David Harsanyi / May 6, 2016

Sometimes There Is No Lesser of Two Evils

When your choice is two reprehensible, corrupt and immoral demagogues, you can always pick the ethical way out and choose none of the above. The Republic will survive an election cycle. The Republican Party is a different story, however. For those who are idealists about the Constitution — and there are probably far fewer than some of us like to imagine — there are a number of reasons to sabotage The Trump Party, even if it ends with a Clinton presidency. The first is to salvage some of your own dignity and principles.

When your choice is two reprehensible, corrupt and immoral demagogues, you can always pick the ethical way out and choose none of the above. The Republic will survive an election cycle.

The Republican Party is a different story, however. For those who are idealists about the Constitution — and there are probably far fewer than some of us like to imagine — there are a number of reasons to sabotage The Trump Party, even if it ends with a Clinton presidency. The first is to salvage some of your own dignity and principles. But there are other long-term political advantages to beating back an authoritarian populist who peddles conspiracy theories and big-government schemes and doesn’t have a freshman-level comprehension about the basic workings of American governance.

The first political advantage is to save our divided government. On the same day Trump wins the GOP Indiana primary and secures the party’s nomination, he decides to use a National Enquirer story — the future in-flight publication of Air Force One — to accuse opponent Sen. Ted Cruz’s father of helping Lee Harvey Oswald assassinate President John F. Kennedy. This was just an amuse-bouche of the utter stupidity that down-ballot GOP candidates will have to deal with, justify, rationalize, ignore, excuse or support every day for the next six months or so. One hopes the stench of this kind of endorsement clings to them for the rest of their unprincipled and, hopefully, short political careers.

If you’re worried about alienating people, you already have. The people who ensured that the most flawed GOP candidate running — who’s also the most unpopular in every demographic category — the least conservative and the most vulgar will blame movement conservatives and their imaginary puppet masters for bringing down a hero. Trying to placate them is a waste of time.

You might ask yourself: What sort of thing will alienate the average voter more?

Imagine how tough it will be for any decent candidate in a competitive district, running in places like Colorado or Utah or Wisconsin, where Trump is unpopular and conservatives will be in no mood to vote in the presidential election, to deal with the ugly vagaries of Trumpism day after day and win an election.

To see what the future looks for the average Republican, think about how Trump talks about women. Recent polls show that approximately 70 percent of women voters have an unfavorable view of the presumptive GOP nominee. And this is a party that already struggles to attract them. Simply by using direct quotes, Republicans will be forced to spend an inordinate amount of time explaining why their candidate believes mocking the menstrual cycles of journalists who ask him difficult questions is acceptable behavior.

Now that Trump has secured the nomination, the press will finally become hyperfocused on the massive backlog of Trump’s business dealings and various other points of his unpleasant history. Does anyone think it’s going to be easier to share a ticket?

The only way to avoid this is a concerted write-in campaign or third-party candidate — with all the caveats about getting on state ballots and having absolutely no chance of winning in the general election. A person who candidates can support to diffuse the Trump attacks. Find a person that a movement can coalesce around, or it’s just a matter of time before Hillary-hatred gets the best of people who consider themselves #NeverTrumpers.

Trump has already exposed various pretend anti-establishmentarians, hucksters and statists masquerading as conservatives. Former governor Mike Huckabee, Gov. Chris Christie, Gov. Rick Scott and former governor Jon Huntsman immediately come to mind. A party without any guiding ideology or principles is a party of nothing but opportunists. This goes for party “establishment” — and that includes big donors and the Republican National Convention — that has never moved to stop Trump, although his agenda and tone stands in contrast to everything they preached in their “autopsy.”

More dangerously, it’s clear that when led by the conservative entertainment complex, many voters are willing bend their own views to match the ever-changing positions of Trump.

It’s quite possible that Reaganism is no longer relevant or popular among a majority of voters on the right. Do people believe in conservatism (widely understood) because it’s popular, or because they find some truth in it? If it’s the latter, conservatives can either chase Trump fans by attempting to make a compelling case or offer some new ideas or better arguments. Or they can surrender and adopt Trumpism and reward the least classically liberal candidate in Republican Party history. A Clinton presidency, even with a Republican Congress, will be a disaster for conservatives, but lesser so.

It was the constitutional idealism of the tea party that held back Democrats and establishment GOPers from working together to expand the reach of government. A turn to white identity politics and anger is a turn away from that idealism.

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