Dennis Prager, conservative talk-show host and columnist, has taken it upon himself to persuade those of us who remain #nevertrump to hold our nose and vote for the Donald, apparently since all efforts by others to change our minds have failed. Mr. Prager is an intelligent and thoughtful guy, so it gives me no pleasure to say he’s wrong.
But he is.
And, rather ironically, Dennis comes to the wrong conclusion about what we #nevertrump conservatives ought to do right after he accurately discovers the difference between us and those who have decided to plug their noses to block the stench of Trump and punch the ballot for the GOP ticket.
We have the same principles as the #NeverTrumpers, especially those of us who strongly opposed nominating Trump. That’s why we opposed him, after all. Almost everything that prevents #NeverTrumpers from voting for Trump also troubled us about the candidate.
This seems true enough to me as regards most reluctant Trump voters. There are some people who considered him a top choice, but others at least see him as…problematic. Prager goes on.
We differ on this: We hold that defeating Hillary Clinton, the Democrats and the left is also a principle. And that it is the greater principle.
Well, okay, he’s sort of right about what we disagree on. I challenge anyone who supports Trump to prove that #nevertrump conservatives don’t consider defeating Hillary Clinton to be a principle by providing evidence beyond the fact that we aren’t voting for Trump.
Because here’s where we actually differ: #nevertrump conservatives do not see a superior choice in Mr. Trump. Therefore, defeating Hillary Clinton, while a principle, is not the “greater” principle. (Indeed, it seems every few days there is someone on the Right who argues for supporting Clinton this time around, such as in this piece linked on Real Clear Politics right next to Mr. Prager’s.)
Amusingly, Prager and others like him seem to be under the impression that in deciding that we can not vote for Trump, we never considered how bad Hillary Clinton is.
As he writes,
[#NeverTrumpers] argument is profoundly mistaken.
It assumes that America can survive another four years of Democratic rule.
By “survive” he means America remains “the country it was founded to be.” Now Dennis will be the first to agree that liberals and progressives have long had a very different conception of what America ought to be than those of us who fight to conserve our founding constitutional principles.
Yet he continues, as though this changed in the last four or eight years.
One side seeks to undo just about every founding principle that made America exceptional. Important examples include small and limited government; preservation of the power of the states to serve as political and social laboratories; a belief in individual responsibility; a society rooted in Judeo-Christian morality — one composed of people who nearly all affirmed in God and Bible-based moral teachings; and a deep sense of a unifying American identity and destiny.
Yet Hillary Clinton was as much a threat in 2008 as now, as was Barack Obama. Dennis knows this:
[T]he left and the Democratic Party (which are now indistinguishable) boast of their aim to do so. As then-Senator Barack Obama accurately prophesied in 2008,
“We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.”
Obama was elected and then 2012 became “the most important election in our lifetime,” replacing 2008. It wasn’t the first time. John Kerry was an existential threat in 2004. Al Gore was in 2000. Not to downplay the danger of progressivism, but I’ve never voted in an election that was not “the most important of our lifetime.”
Except they never are.
Why? Because there are almost no permanent victories or losses in politics, but almost exclusively marginal ones. Barry Goldwater’s loss in 1964 wasn’t a permanent loss for small government, to take just one example.
Mr. Prager seems not to take this into account. He continues,
And for the first time in American history, a man calling himself a socialist won the great majority of young people’s votes in the Democratic presidential primaries. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ new political movement is accurately named “Our Revolution.”
Dennis does not bother to explain what electing Donald Trump will do to change the electorate. Indeed, he seems to imagine that electing the worst possible alternative liberalism will somehow reverse the flow toward liberalism.
What exactly does conservatism offer when our electoral vehicle is headed by a man who undermines all our goals and hard work over the years? The likely outcome is that people will be pushed toward men like Sanders as alternatives to the disaster Trump will be and that conservatism will be compromised by the poison of Trumpism. In other words, Republicans will lose more, Democrats will win more and both parties will be worse.
What does that mean for conservatives considering their election choices? It means that we need to consider the long-term consequences of votes. We must consider if it we ought to gain the highest office in the nation, but lose our souls.
By “we” I now mean “the GOP,” not conservatives. To ask that question as a conservative, rather than as a Republican, is to assume that Donald Trump is one of us, a conservative who cares about this nation’s founding principles. He isn’t.
Sure he promised to protect all twelve articles of the Constitution, but that was one of the few times he even mentioned the document. I don’t need to rehash the numerous ways in which Trump is not only ignorant of conservative principles, but even ignorant of his own ignorance. Others have done a sufficient job explaining that.
Indeed, far from it being #nevertrump voters forgetting how bad Hillary Clinton is, the gap between us and his reluctant voters is that they simply don’t like him. We don’t consider him an acceptable alternative to Hillary Clinton. Perhaps at a fundamental level, we can simply imagine someone as bad as her and they cannot.
And I’m sympathetic. After 25 years of her being the devil incarnate in the eyes of many conservatives, it’s hard to consider the possibility that there could be someone as dangerous.