Not a post I particularly wanted to write, but I feel compelled by recent Twitter conversations happening in my timeline, mostly prompted by political blogger Ace of Spades. He’s been pretty frustrated with NeverTrump lately.
This could wind up being a lengthy post, so I’ll try to break it up a little and address a number of related points I’ve been mulling lately.
What’s in a hashtag?
First I’d like to start with a few words on the nature of NeverTrump. Steven Crowder, of whom I’m a fan, sometimes speaks derisively of the group on his shows. On one point I agree with him – the hashtag is asinine. Remember this?
We gave Michelle Obama and the left a lot of shit for this, because it was dumb. Hashtags are great organizational tools, but they are pretty useless otherwise. That’s why I’ve never adopted #NeverTrump, myself. It’s like a car bumper sticker – not going to convince anyone and you might find yourself keyed by some nutjob.
That said I think, what Steven Crowder fails to realize is that NeverTrump is a loose association of like-minded folk, perhaps comparable to GamerGate. Sure, there are obnoxious NeverTrumpers. These include the people who are 100% never, ever voting for Trump, even if he were running against the literal reincarnated Hitler. They include the people who are going to cross over to vote for Hillary, which I personally find disgusting. But they also include people like Ben Shapiro, who say that they plan on acting based on the current conditions in the field, and can’t speak to all hypothetical situations. In other words, no, not all of us are 100% NeverTrump. Some of us are like 98%, but it’s still easier to identify with the larger group.
Surrendering to Trump to beat Hillary
There are a number of prominent conservatives who fought Trump in the primary but are now biting the bullet and falling in line. Dennis Prager, Ace, and Jazz Shaw of Hot Air are three that come to mind right away. The chief argument is that Hillary Clinton is the worst thing that can happen to this country and Donald Trump can’t be any worse. So all aboard the Trump Train, ladies and gentleman.
Now I line up with a lot of Ben Shapiro’s rationale for being NeverTrump, so I’m going to throw out some ideas that he’s also talked about on his show. Excuse the repetition if you’ve already heard this stuff.
For the rest of this post, I’m going to be referring to two sides – the NeverTrumpers and the reluctant Trumpers. I think the latter group would perhaps call themselves NeverHillary, and I’ve got no problem with that insofar as it can be applied to anyone who strongly opposes her. What I do reject is the premise that NeverTrump and NeverHillary are opposite sides. You can, in fact, be both by voting for neither.
I’m not going to talk much about actual Trump fans here, because that’s a whole different conversation.
So as far as NeverTrump and ReluctantlyTrump, let’s say upfront that there are shit throwers on both sides. There are trolls, ideologues, and idiots on both sides. But I’m convinced that there are also honest, intelligent conservatives on both sides as well.
I totally get the arguments for lining up behind Trump now that he’s the Republican nominee. And I respect the decision to grudgingly vote for a guy that many of you consider to be a scumbag in order to stop a women many of us consider to be only a degree or two removed from the anti-Christ.
People far more intelligent and with much larger microphones than I have attempted to lay out the principled nature of NeverTrump. Still, I’ll do my best to articulate my own feelings on the matter.
Giving your vote to Kudos or Kang
It’s kind of amazing to me that the Kudos/Kang story hasn’t gotten more traction on social media. Maybe the comparison is too obvious? We do indeed operate under a two party system, but our choice is not binary. Protest votes and 3rd party votes are valid, legal, and sometimes moral decisions. And if you say that my protest vote is meaningless, why does my vote carry any more meaning if I cast it for Trump? 1 vote = 1 vote.
Math is hard
The thing is, each of us is responsible for our own vote. None of us owe our votes to any individual party or candidate. This is why I find the “failing to vote for Trump equals a vote for Hillary” argument to be a vacuous one, despite being repeated by some very smart people.
The argument depends upon the assumption that I am a reliable, pre-banked Republican vote. In effectively withdrawing said vote, I am deducting 1 point from Trump.
First off, this idea is predicated on the same flawed thinking that says “Republicans rejected the president’s proposed IRS budget increase of $50m; Republicans took $50m away from the IRS” or “Republicans rejected the proposed tax increase, depriving the government of $1b.” Nope. The money wasn’t banked; not Congress’ fault if the president or the IRS assumed the money would be rubberstamped. Also it’s not the government’s money, it’s our money.
Also that money is not necessarily spent elsewhere. Perhaps it’s just not spent. In not voting for Trump, I am most certainly not adding 1 point to Hillary’s tally. I don’t owe anyone my vote.
But we have to be realistic
Let’s for a moment accept the idea that our protest votes hold no meaning and are just virtue signaling (despite the fact that plenty of us don’t advertise who we plan to vote for). Does that mean that there’s no need for conservative resistance to Trump? Au contraire.
How do we hold Trump accountable? How do we persuade him that he needs to continue to pander to conservatives? He began pivoting left before the primaries were even over.
Trump has already said he doesn’t need to consolidate all of the traditional Republican voters, and that may be true. But the fact that there are gettable votes for him is something he will need to consider.
We have no stick anymore. The primary voters in their infinite wisdom have selected Mr. Trump, and he doesn’t care to try and woo back parts of the base he’s bitterly alienated. Some will coalesce around him because they hate Hillary, and the others…meh. But as the general gets closer, he may have to reconsider. Does he want to take another shot at the conservatives who have written him off? We know this is a guy who respects leverage.
If you declare your support for him now and essentially say you hate Hillary so much that there’s not really anything he can do to lose your vote, well. Don’t be surprised when he gets shitter and more leftist by degrees to pull votes from the Bernie fans.
The ReluctantlyTrump folk calculate that by uniting under Trump, we will defeat Hillary, the ultimate evil in this race. The NeverTrump folk calculate that (a) we need to pressure him from the right to keep him from drifting too far left and (b) Trump is a gamble who may be worse than Hillary. Both are honest yet differing calculations.
Which brings me to…
Choose the form of the Destructor!
Even if you believe NeverTrump is foolish and naive, there is something to be said for fighting. This is perhaps the one thing I like about Trump, ironically – that he really takes it to his opponents (even if I hate his dishonesty in doing so at times).
Maybe because of the topical SJW outrage, Ghostbusters comes to mind.
In the climactic, iconic end scene with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, the guys are facing off against Gozer and are ordered to choose the form that their doom will take. There is no avoiding it. Some forms may be worse than others or end the world more quickly. One way or another, it’s happening. You get the idea.
And yet, for a moment the Ghostbusters resist. They try not to picture anything, in effect rejecting the choice. Of course we all know this fails when Ray thinks of Mr. Stay Puft. But was the idea wrong? Was it unrealistic and dumb, or even unprincipled for the Ghostbusters to refuse to choose? They could have tried to think of a less bad Destructor, I guess?
It’s not easy to reject the party you’ve identified with your entire adult life. It’s not easy to find that conservativism doesn’t matter to the GOP as much as you thought. Even other conservatives are saying “Suck it up and get on board with these people who openly mock conservatism.”
But I’m sure it’s also not easy to line up behind a guy you think to be a lying scumlord. And this is part of the problem. Human beings suck at being objective and tend toward tribalism. Adam Baldwin tweeted out above that we need to support Trump now while holding him accountable.
How realistic is it that this is what will happen? Once Trump becomes your guy, you’re going to want to defend him. You may cringe at some of what he does, but most of us tend to look the other way when it’s our team committing fouls. And what are you going to do to hold him accountable? Not vote for him? THEN HILLARY WINS! This is another reason why I don’t think backing Trump is the way to go. The temptation to sell out and make light of his scuminess is just too great. Nevermind the damage to the conservative brand.
When it comes down to it, if Trump loses, some people will blame NeverTrump. If he wins, some people will marginalize us and say our brand of conservatism is not needed in the GOP anymore. You’re free to think what you want. But just try to remember that there are people of good faith and good character on both sides of the issue.