Perhaps the most absurd argument in an election season overrun with absurdity is the claim that those who reject both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are doing so simply to “feel good about themselves.”
In other words, it’s an act of empty moral grandstanding, a decision to essentially opt out of the election and leave the dirty work to other, more responsible citizens — you know, the ones who realize that either Trump or Clinton will win and are making the terrible, messy choice between two unfit candidates.
To the contrary, rejecting Trump and Clinton is the practical decision, one with beneficial real-world consequences, in this election and in elections to come.
Margins matter, mandates matter, and — most of all — ideas matter.
If Trump wins, racking up votes at a rate that matches or exceeds that of far more conservative, far more credible pro-life candidates such as George Bush, John McCain (yes, he was more conservative), or Mitt Romney, does any reasonable person believe the takeaway from the election will be the triumph of economic and social conservatism — much less the triumph of Reagan Republicanism?
No, the conclusion will be that the GOP has fundamentally changed — for this election cycle and at least the next.
It will prove that it can win with candidates who are indifferent, at best, to conservative social values.
It will prove that it can win with candidates who are in favor of ever-greater government intervention in national and international markets.
It will prove that it believes that international retreat advances American national interests.
Because, make no mistake, a triumph for Trump will be a triumph for “Trumpism” — the made-up “nationalist” ideology that bears far more resemblance to that of old-school southern Democrats than anything recognizably Republican.
In other words, a vote for Trump is a vote to send conservatism into exile, largely walled-off from both political parties, with the best hope for conservatives to beg for scraps at Trump’s table — now and in 2020.
It is vitally important that Trump underperform versus truly conservative candidates.
Conservative senators should receive a greater share of the vote than Trump.
Conservative members of the House should swamp Trump’s share in their districts.
Your vote is the only concrete way that you can send the message that the GOP should remain a party of conservative ideas, a party that demands that its candidates believe and advocate a set of basic conservative values — not because we adopt our own version of conservative political correctness but because those values are best equipped to foster human flourishing, cultural virtue, and national prosperity.
Indeed, the power of margins and mandates is exactly why no conservative should vote for Hillary, even if you believe that Trump is a threat to the republic.
If Hillary wins, less than three seconds after the networks call the election, the entire institutional and cultural Left will begin to make the argument that she has a mandate.
They will quickly discard the notion that the election was about stopping Trump, and they’ll stampede to a narrative that declares Hillary’s win as the latest triumph of progressive America.
Every vote for her is a vote against so-called Republican “obstructionism.”
If she is to win the Oval Office, as much as possible she needs to limp into that office — a person politically damaged from Day One.
Then, of course, there is the power of ideas. I’m under no illusions that millions of Americans will read this piece.
I’m under no illusions that even the sum-total power of American punditry can swing an election. There are too many competing voices, and — frankly — too few Americans who truly pay attention to political debates for pundits to have an impact on all but the closest races.
But I do know who does read National Review — leaders do.
If you’re reading this, you’re a leader. You might be a House or Senate staffer, a college professor, an entrepreneur, a campus activist, or perhaps one of the most politically engaged people at your church.
You’re the conservative movement’s force-multipliers.
People listen to what you have to say, they sometimes consult you before voting, and you have more opportunities than most to put conservative ideas into practice.
I can understand why tens of millions of Americans will pull the lever for Donald Trump. They rightly believe Hillary is corrupt.
They know she was a terrible secretary of state. They know she flip-flops on everything but abortion rights.
When it comes to Trump, by contrast, millions of people wrongly think he’s conservative. They actively disbelieve the worst reports about him — conditioned by years of hysterical Democratic rhetoric to tune out mainstream-media rhetoric.
hey believe that — whatever his flaws — he’s for them. He’s with them. Given those presumptions, a vote for Trump is obviously correct.
This is the man that Hillary wanted to run against. He is the Hillary’ campaign’s favorite opponent. He is the Clintons’ longtime friend, donor, and fellow liberal.
The election of 2016 is lost.An unfit candidate is going to become president.
Tomorrow let that be your concrete and valuable public service.