typically get to pick between left-wing socialists, moderate slightly-less-socialists, and ugly right-wing nationalist groups like Britain’s UKIP. American-style conservatives who stand for individual rights and limited government are nowhere to be found.”
I tend to think Trump is for individual rights and limited government. And RULE OF LAW (unlike Obama).
I tend to think Trump is for individual rights and limited government. And RULE OF LAW (unlike Obama).
Do you have any evidence to back that up? Anything he’s actually done or said?
I understand your disdain for Donald Trump, however, I have to consider the Supreme Court appointments. You do realize it is highly likely the next president has a lot of power to determine “justice” for our nation for as long as an entire generation? I feel Hillary would not seek candidates such as Scalia. I think she would only place liberal judges. With good conscience I will vote against this happening. We survived Obama 8 years, yes, but can we survive an entire generation of skewed justice?
The Republican party is floundering, and breaking down from its once held ideals. These ideals are not being supported by the people. I don’t think Trump in the president’s seat is going to disturb the rise of a conservative candidate, but 4-8 years of Clinton could cause severe problems. Even if you could PROMISE (and based on the way things have gone, you can’t make this promise), I would have a conservative candidate to vote in 2020, I don’t know that my conscience could allow continual rewriting of the constitution.
Thanks for your thoughtful response. I think SCOTUS is one of the few good arguments for voting Trump, and I respect those who will do so in those grounds (including many of my friends). Personally, though, I don’t find that sufficient inducement, for a few reasons. I’ve actually been wanting to write something about that particular issue, so your comment has inspired me to do so. I’ll probably put it up on Monday, so you can check back then and tell me what you think. :-)
I look forward to reading your thoughts. I hope you will carefully consider that we are dealing with a sort of king or queen situation, if I may? (And God tried to warn us against this :) But my thought is this: Should Hilary win, the Supreme Court will likely give her sweeping powers, and our Democracy will never be the same. Should Trump win, with his strong and commanding ways and personality, we will likely feel the “kingship.” But, most assuredly the Supreme Court we have will NOT give “King Trump” sweeping powers; and thus maybe some checks and balances in our government have a chance to remain?
Also, after the FBI statement today, I could never vote for Clinton. She literally put our security at risk when her primary task was protecting it. That was extremely irresponsible, negligent, and disloyal.
No way around it, she or he will win the presidency, and though I would not be proud of a vote casted for Trump, I think the loss of freedom and the moral decline of our country is inevitable with a Clinton victory. A strong, unpopular president has potential to serve us well – certainly better than a weak leader.
It is truly a perplexing situation, and not one I ever imagined. I like the “Giant Meteor 2016” bumper sticker.
Ha, yes, “Giant Meteor 2016” would get my vote. Did you see the poll where that option got 13%? Just a couple points more and it could be on the debate stage. (And don’t we all wish a giant meteor ended up on the debate stage…)
I agree that SCOTUS would be more likely to oppose Trump, but on the other hand a Republican Congress would be much more willing to oppose Hillary, and historically Congress has been a more effective check on presidential power than the Supreme Court has been. (The GOP will probably lose the Senate and keep the House, unless the Trump effect is even worse than anticipated on down-ballot races.)
And I certainly would never consider voting for Hillary. Both Trump and Hillary are below my “too bad to ever vote for” bar. Yesterday just pushed Hillary further below it. But, I can definitely understand other people reaching different conclusions about how to vote in this unprecedentedly bad election…