What’s a Conservative to Do?
It has become part of my morning routine to groan when I see the litany of negative articles about Donald Trump at nationalreview.com. Not that I’m a huge fan of his, but he did win fair and square and is the nominee.
Every day I receive emails voicing the same reaction to the constant barrage of scathing commentary about Trump from traditionally conservative sources. Perhaps the conservative punditry feels obligated to be self-critical. But, for those who backed other primary candidates, then put on their big boy pants and came to terms with supporting Trump -- or at least committed to vote for him -- this compulsion among the conservative chattering classes is dispiriting and causing a great deal of second-guessing. Even panic.
Should I reconsider voting for Trump?
Who else would I vote for?
A vote for any other candidate or sitting out the election -- something I’ve never done before -- just increases Hillary’s chances; I can’t be part of that.
What’s a conservative to do? And more importantly, what do these political soothsayers want from us?
Are they simply grousing or malcontents who can’t bring themselves to vote for Trump? I know they envision themselves as guardians of conservatism, but are they such purists that they are willing to ride their principles off a cliff?
Isn’t that a criticism often levelled at tea partiers?
Do they really know better than we do and, if so, shouldn’t we heed their advice? And, what exactly is their advice?
They whomp us up into a frenzy but offer no solutions. Short of forcing Trump out and the chaos that would engender, I don’t think there are any solutions other than to vote for him -- after all, he is the most conservative candidate who can get elected.
In Does Sean Hannity Want Hillary to Win?, Jonah Goldberg at nationalreview.com castigates Hannity for giving Trump a pass about reneging on his assurances to pivot to a more presidential persona -- something, most acknowledge, he must do in order to beat Hillary. Because Hannity refuses to call out Trump and continues to defend him, Goldberg sees him as aiding and abetting a Hillary victory.
To be fair, I understand where Goldberg is coming from. And when he says “Trump is sabotaging his own campaign every single day, and yet his supporters put the blame on everyone else and cheer Trump on” I know a lot of conservatives who share this assessment. However, they will vote for Trump.
I wonder if he and the others who relentlessly lambast Trump appreciate the irony here? We could easily inquire Do Jonah Goldberg and Kevin Williamson Want Hillary to Win? because their incessant pummeling is turning off indispensable voters and paving the way for a Clinton triumph. Although Goldberg claims he cannot go as far as P.J. O’Rourke and pull the lever for HRC, he does intend to write-in “some third choice” -- as if there’s a difference! Both are sure fire ways of ensuring a Clinton victory. And the consequences from persistent Trumpbashing, sitting out the election, or voting for Stein, Johnson or McMullin, are no different: Clinton wins. We know that. They know that. They want that.
It kills me to take on Jonah Goldberg like this; he is one of my favorites. He and Kevin D. Williamson are incredibly talented, well-read, articulate, lay scholars in a number of areas. I read them both religiously. I know for a fact that Goldberg has agonized with his decision -- as have many of us.
Thirteen of the last fourteen articles posted by Goldberg and Williamson at nationalreview.com were either directly about Trump or had a curt, biting reference to him. Although I found myself nodding in agreement at times, I question the wisdom in publishing these posts. If there are no solutions, or there are, but there isn’t anyone listening who can shake things up, are they senselessly beating their heads against the wall?
Republicans are self-critical to the point of fault, the first to call out their own, and remarkably open about airing dirty laundry while the Democrats gleefully roll around in theirs. But, how many times can you say that Trump doesn’t express himself well, he’s off message and lets opportunities pass that should be exploited, he’s garish and all about himself, he’s losing a fight he should win, he’s untested and a poor spokesman for conservatism, he has no ground game, and, if he’s so smart, it sure doesn’t come across.
Bush rarely expressed himself well. Who could forget Romney’s “severe conservative” comment, women in binders, and the 47%? Not only was he off message, I’m not even sure what his unicorn and rainbows “Believe in America” message was about. McCain took pride in being a maverick who didn’t hesitate to stray from the conservative herd. Romney let a huge opportunity pass when he didn’t respond to Candy Crowley on Benghazi. Both Romney and McCain were criticized relentlessly for losing contests they should have won.
For decades, GOP politicians, pundits, and leaders implored the base to vote for its candidate, whether he was liked or his views shared. Like obedient little lemmings, the base voted for the most conservative candidate who could get elected. By the time Romney ran, however, 3 million disgusted Republicans stayed home. They didn’t want to vote for another establishment guy; someone who waffled too many times on important issues; someone whose past suggested he just might be another RINO who would turn on the very people who elected him.
Point is, all of our candidates -- including our 16 primary candidates -- have flaws. And it doesn’t matter if you are Trump, Pence, Romney, or McCain -- the Democrats will exploit those flaws and go one step further manufacturing other weaknesses out of whole cloth. These mythological flaws become so deeply embedded in the American psyche, that they become the “truth” and voila! We are sexists, racists, homophobes, the 1%, and haters.
Despite these real or imagined flaws, we loyal plebes stump, knock, call, fund, and vote for the nominee. We applaud when appropriate and wince (to ourselves) when they mess up. But we do not eat our own. And now, the very people who tell us to be good little Republicans are digging in their heels and cannibalizing Trump.
Isn’t this a case of the pot calling the kettle black? For years elite Republicans and the conservative commentariat have cautioned the grassroots to be wary of riding their principles off a cliff, and now that is precisely what they do! If, by staying true to their conservative principles, they cannot in good conscience vote for Trump and ask us to do the same, haven’t they saddled up their principles and giddy-yapped all the way to the nearest precipice?
Of course not, they clarify, as they don their superhero capes. By thwarting a Trump victory, they will be saving the GOP and conservatism from certain doom, not tumbling over the proverbial crag!
Call me jaded but, hello? Conservatism is already on life support and some of the very people who whine about Trump are responsible for its demise and for basically two reasons: first, the lack of political will, that is, the reckless and feckless behavior of Republican politicians who fail to follow through on campaign promises; and secondly, lack of political savvy, that is, Republican candidates do not know how to fight and, when they do fight, they bring a plastic spoon to a cage match. They don’t have a message or the means to deliver one to targeted groups, they talk like egg heads walking on egg shells, they lack the creativity to hone a sound bite and repeat it over and over until it becomes part of the narrative, they’re afraid to talk to the liberal media and, when they do, they are almost always on defense and fail to connect with viewers.
While the Democrats concoct successful, long-lasting mantras like “Bush Lied, People Died” and “No Blood for Oil,” Republicans wring their hands and apologize when Trump says, “Obama is the Founder of ISIS.” My G-d, man! In 6 words, he gets his point across. It may not be lyrical or 100% factually accurate, but neither are Democrat slogans or ads. Those 6 words are a yuge improvement over the norm of reciting ad nauseam that Obama created a vacuum in the Middle East that allowed ISIS to come to power and, here’s the back story…zzzz. The latter reaches political junkies; the former connects to the guy glancing at his TV over pasta.
Trump -- love him or leave him -- understands that the pasta-eating guy is the vote he has to reach; the hard-working family man or woman GOP leaders left behind and DNC policies destroyed.
Heck, Republicans can’t even toot their own horn. Republican governors run 31 states and Republicans control 30 state legislatures (versus 12 by Democrats). We should be blasting the media with snappy soundbites and catchy commercials about these successes and contrast them with the failures in Democrat-controlled states. Instead? Crickets.
Republicans constantly allow themselves to be outmaneuvered -- compromising on this or that while the Democrats always insist on their way or the highway. And, here’s the rub (and this is why Trump is our nominee). They dress and talk like Democrats. They’re clean cut and perfectly outfitted to play the part of politician. They’re slick talkers and careful campaigners -- unctuous and sycophantic when they want our votes; duplicitous and aloof once in power. It really isn’t about the “anger” Trump has tapped into. It’s because he is unlike any other politician. He is impolitic. He is the Anti-Politician. He’s wearing a cape, too. And we now see how novel and magnetic those qualities can be.
For the first time in my life, I’m genuinely scared. I’m afraid that my children will raise families in a world that is alien to the America I cherish and the America their father immigrated to. I fear nefarious elements will become increasingly more powerful, subjugating non-compliant, religious, and conservative Americans. I dread the “anything goes” world we will soon inhabit where moral erosion and technological disruption create a Brave New Unrecognizable World of hedonism and listlessness. The boundaries and reference points those of us over 35 grew up with are no longer there for our children and grandchildren. And worse, violence threatens our way of life at home and abroad but our progeny lack the physical and emotional wherewithal to protect each other and beat back the belligerents.
I am 100% certain that Hillary will further those odious ends. She will rule much the way Cercei advised her son Joffrey in Game of Thrones: “Someday you’ll sit on the throne and the truth will be what you make it.” Ain’t that the truth. Do not waste one minute wondering if Hillary will regard her tenure in the Oval Office any differently. Do not be so naïve as to think we can fix it all by electing a Republican if she falters in her first term. We already have overwhelming proof of her criminality and corruption and yet, she skates. If elected, she’ll be in power for eight years and the truth will be what she makes it -- of this I have no doubt. And there is nothing we will be able to do about it.
Look, I’m not thrilled with Trump but if the millions who vote for him are proven wrong -- and everything claimed by the nevertrumpers and feared by conservatives who wanted other nominees, comes to fruition -- then at least we have some recourse: We can force Trump to resign, impeach him or, after his term, nominate a better candidate and send Trump on “a very, very nice long vacation.” We will mop up the mess, but it will be minimal and not as detrimental to conservatism as people fear; the brand is so tarnished and the party so shattered already -- unrelated to Donald Trump -- that it’s hard to imagine it getting worse.
On the other hand, if Hillary gets elected, both sides of the Republican split will be to blame: (1) Trump will have been a flawed candidate who ran a horrible campaign, and (2) too many Republicans who refused to toe the party line and flayed Trump at every turn, either stayed home on Election Day, or voted for an alternative candidate or write-in or the unthinkable, the Queen of Thrones herself.
After eight years of Hillary scripting her truths, the damage will be incalculable; the clean-up, impossible.