As we approach the November elections, there are three distinct Republican camps.
First are the Trump supporters. Victorious in the Republican presidential race, Donald Trump’s camp is now pushing other conservatives to accept a plurality’s judgment.
Next are those conservatives who will vote grudgingly for Trump, but only to prevent Hillary Clinton’s victory.
Finally, there is the #NeverTrump constituency that refuses to vote for the presumptive nominee no matter what.
But accentuating this intra-party instability is another bloc of conservatives: those in the no-man’s land between the second and third camps. Disliking Trump, they also despair at the prospect of a Clinton Administration. Their membership includes House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI), who says he is not yet ready to endorse Trump. And if Ryan refuses to endorse Trump, Clinton’s likely November victory will become all but inevitable.
Whatever one thinks of Ryan’s hesitation, all can agree that the stakes are significant. Indeed, on last weekend’s episode of “The McLaughlin Group,” Pat Buchanan and I had a fierce exchange on the topic. Buchanan asserted that Ryan is making “a terrible mistake,” and is betraying Republican voters. But his primary argument was that “no man’s land” conservatives are crazy to oppose Trump.
For two reasons, I take the opposite view. First, American conservatism matters more than one man and the interests of one party in one election. After all, Republican presidents like Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, have brought honor and strong values to the Oval Office. They have defined conservatism in the legacy of their leadership.
Yet, in style and substance, Trump is the incarnate antithesis of this legacy. Consider how Trump revels in insulting the very notion of respect for others. To Trump, common decency is weakness. And Trump does not regard the presidential prize as an opportunity for his ideas, but only as a throne for his innate glory. If ideas mattered to the magnate, Trump wouldn’t change his mind every other day. Correspondingly, there is no patriotic virtue in relinquishing American conservatism to a man that sees virtue only in the mirror. Honor is integral to the durability of an ideology, and Trump is devoid of it.
Second, even assuming that a President Trump governed with conservative interests at heart —and that, based on Trump’s own assertions, is deeply uncertain — he would strike a deep wound in conservatism’s long term viability. By governing through demagoguery and division Trump would imperil the very future of conservatism’s future that depends on reaching minorities, Millennials and single women.
Moreover, consumed by its own inexorable ego, Trump would wage war on introspection. Just as the Left is stagnating as American colleges retrench into socialist orthodoxy, Trump would lead conservatives into a wilderness of authoritarian platitudes. This is best emphasized by Trump’s rejection of entitlement reform in favor of bluster. It’s a choice that offers an easy four years for The Donald, and a doomed future for the nation.
Some say America cannot withstand another four years of liberalism from the White House. But whether it is Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump who takes the reins from President Obama, American exceptionalism will survive. America’s future does not require our 2016 guess as to the better of two pathetic choices. Instead, America’s future requires our honest and unwavering commitment to our ideals.
Cross-posted from Opportunity Lives.
Photo by Gage Skidmore