Though many of my fellow stalwart #NeverTrump-ers remain avowedly opposed to betraying our principles—and more broadly, I would argue, the conservative movement itself—by voting for a crass ignoramus as manifestly unqualified for the high office he seeks as is Donald J. Trump, many are folding. As Erick wrote about Marco Rubio’s caving to the stubby-fingered orange overlord, it is difficult for us to blame these Republicans too much. After all, partisan tribalism is so deeply imbued in our collective conscience, and Hillary Clinton herself is, furthermore, manifestly unqualified in her own right; indeed, I have written that taking cyanide is preferable to affirmatively casting a vote for Hillary. So get over yourselves, #NeverTrump, we are told—the realm of politics is for grim realities, and perfection will not be attained on this side of the afterlife anyway.
While I have a hard timing blaming too much those who would choose Ebola over HIV, I nonetheless do think these limited-government, moral traditionalist, and peace-through-strength conservatives are making a breathtakingly shortsighted judgment in choosing to sell out to the New York narcissist. The long-term costs of conflating Trumpism—a buffoonish secular jingoistic nationalism with an anti-constitutional fascistic streak and a broad brush of unvarnished white-identity politics—with actual conservatism are rather dire. Those who would sell out now are simply cutting off their nose to spite their face. Trying to save the U.S. Supreme Court, arguably the only reason to ever consider voting for Trump, is still not worth it; and, in any event, the vulgarian’s shocking weekend verbal assault on the magistrate presiding over his Trump University fraud case was so “dangerous” and “scurrilous“—and such a blatant strongman affront to the separation of powers—so as to squander whatever “negligible good will” his SCOTUS list may have built up in the first place. (To think that this unhinged man will actually follow through on his (non-binding!) statement to nominate pro-separation of powers originalists to the Court, at this point, is pretty much akin to believing in the tooth fairy.)
These conservatives who would vote for Trump, of course, are also willing to ignore the very real possibility that Donald Trump’s hitherto unbeknownst racial divisiveness, astoundingly crude anti-constitutionalism, and jingoistic strongman overtones amount to him not-so-subtly being the very demagogue the Founders feared. Last weekend, I accused these conservative idealists of “missing the lessons of history“:
The issue with these well-intentioned constitutional conservatives, I believe, is that they are either too casually dismissive of or are not sufficiently scared of the very real historical perils of nations falling victim to undiluted authoritarianism…
Those who ignore the decisively strongman overtones in Trumpist discourse frankly have too abounding a faith in the ability of our institutions—as presently situated—to structurally preclude such a frightening usurpation…
Maybe he does turn out to be more controllable buffoon than would-be fascist. Are you really willing to risk that, though?
Usually, when I go there, the “fall in line because Trump isn’t Hillary” apologists accuse me of fear-mongering by playing up far too much the possibility that Trump is a true would-be fascist. And yet none of them ever attempt to directly rebut such fears by promoting the notion that Trump truly is much more wildly uninformed clown than legitimately dangerous iconoclast. If you are trying to convince #NeverTrump that an affirmative vote for Trump is necessarily preferable to not doing so—indeed, that Trump would unambiguously be a less existentially dangerous president for the republic than would be the Benghazi-tattered, email scandalized, national security-undermining kleptocrat that the Democrats are set to nominate—then trying to assuage us that Trump is not an actual fascist would be a good place to start.
I (very) roughly estimate to friends that I think the chances Trump is more true fascist than true buffoon is, at minimum, 10-15%, and quite possibly higher. This is not a joke. If accurate, I think that for true American patriots, such a 10-15% percentage of voting for an institution-destroying authoritarian should be singularly disqualifying. And if you are prepared to kowtow to Trump but are not prepared to definitively defend his pure buffoon “bona fides”—in contradistinction to his authoritarian “bona fides”—then you should seriously reconsider what I believe to be a very shortsighted moral judgment.
This is not a joke.
Tom Nichols, a conservative author and foreign policy/military academic, had an epic tweet storm about #NeverTrump on Friday night. I Storified it here, for easiest reading: read it and take it very seriously. Ask yourself if casting a vote for Donald Trump to be President of the United States and Commander-in-Chief of the U.S. Armed Forces is a morally appropriate—or even remotely wise—thing to do.
I am also placing all sixteen tweets below.
The only thing I will add is that #NeverTrump does not necessarily mean accepting Hillary’s win; we have other options at our disposal. But stop pretending like a Hillary Clinton presidency is necessarily worse for conservatism (to say nothing of the republic!), long-term, than is a Donald Trump presidency. It is very, very far from obvious. They are both simply abominable options.