We should not forget that elections are both tactical and strategic. In other words, you are always balancing the best you can get this cycle with correct long-term directional momentum.
Unfortunately for the GOP, Trump is bad on both counts… He probably loses this cycle (bad tactics), and he will likely put a stake through the heart of any remnant of the idea that Republicans represent a principled classical liberal belief system (bad strategy). The American Right will thus be left with a Hillary presidency, represented by a major national party which no longer holds any credibility as the standard bearer for limited, rights-based governance.
Donald Trump is running an Anglo-centric nationalist campaign, in which his policy touchstones are reactionary militarism, economic isolationism, and racial/religious division. These are the shoulders on which we are hanging the conservative mantle?
Trump is not a great businessman… He is not as bad as some on the left have claimed, but his career ROI is tepid and marked far more by vanity projects than consumer value creation. What he has done has leaned on legal maneuvering, political connections, and eminent domain land grabs. Trump is simply a crony capitalist who touts his ability to buy access and privilege.
Trump is not a leader to whom we want to give political power… One of the beauties of the capitalist system, is that thugs are constrained by the necessity to follow laws, to find willing employees and clients, and to make a profit. However, when you turn thugs into lawmakers versus being constrained by laws, when you give them access to the public purse versus being disciplined by market reality, you have a recipe for catastrophe.
Above all else political leaders need humility, about what they do know and about what they can know, about what they can control and about what they should control. Trump’s utter lack of humility is a central pillar of his platform, and we will all pay the price for his hubris should he get elected.
Which brings me back to tactics and strategy.
Tactically, as the weeks since his nomination have shown, Trump is a disaster. He is, and is going to continue to be, ripped to shreds. If he gets one percent of the minority vote it’ll be an embarrassing campaign failure for Clinton.
But what if he pulls off a miracle and gets elected? He’s all but won the nomination, after all. The party establishment may hope to keep him on the rails, particularly on judicial appointments, and for that reason (and no other) they may support him. I would ask, where is the evidence that the political establishment has any control of him now when he is weakest (i.e. needs them most), let alone when he is in office and strongest (i.e. needs them least)?
The evidence of his campaign thus far has been that, regardless of how the GOP leadership tries to mold or guide him (notably in regards to his attacks on Judge Curiel), Donald Trump believes in and will pursue his own interests, including a strong unitary executive philosophy. He will consolidate more power to the presidency wherever possible, including by way of deferential judicial appointments. This is a terrible outcome which further sets the stage for the devolution of federal legislative authority and state sovereignty, and the accelerating ascendancy of the executive branch.
Strategically, going ALL-IN for Trump (which is what it will take for him to possibly win) leaves us even worse off. He is the worst kind of loud mouthed race baiter (in a country where Hispanic/minority votes are becoming ever more important), he’s a tin-foil hat conspiracy theorist, he’s a trade war mercantilist, he thinks you can debase the US currency without consequence, he repeatedly promotes murderous dictators around the world, and he clearly has no regard for the Constitution or any belief in limited government power. His policies will undermine our economy, further erode our civil liberties, and draw us into more destructive military conflicts.
This is who would represent a new Republican Party. He would yank out any remaining vestiges of classical liberal values and beliefs on which the GOP nominally stands, and leave it an angry populist husk.
The GOP began as a third party 160 years ago, a unification of old Whigs and Free Soilers. As a principled party that stood against the Democrats in Lincoln’s day, it was founded to fight for human dignity and to end slavery. A party made up of modern northern entrepreneurs and citizens, resisting expansion of the tariff-addicted slave-owning industries and plantations of the South.
That protest party, begun by moral, abolitionist, free traders, is about to be overrun by racist, protectionist, demagogues.
I am told that unfortunately the candidate we may want isn’t an option this year, because he or she isn’t on the ticket. I think What-We-Stand-For is on the ticket this year.
I am told that opposing Trump is actually supporting Hillary. I think opposing Trump is actually supporting a stronger party which truly represents classical liberalism, constitutional government, the American Dream, and the values of a good society. Put another way, a Hillary presidency with a strong classical liberal political party opposition, is better than either a Hillary or a Trump presidency with a GOP hollowed of credible values and principles.
This election cycle is historic and we are truly going to live with the consequences. When we take the long view, where should our support go? What do we stand for?