It’s Hillary or Trump – What’s a Conservative Supposed to Do?

It’s crunch time, my friends.  The conventions are over.  The Republicans have finished their four days of lambasting free trade and traditional social values, and the Democrats have finished their four days of quoting the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution and begging for a return to patriotism.  Sound about right?  Or do you, like me, believe that we are living in a real life national version of a Seinfeld episode?  Besides the basically unbelievable reversal of roles in so many aspects of this year’s conventions (Obama’s primary criticism of Trump was essentially that he was not a real conservative, and that he believed in rule by demagoguery), we do have a fundamental reality we are left with facing this country:

The next President of the United States is going to be either Donald Trump, or Hillary Clinton.

Now, I understand that there could be something which changes that – such as a resignation or arrest or health issue, etc. – but essentially I am dealing with the basic reality the whole country has come to accept.  Our next President is going to be awful; there are two really bad choices; and in fact, the candidates own favorable/unfavorable ratios show this to be the consensus view of the American people.  The Democrats hate their candidate; the Republicans hate theirs.  I happen to think there is really good reason for this, but be that as it may, it is actually an extraordinary phenomena that we are now facing a choice like this.  I would suggest that the Democrats got forced into their candidate because their party fears the Clintons, not because they respect them.  Because their party is corrupt and cronyist to the core, and the Clintons have essentially bought the party and its power centers so as to make this result inevitable.  It’s a truly sickening time for real principled Democratic liberalism, which as best I can tell has no more advocates than could fit in my closet.  The Republican side of this is more complicated.  Much has been written about how our 17-nominee field resulted in a Donald Trump candidacy.  There was a massive resistance from a brave and principled cabal of conservatives to try and keep this train-wreck from happening, but their numbers were not strong enough, and the nature of the divided field was too much to overcome.  The “mood” the country is in was tailor-made for a Trumpian win, so here we are.

There are three categories of Trump supporters on the right, and I basically want to address the third category in this article today.  First, there are the people who were early adopters, those who actually jumped on his bandwagon well before there was any remote reason to do so.  They are his apologists.  They either ignore or shrug off his comments on McCain/POW record, his mocking a disabled person, and his inability to so much as name a major player in the global terrorist Jihad.  On the low brow, pedestrian punditry level, they include Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and Ann Coulter.  There are others too.  The rather lengthy list here includes a lot of people I didn’t care for before the election, and I certainly have no use for them now.  I suspect for them, Trump had them the second he said “Mexican immigrants are rapists” – illegal immigration is their one-trick pony.  And Trump “tapped into something” with them (perhaps the worst and most brainless cliché to have come out of the 2016 election).  Then there is category two Trump supporters, and this is the list that has by far caused me the most grief the last eight months.  It is a list that has forced hours of soul-searching upon me, and frankly created an entirely new formulation of who I respect in conservative leadership.  These are the people that well before Trump had sewn up the nomination, well before we were stuck with the “Trump or Hillary” dilemma, as a pure result of seeing him as a front-runner, not only threw in the towel and began to cozy up to him, but began a totally unforgivable process of rationalizing his perverse behavior and reconciling his ideological heresies through unrelenting gymnastics that still do not make any sense whatsoever.  This list is massive, and I mean truly massive.  I actually have a list.  I am not kidding.  It has many, many public figures on it, and it has caused me to lose immense respect for people you all know, and people you do not know.  This list is not populated with people that “Trump tapped into.”  It is not filled with people who “saw the light on the plight of the white middle class in rural and rust belt America.”  It certainly is not filled with people who realized that “Trump alone can defeat ISIS.”  It is filled rather with people who, I firmly believe, lacked the courage of their own convictions.  It is a sad list, for it is people who absolutely should have known better.  From Mark Steyn to Newt Gingrich to Ben Carson to Bill Bennett, and just innumerable others I can’t bear to list by name, this is the list that enabled Trump.  And it has been painful to watch.

The third category is what I want to address now, and it is the only group whom is practical to address based on the “Trump or Hillary” reality I addressed above.  They are the “look, Trump was not my guy, but I now have to support him because he’s certainly better than Hillary” camp.  I strongly suspect the bulk of you reading right now are in this camp.  Few category 1 and category 2 Trumpkins read my writings, and the sentiment embedded in category 3 is entirely understandable.  However, before I can present my response to this camp and discuss the “what now” of the U.S. Presidential election, I want to split category 3 up into two groups.  I will call the first “category 3a”, and they are those who were not enablers of Trump but now are prepared to support him to stop Hillary, but in doing so, have decided to actually defend much of the indefensible about him.  Category 3b is, in my estimation, more benign.  It essentially is the group of people who really find Trump nauseating, and while they may hope he surprises them in a positive way, they are disheartened that he is the candidate, but simply cannot stomach the thought of a Hillary Presidency.  In other words, category 3a are those lying to themselves and others because they hate Hillary so much; category 3b are those who are telling the truth, and simply dealing with a painful electoral reality.  My response to 3a is this: Please join category 3b.  It is not necessary to sell your soul to go to the “stop Hillary” level of thinking, and you lose all credibility when you accompany your “stop Hillary” thinking with a retroactive defense of that which is indefensible.  Trump has not “tapped into something” on minimum wage, trade deals, ISIS, law and order, or how bold it is to insult disabled people and mock POW’s.  His warm and fuzzy comments about Vladimar Putin and Saddam Hussein are not cute, and they actually reflect the intellect of a total dunce.  He is a fine marketer and he has tremendous enablers in the press, but that does not mean it is “Reaganite” to have absolutely no policy depth (or employed policy advisors).  It’s frankly shameful.  It will likely cost him the election against the second most unpopular person in America.  But you can go to category 3b without the corrosive sell-out actions of category 3a, so please resist that temptation.

So let’s talk category 3b.  For those of you who were not early enablers of Trump, and those who did not join his movement in a shameless capitulation to his lead in the polls in February, and those who do not feel the need to defend his craziness now, but those who simply say, “Hillary with the Supreme Court is more than I can bear; I have to pull the lever for Trump,” I think there is a fair and reasonable position here that I want to address.  First of all, I need to publicly say once again, I am not in category 3b.  I am not going to be voting for Donald Trump.  As I have stated for a long time, I live in California where Hillary will win by a large double-digit figure, and I have the luxury of not having to ever tell my kids I voted for someone like Donald Trump.  My vote is not helping Hillary Clinton, and every single person who understands the electoral college knows this.  I will not pretend that when Trump steps on the basic core of Reaganite conservatism, that it is okay.  I am not called to defend a man whose character I find repugnant, whose intellect I find lacking, and whose qualifications to lead I find non-existent.  I am a movement conservative, and it is the movement I choose to spend my resources defending.  John McCain and Mitt Romney were not perfect candidates, but they were leaps and bounds better than Donald Trump, they were not outside the bounds of a personal character threshold I find very important, and they were qualified to lead the country in nearly every sense of the word.  So I reject that application of “lesser of two evils” on its face, and plan to pen a piece in the near future with my dear friend, Andrew Sandlin, to this effect.  But let me get back to those of you in category 3b, especially those in battleground states: I understand the dilemma you are in; I am not telling you not to vote for Donald Trump; I get the difference between a California movement conservative and someone in Florida or Ohio who has a truly challenging decision to make.  I want to suggest the following set of options for all readers out there.  Essentially, I think there are two “least bad” options out there, and there are two “really bad” options.

(1) Hillary can win, and the GOP can keep the Senate

(2) Trump could win, and surround himself with really good people

(3) Hillary could win, and the GOP could lose the Senate (I do not believe now that they risk losing the House, so the nation will survive no matter what happens)

(4) Trump could win, and actually govern as crazy as he campaigns, with no grown-up supervision

If you want to spend your energies between now and election day fighting for option #2 above, and more than anything else, praying for it, I can totally understand that.  This is the most defensive thing of Trump I have ever said or ever will say.  A Trump win will be nothing to celebrate, but a Hillary loss will be, and should Trump follow through with cabinet picks and judicial picks as solid as his VP pick (I have known Governor Pence for a long time, and believe him to be an outstanding, if not surprising, pick from Trump as VP).  Option #2 is a palatable one for those in battleground states, and it is a perfectly acceptable thing (from that list) to root for and pray for.  I personally suspect option #1 and #3 is more likely, though, so I just cannot lose sight of what is most important to me in this cycle: The preservation of a GOP majority in the Senate.  If we were to have option #4, a totally unhinged and reckless Trump, or could have an option #1, a Hillary with absolutely no legitimacy or mandate in her Presidency, you strain credibility to claim #4 is preferable to #1.  The problem, of course, is that we don’t know if we will get a #2 or a #4 out of Trump.  We do know that if we keep the Senate, we can do a lot in our separation of powers to limit Hillary Clinton.

And let me say a few things about Hillary Clinton.  I have spent 90% of my time in blog writing, social media posts, and inner circle political dialogue lamenting those in my own camp who have enabled Trump to be our nominee, but my disappointment in my own people pales in comparison to the shame and disgust I feel for a Democratic Party who has enabled this deplorable person to become their nominee.  I look at many of my liberal friends differently now, who have never so much as posted a Facebook share mildly critical of this crony phony.  I believe Hillary is the embodiment of all that is wrong with American politics, and I believe she lacks any semblance of a core whatsoever.  Those who would suggest that I am pro-Hillary because I am so disgusted by Trump are wrong, and I will spend emphatic energy resisting Hillary for the next three months, and should she win, I will be relentless in my efforts to keep her a one-term President (which I truly believe she will be).  I am a #NeverHillary guy through and through, and a huge part of my resistance to Trump was because I so badly did not want to see Hillary be our President.  I believe that a microwave oven would beat Hillary right now in a direct race for the Presidency, and I believe 16 other GOP candidates would have beaten her too.  There is only one who I think could find a way to lose this political whore.  So if we get Hillary Clinton as our President, it wasn’t people like me, or National Review, or Ben Shapiro, or Erick Ericson, or Bill Kristol, or Ben Sasse who made it possible …  our prescription all along would have prevented a Hillary Presidency.  And of course, so would a Democratic Party of any integrity, any semblance of character, any consistency in their own convictions.  You Democrats who claim to support progressive principles – you should be ashamed of yourselves for not lifting a finger to oppose this she-devil of a candidate.

So back to category 3b.  I personally am focusing on the GOP keeping the Senate, and to that end I am fighting for Joe Heck in Nevada, Kelly Ayotte in New Hampshire, Marco Rubio in Florida, Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania, and Rob Portman in Ohio.  I suspect Wisconsin and Illinois are goners.  I will fight Hillary for three months.  And I will not hesitate to call our Trump either, for when he flips back and forth and back and forth and back and forth on minimum wage, he is flirting with a position that is hurting minorities, and hurting low-skilled laborers that need the dignity of work.  It is not just politics, and if it is he is doing that wrong too.  A $15/hour minimum wage will NOT HURT ME.  I make a lot of money and have a white collar job and pay my people extremely high wages.  I feel so strongly about the minimum wage issue because it is hurting those it claims to protect.  If Trump wants to jack up this issue, I am not going to be quiet about it.  There is an integrity to the cause of conservatism that cannot be compromised.  Speaking of which, thank you National Review.  But I am not rooting for Trump to lose and I am not rooting for him to win.  I simply believe that option 2 is out of my control, but the second half of option 1 is not.  So I am working on the Senate.

On election night I will not be mourning.  No matter what, I will have something to celebrate.  If Trump wins, I will celebrate the loss of Hillary Clinton and the elimination of this despicable family from American public life.  If Hillary wins I will celebrate that Donald Trump and all his wild erratic behavior will not be part of American civics for the next four years.  Call it my “glass is half full” psychology in Presidential politics.  We have something to mourn on election night no matter what happens, which means we have something to celebrate no matter what.  So I want to intensify the potential celebration by keeping the Senate.

I am, believe it or not, actually not convinced yet that Trump even wants to be President.  I am convinced, though, that he could be.  I’d say he has about a 30% chance.  I believe the odds of either Hillary or Trump being just a one-term President are very, very high, because I believe regardless of who wins there will be no mandate, no real movement for them, and if Trump wins, probably not even a popular vote (I think his only path is to lose the popular vote but win PA, OH, and FL en route to an electoral college victory).  I wouldn’t dare predict how all of this will play out because we are in a year of the unpredictable.

I am disheartened by the category 1, category 2, and even many category 3a Trumpkins.  But that is politics, and where there are real friendships involved, I have no intention of losing any.  “There is a friend who sticks closer than a brother,” and as much as it depends on me, for my friends, I want to be that person.  That is my heart.

There will be a lot of teeth-gnashing in the coming months that “if Hillary wins, America is lost.”  That should be taken as seriously as every other time something like that has been said (and please note what those people say the day after she wins; they too will move on to the next election as the line in the sand for all of civilization; it is a broken record).  Hillary will do incredible damage to our country if she is elected, but she will not destroy her.  Trump may do a lot of damage to our country too, and already has done a lot of damage to our party and the movement.  But we have a dilemma now, and I don’t envy the decision in front of battleground state residents.  Pray that option 3 and 4 die an emphatic death.  We shall see what happens.

But as for what I am rooting for, working for, and praying for, it is that the GOP keep the Senate, and that if Trump is elected, he surround himself with grown-ups.  If Hillary is elected I am praying she be clouded with illegitimacy and constrained by Madisonian divided government.  There are no good options, and I just want to wake up the day after the election with my integrity in tact, and a movement ready to do the work necessary to fix what is wrong.


P.S. – I don’t believe there has been a better summary of this subject than this piece written by Andrew McCarthy of National Review.