(Author’s note: During my well-received absence from the blogosphere, the 2016 election continued to behave like a kid with ADHD. We’ve absorbed a relentless barrage of stories from a frenetic media. Since my piece on Hillary Clinton’s disgraceful relationship with accessibility, culminating in my prediction that the race was about to tighten, the race has become even more dramatic, which I didn’t think was possible. It has, indeed, become razor tight; Donald Trump has nearly completed the comeback. Meanwhile, we quickly rushed through media cycles that included her head-shakingly stupid “basket of deplorables,” face-palmingly disjointed approach to her “pneumonia,” the media’s forehead-smashingly overdramatic pondering of whether Clinton might drop out of the race, and Trump’s knee-slappingly hilarious decision to go on Dr. Oz to tell us about his “health.” And that was just in the last week. Of all the things to talk about, though, I eschewed the circus and chose policy instead. If you don’t like it, CNN and Fox are waiting for you.)
Are you feeling bad for conservatives yet? I’m sympathetic to their plight. Imagine being a traditional Republican right now, and your main choices for president include:
- A) Democrat Hillary Clinton, your most hated American politician;
- B) Libertarian Gary Johnson, who has no chance to win and embarrassingly flubbed on a Syria question; and
- C) Republican Donald Trump, who probably would have flubbed just as badly on that and many more policy questions, and has just stepped further left on the ideological spectrum than any Republican in modern political history.
His latest leftward jaunt came on Tuesday with a childcare proposal that includes six weeks paid leave for mothers and tax deductions for day care. If a Democrat proposed these ideas — oh, that’s right, they’ve been proposing it for a long time, as Charles Krauthammer reminds us — Republicans would call it the growth of the “nanny state.” But when the Republican nominee for president does it, a neutered party just looks up and silently unleashes a Captain Kirkesque “Truuuuuuump!”
Poor conservatives. Sure, Trump claims to be able to pay for this proposal by eliminating — let’s say it all together now — waste, fraud, and abuse, but slicing such fat from the budget could be savings that are passed on to the taxpayers instead of redirecting their money to pay for others’ childcare. At least, that was the logic of the party of small government.
Trump’s liberal ideas about government are nothing new, of course. We spent much of the Republican Primary watching some of his fellow Republicans attack him on his progressive positions, like his past liberal statements on health care, abortion, taxes, drugs, and supporting Hillary Clinton and other Democrats. Conservatives who chose to ignore the more distant past in favor of his positions during his actual presidential campaign are still faced with his liberal positions on trade, social security, affirmative action, LGBT rights, and more.
“But what of the Supreme Court?,” some Republicans might ask. “Surely he’ll nominate conservatives to it.” Not so fast, says conservative columnist George Will, in his insightful “The sinking fantasy that Trump will defend the Constitution.” Alongside jabs that disparage Trump’s embarrassing ignorance on the Constitution (Trump thinks judges sign bills and there are twelve articles to the Constitution), Will points out that on a couple of the most important, divisive Supreme Court decisions this century — Kelo vs. New London (regarding “eminent domain”) and Citizens United vs. the FEC (regarding “free speech”) — Trump sides with the liberal judges, not the Clarence Thomases and AntoninScalias of the here and hereafter. We can only assume that he would nominate judges who agree with him.
Poor conservatives indeed! There is no one to whom they can turn. The battle is already lost. The war, however, can still be won. If Trump wins the presidency, we might never have a conservative option again in our lifetime. The Republican Party would move left with its president, and four years from now our choices are moderate-to-liberal President Trump or the surely liberal Democratic nominee. (Any Republican Primary challenge or conservative third party bid would usher in the Democrat.) In essence, a vote for Trump is a vote for the liberalization of the GOP. It’s a vote for no major conservative party until a new one walks the blockaded road toward viability.
But a vote for Clinton, Johnson, or Ronald Reagan can be a vote to live to fight another day. Sacrifice the battle, but survive the war. Counterintuitively, a conservative should consider allowing Clinton the victory before destroying her in four years with a conservative nominee of a still conservative Republican Party. Just a thought. Admittedly, a conservative on the cusp of voting for Hillary Clinton might have a seizure in the booth… but that’s a small sacrifice for the good of the Republican Party.