It’s every man for himself out there in this post-Trump conservative movement. Defiant warriors of the Resistance, and most particularly my platoon mates in the #NeverTrump brigade, are largely lacking a singular leader around whom to rally. We watch in anguish as Rick Perry—who previously called the orange-hued demagogic clown a “cancer” on conservatism—comes around to not only endorse the charlatan, but to proffer himself as a potential vice presidential running mate. We squirm as we watch Paul Ryan slowly raise the white flag of surrender to the “alt-right” dear leader. We are agonized as we watch Marco Rubio painfully double down on his vow to support the eventual nominee, whomever he or she is. Even the great Mike Lee, who (accurately) noted that the orange-hued clown “scares [him] to death,” could not quite bring himself to join fellow constitutionalist Ben Sasse on team #NeverTrump.
I’ve done much thinking and reading over these past ten days on what I think is the best path forward, and here is a breakdown of our best options, in order. Consider it a #NeverTrump cheat sheet.
- #FreeTheDelegates – Yes, this is what some refer to as the “nuclear option,” in which the RNC’s Rules Committee votes to unbind as many delegates as possible on the first ballot. The Branch Trumpidians, the personality cultists, the “alt-right” fascists, and the Twitter zombies will all cry foul about the “will of the people” (whatever that means in a country expressly founded upon lower-case “r” republican, and not lower-case “d” democratic, principles; go read some James Madison, Trumpkins) being thwarted. At this point, to borrow a phrase from the other party’s terrible presumptive nominee, what difference does it make? This is still our best option, even if it is not entirely clear whom the delegates should then vote on. Erick has written about it here and here, and Steve has also done so.
- Run Multiple Third-Party Candidates – Brian Sikma wrote a great piece here the other day on conservatives’ “unorthodox roadmap” for a presidential win. Brian’s argument boils down to the belief that, if we are to hold all presidential candidates under 270 votes in the Electoral College and thus send the election to the House of Representatives as the Constitution requires, then the operative playbook is less 1912 (where Woodrow Wilson swept 40 states and 435 electoral votes despite only winning 41.8% of the popular vote) or 1992 (where Bill Clinton won 370 electoral votes despite only winning 43% of the popular vote) than it is 1824 (where four candidates with differing regional appeals sufficiently split the vote to send it to the House, where John Quincy Adams was victorious despite only winning 30.9% of the popular vote). This is admittedly a daunting task, not least because—pursuant to the Twelfth Amendment—we would need to ensure the actually conservative challenger finishes in the top three in the electoral vote. But it is possible: some western and heartland states have shown themselves proudly defiant of the orange-hued clown, and proudly in favor of Ted Cruz-style constitutional conservatism.
- Run a Single Third-Party Conservative Candidate – My colleague Inez Fletcher also wrote about this the other day—specifically, why running a third-party candidate is a superior option to running no one. This is, of course, correct, and Inez offers five reasons why: (1) we as a movement need a clear statement of principles, (2) it could still deny the orange-hued clown the White House, (3) it should boost conservative turnout to help down-ticket races, (4) our message will actually be communicated to the country, and (5) it makes it harder for the orange-hued clown to ignore conservatives as a voting bloc.
- Vote for the Libertarian or Constitution Party – This isn’t a great option, not least because Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party is completely clueless on foreign policy, and his main opponent Austin Petersen has no idea what pro-lifers actually think and says build-the-wall conservatives should just move to North Korea. The Constitution Party is more conservative, but it spews economically illiterate, pro-mercantilism, anti-capitalism Trumpkin garbage on free trade (or lack thereof)—and approximately zero people take it seriously, in any event.
- Write in Ted Cruz’s Name – This may well be a superior option to voting for the feckless Libertarian or Constitution Parties. Consider it a tossup. Cruz was conservatism’s would-be savior, this cycle; it obviously did not pan out, but there is something that feels morally right about writing in his name in November, anyway.
- Don’t Vote – I don’t like this option, because I fall somewhere between “voting is a civic duty” and “voting is an important reminder that we live in a free country, so take it seriously.” But the reality is that voting is also considered by many to be economically irrational, so I suppose this isn’t the worst sword onto which to fall.
- Take Cyanide – This option speaks for itself. Needless to say, don’t actually exercise it. The only point is that it is still higher than…
- #ImWithHer – With respect to my fellow #NeverTrump-er, RedState’s Ben Howe, this is an absolutely terrible option. If the orange-hued clown had never arisen, the case would be fairly straightforward that Hillary Rodham Clinton is almost uniquely and catastrophically unqualified for the high office she seeks. She is one of the most serially corrupt politicians of any of our lifetimes. This option should never be exercised by any conservative acting in good conscience, because options (4) through (6) are all already possible. I say that despite my firm belief that the orange-hued clown, whom I have previously called “the very demagogue the Founders feared,” indeed has an even worse downside than Hillary. But she is still all kinds of horrible, and we should not be actively complicit by affirmatively voting for her.
So there we have it. The #FreeTheDelegates “nuclear option” is definitely our best bet, but we as a movement need to be doing whatever we can to assist the option (2) and (3) contingency plans. Whatever happens, the Resistance must not cave to the darkness of “alt-right” Trumpism.