Message to #NeverTrump: Your Vote Isn’t About You
Few truisms are more maddening than, “get out and vote, no matter where you stand!” It’s popular in schools and non-partisan initiatives aimed at getting young people involved in democracy, as if “letting your voice be heard” is a noble end in and of itself — never mind that elections have real consequences for the freedom, safety, health and livelihood of other people.
The ballot box isn’t a personal survey; if one doesn’t understand the issues, not voting is manifestly the more responsible choice. Rejecting feel-good, self-validating pap like this was one of the things I admired about the conservative movement … but then the 2016 election happened.
It’s understandable that Donald Trump winning the Republican presidential nomination, despite his incoherence on policy and atrocious character, has so appalled conservatives that many say they can’t bring themselves to vote for him even against Hillary Clinton. Until recently, I was one of them.
But at some point, disgust has to give way to sober reflection on what happens after January 20, 2017, and the latest round of hype over National Review’s David French as a potential independent candidate only gives conservatives an excuse to delay that reflection. That makes it doubly lamentable that Bill Kristol dragged French — a veteran, principled conservative and sharp analyst who doesn’t deserve the ugly attacks he’s already gotten — into this mess.
It was already unrealistic to expect any newcomer to sweep in and become president by throwing the election to the House of Representatives (and even if it did, what makes anyone think most Republicans would risk angering constituents who chose Trump?), but to expect it with someone unknown outside conservative commentary circles is astonishingly delusional.
Of course, many would-be French voters understand that, and think punishing Trump and the GOP is worthwhile anyway, some because they think the net outcome of his presidency would be worse than Hillary’s, others simply because they’ve decided voting for Trump would compromise their honor. These would be defensible positions … if everything Hillary did could be reversed by her successor.
But her presidency would begin with filling Antonin Scalia’s seat and likely continue with swapping old leftist justices for younger models, making a lasting, 6-3 activist Supreme Court the best-case scenario (and heaven help us if we lose 68-year-old Clarence Thomas in the next 4-8 years). Amnesty is near the top of her wishlist, and if she successfully puts millions of illegals, disproportionately left-wing and susceptible to government dependence, on a path to citizenship, conservatives will lose the ability to win another national election for generations.
Oh, and 3,000 Americans are dead today in part because of the last time a Clinton was president. Can anyone justify gambling that his wife will be any less negligent, having already lost four Americans on her watch?
Yes, Trump will be a terrible president. No, he doesn’t believe his good promises. But few, if any, of the various #NeverTrump manifestos confront the full extent of the damage Hillary can do. How will a Republican Congress that hasn’t stood up to Barack Obama’s agenda grow a spine in time to block Hillary’s? Where’s the political will to resist a judiciary even more emboldened to invalidate conservative policies and mandate leftist ones? What do we do when Democrats’ dream of amnestying their way to a permanent national majority finally becomes reality?
#NeverTrump has no answer to these questions. The closest it comes is theorizing that losing would somehow teach GOP elites the error of their craven ways … but Republicans never take the right lesson from defeat anyway. Trump’s loss should teach them not to make their base desperate enough to turn to a con man by neglecting their values and priorities, but instead they’ll just infer, as Mitch McConnell is already laying the groundwork for, that the next nominee should be milder on immigration.
That leaves #NeverTrump with no other purpose than to symbolize its moral superiority to the Trump cult.
And for all the Trump cult’s sins, that isn’t even close to a good enough reason to sacrifice the country’s fate.
How you vote isn’t about you, or your reputation, or your self-image. It’s about what happens to millions of your countrymen — whether their freedom shrinks or their wallets get lighter. Whether they live or die at the hands of a terrorist, gunman, or abortionist. Whether they retain any means of reversing their government’s direction.
Does resentment of Trump outweigh the suffering we know Hillary will inflict on the country? Is it worth gambling that she might not succeed in laying the groundwork for perpetual left-wing dominance, just to make a statement? Does purity justify risking the end of the conservative movement? Because make no mistake, these are the stakes of staying home, voting for David French or Gary Johnson, or any other decision that makes President Clinton II more likely.
We’re in this mess because Trump’s primary voters put their emotions ahead of their moral duty to objectively consider the country’s best interests. It would be a bitter irony if his opponents completed the tragedy by doing the same thing.