Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Choice

Jonah Goldberg, who I think is currently America's most brilliant writer on politics, has written a column in the wake of the Republican convention that struck a chord with me. Jonah is a conservative who finds Mr. Trump to be totally unsatisfactory as presidential timber and at one point he laments the fact that many of his fellow conservatives seem contemptuous of anyone who refuses to support Mr. Trump. He writes:
I hate what I’ve learned about my side. I hate thinking the worst of people I once respected — sometimes unfairly and sometimes with adamantine certitude. I hate watching TV and seeing people slowly bend to the alleged new necessities.

Every few minutes another e-mailer or Twitter follower claims that my only option is to board the bandwagon, get with the program, or see the writing on the wall — as if such hectoring were an argument rooted in some kind of principle other than the fascistic glorification of the mob and a new right-wing version of The Right Side of History. The party barge is leaving the dock for Wales and one must jump aboard or be painted the party-pooper or the traitor.

I hate discovering that so many people are disappointed in me for not playing my part in a racket.

Every day, if not every hour, I am told that my true motives are in reality desires, goals, and ambitions that have never once entered my mind. I want Hillary Clinton to be president of the United States as much as I want to be a patient of a narcoleptic proctologist (“Oh, I’m sorry, did I leave that in there all that time?”). I want the Supreme Court to be handed to the Left as much as I want a lap dance from Chris Christie.

I hate that after 20 years of fighting what I believe to be the good fight, so many can’t muster the good will or generosity to consider that I’m doing what I think is right. I’m entirely open to the argument that my analysis and judgment is wrong. But I am resentful, furious and, most of all, contemptuous of the lazy and self-justifying assumption that my motives are malign.

I have nothing but sympathy for those who feel they must vote against Hillary Clinton. But I have scorn for those who think that requires lying about Trump. If you’re a true-believer in Trump, that’s fine. I think you’re making the same mistake that the Left’s 2008 true believers made about Obama. There are no saviors in politics. But when millions of people think there can be, those of us in the Remnant of doubt get treated like heretics.

That’s fine. Indeed, despite my obvious fatigue and anger, I’m actually far more hopeful than you might think. In Cleveland, I met scores of fellow heretics. We didn’t meet in catacombs. But we plotted and planned all the same. We are the anti-establishment now.

We stand opposed to two parties united behind two different facets of statism and identity politics. We are the new rebel alliance fighting against the narrative of a new empire. We aren’t as many as I would like, but we are far from few. We may not win, but one thing is for sure: It’s more fun to be the rebel.
You can read his entire column at the link as well as subscribe to his G-File which is emailed once a week.

From my point of view, among all the reasons why Trump should be viewed with deep suspicion, the fact that Sean Hannity has a man-crush on him is not the least, and among the reasons why it may be necessary to vote for Trump is that as bad as he is, his opponent is much worse.

Indeed, Trump is a cornucopia of vices and faults, but almost any flaw one could find in him could also be discovered without hardly looking in Hillary and/or her husband, who would surely be co-president should she be elected.

I deeply resent that the two major parties have forced us to make a choice between a man who has the emotional maturity of a sixth-grader and a woman who corrupts everything she touches, who is a stranger to the concept of integrity, who puts her own convenience and personal secrets ahead of the national security, and who has given the appearance, at the very least, of influence peddling - not just to American banks but also to foreign governments.

I question the moral judgment, wisdom and intellectual consistency of those who are enthusiastic about either Trump or Clinton. How can one be enthusiastic about the prospect of being led either by a towering narcissist or a felonious incompetent?

On the other hand, I reluctantly disagree with those who argue we should withhold our vote. This came up in an e-conversation with a friend this morning as we talked about Jonah's column and the anguish many conservatives are feeling this election cycle at having no one they can be excited about. Here's an edited version of what I said to him: Trump's candidacy has managed to split conservatives into two factions: Those who place principles above expediency and those who are willing to subordinate their principles to a Nietzschean ressentiment or hostility toward the source of their resentments. The shame of it is that the latter group, in which we find people like Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter, are showing open contempt for those in the former group like the National Review crowd and Ted Cruz.

For my own part, though I sympathize with the more principled folks among the #NeverTrumpers, I think we have to vote for the least bad candidate. If we don't we're sure to get the worst possible candidate.

Everything people despise in Trump's character, and there's much to dislike, we'd get in at least equal measure in Hillary and/or her husband. But worse than that we'd also get someone who has been proven to be as cavalier about the truth as she is about the safety of American diplomats, someone who has been reckless with national security and shown terrible judgment in Libya, Russia, and Iran, someone who has prostituted herself to the big financial institutions she claims she'll rein in, someone who has never created a business or a job, and who has no significant positive accomplishments to show for her years in public office.

Equally as troubling, in my mind, is that Ms. Clinton embraces the progressive social agenda on abortion, open borders and open bathrooms. Indeed, I think she'd be even more radical on some of these matters than she indicates.

In any case, whether or not I'm right in holding the belief I mentioned in that last sentence, two issues are paramount for me in this election: Illegal immigration and the Supreme Court. On both of these I think it necessary to gamble that Trump would do better than Clinton. Indeed, from a conservative point of view, it's hard to imagine him doing worse, but I'm very far from being enthusiastic.