Trump and Logic vs #NeverTrump and Suicide

In early August, the great Thomas Sowell presented an analogy describing the choice facing conservative readers of National Review, in a piece titled “Two Awful Candidates Heading to a Close Election.  What’s a Good Citizen to Do?” 

“Voting for an out of control egomaniac like Donald Trump,” Sowell writes, “would be like playing Russian roulette with the future of this country.  Voting for someone with a track record like Hillary Clinton’s is like putting a shotgun to your head and pulling the trigger.  And not voting at all is just giving up.”

“Nobody said that being a good citizen would be easy,” he concludes.

The tremendous respect I have for Dr. Sowell notwithstanding, there would appear to be a huge flaw in his analogy’s formulation.  He presents “not voting at all” and “giving up” as if it were to potentially yield an alternative outcome to a Hillary victory, i.e., willfully committing suicide. 

It won’t.

Sowell correctly describes November’s election as an event that can only yield one winner between the two “awful” candidates we’ve been offered.  This is the simplest of logical calculations, and no amount of barking for a third-party rival among conservatives changes that reality in the slightest. (More on this in a moment.)  So clearly, a “good citizen’s” choice to simply refuse any role in the process actually advances the prospects of a Hillary victory in November, which he describes as an act of suicide for a “good citizen.” 

By “good citizen,” one can infer that Sowell means a citizen who prizes his role as an actor in our political process to preserve the protections of individual liberty and the guarantees of limited government as determined by our Constitution.  Given that a vote for Hillary and a refusal to vote are both tantamount to a suicidal act for that citizen, and that a vote for Trump at least presents a chance at survival, I began to wonder whether Sowell’s piece is intended to be a soft endorsement of Trump. 

Then, I realized that Sowell’s intent is inconsequential.  A soft endorsement of Trump is precisely what it is.  And a soft endorsement is all that is needed, given the circumstances of this election.

It is not required that “good citizens” shout huzzahs as they march to the polls for Trump.  What is required is that “good citizens” understand what is at stake.

There will be at least one Supreme Court appointment in which our next president will take part, and there may be as many as four vacancies.  Which candidate, Trump or Clinton, is more likely to appoint a gun grabber to the position?  Which candidate is most likely to nominate a justice who will respect individual state’s rights in matters of religious protections and civil law within the states?  Which candidate is more likely to nominate a justice that will take the expansionist view of federal authority and create rationales based upon phantom clauses in the Constitution or specious reasoning to create “rights” to a “living wage,” healthcare, or a home, just as justices created the federally protected “right” for a pregnant woman to kill her unborn child in 1973? 

Which of these two candidates is more likely to support a continuation of regulatory burdens on American businesses, tax hikes, or the promotion of a single-payer healthcare system?  Which of them is more likely to support our military, or support our allies in Israel, or our nation’s law enforcement officers as they are targeted by militant agitators disguised as legitimate civil rights advocates?

These are not trick questions, nor are they difficult ones.  True, we may not know how Donald Trump will act in regard to these issues apart from his campaign promises, but we know exactly how Hillary Clinton will attack each of these issues.  Hence, a vote for Donald Trump may indeed be a bit like Russian roulette for a “good citizen,” and a vote for Hillary or a refusal to vote, the latter of which still bolsters Clinton’s election chances, is suicide.

So from what place stems this “good citizen’s” indecision?  Where could the conflict possibly lie, given the choices between a chance at success and outright suicide?

We’ve read it all, and heard it all across the spectrum.  A writer that I read and respect at American Thinker, C. Edmund Wright, invoked Hamilton.  “If we must have an enemy at the head of Government, let it be one whom we can oppose, and for whom we are not responsible.”  Erick Erickson, former editor of RedState, said last year that he would support Trump against Hillary, but earlier this year revised his position to the now-popular #NeverTrump stance, largely due to Trump’s waffling on federal funding for abortion.  Most often, it boils down to ideological conviction and a refusal to sacrifice on matters pertaining to particular beliefs, in the vein of that old wisdom of Sir Thomas More in A Man for All Seasons, “it profits a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world.” 

But while such wisdom may be true and be valuable in many aspects of life, a presidential election in America is a zero-sum game. 

A rudimentary analogy, if you will.  If Erick Erickson and Glenn Beck and their respective followers in the #NeverTrump camp choose not to claim a seat at the table where the election will be decided simply because Donald Trump happens to be sitting at that table, or they choose to sit at another table altogether, there is more of the election cake left to be gobbled by Hillary and her supporters, and she will win.  Only one candidate and his/her supporters will walk away with the bulk of the cake, and in this case, a mandate to decide what will be done with that cake.  In Hillary’s case, she and her supporters will demand that you divvy the slices you took during the election and divide it among her other supporters.  She would have the mandate, after all, and because you have less of the electoral cake, you should have less say in how the cake is distributed.

That’s not right.  It’s just the reality in which we exist.

What is most curious to me that the same conservatives who are entreating other conservatives to either stay home or vote for doomed-to-failure third party candidates seemed to recognize this reality just last year.  Does anyone else remember the pledge at the beginning of the first Republican primary debate?  I grant you, it was a farce of the highest order to demand that all candidates pledge allegiance to the Party and to support whomever should win the primary.  How dare Trump not immediately promise his support to the winner who would go on to represent the Party!  He later did promise to do so, thus outwardly proving his Party credentials.

Of course, few anticipated at that time that Trump would win the primary.  It was merely a staged event to ensure that Trump would promise not to muck up the whole affair by taking his considerable following on a Ross Perot ‘92-style venture which could allow another Clinton victory.

As we know, Trump defied the odds by means of a crowded field, a wildly popular candor on serious issues like illegal immigration, his complete disavowal of political correctness, and an unparalleled media presence.  But still, it is curious that so many conservatives hold fast to their conviction that “#NeverTrump means Never Trump!” when it wasn’t so long ago that they understood that presidential elections are a zero-sum game.

Imagine, what if Ted Cruz had won the primary?  (I supported him and voted for him.)  What if the devout Trump supporters now came out and suggested that the only way to save our country and our souls is to vote for Donald Trump or any other third party candidate with no reasonable path to victory?  Or that they simply not vote, and grant Hillary an easier path to victory?  There would be no logic in it, and conservative Cruz supporters would unabashedly say so!  Either path leads to a Hillary victory, which, for members of either the Cruz camp or the Trump camp, is the worst of possible outcomes.

There are many smart, dedicatedly patriotic, “good citizens” among the #NeverTrumps.  This is not meant to be an insult to them or their convictions, but a simple appeal to reason: 

A vote for Hillary is, in the context of your beliefs and fundamental American principles, suicide.  The choice to not vote, or to vote for a candidacy which is doomed to fail with a single digit or even low-teens popular vote, empowers Hillary’s campaign and is therefore suicide.  The only choice with the potential for a positive outcome is a vote for Donald Trump.

You may not like this description of our current circumstances.  I don’t necessarily like it.  But that does not change the nature of our circumstances.

Trump 2016.   

William Sullivan can be followed on Twitter.

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