“What will standing on principle do other than get Hillary elected?”
“Conservatism hasn’t accomplished anything. It’s time for pragmatic politics.”
“You may not have a binary choice, but we will certainly have a binary outcome no matter.”
“Voting for someone other than Trump is a waste.”
And so goes the chorus of impassioned voices against standing on conservative principles in opposition to Donald Trump.
Dennis Prager, who I greatly admire, recently joined this chorus against anti-Trumpism. I must admit that Prager, of all people, is the one person who could make me question my #NeverTrump stance. In fact, Prager insists that “…defeating Hillary Clinton, the Democrats and the left is… the greater principle.” And that’s a reasonable argument, as it goes. But as Jonah Goldberg of National Review notes, “…if either of these two hot messes hit the fan in November… I’m going to be on my hands and knees with a bucket and sponge trying to get the stain out of the carpeting.” In other words, either way, it’s going to be a mess. So, in my mind at least, the actual greater principle was to avoid the mess in the first place. To be fair, Prager states that, “We have the same principles as the #NeverTrump’ers, especially those of us who strongly opposed nominating Trump. That’s why we opposed him, after all.”
But what I just can’t get past is the knowledge that Trump cannot prevent the eventual collapse of our government, economy and society. He might (a big if) slow the descent a bit, but the fiery crash into liberal statism still happens with The Great Bloviator at the controls.
Though Republicans long ago abandoned their duty to oppose liberalism and have allowed the leftward shift of party politics to slowly occur under the cover of “compromise,” we as conservatives have always assumed we had time to turn things around. Now, though, it seems to me, the final line has been crossed and the time has passed for wishing for improvement. The Republicans have nominated an actual liberal as their representative, and the mission of forever smothering conservative thought in this country will be a fait accompli if Trump takes office. And then where does that leave the so-called “greater principle”? (For those who would argue that Trump is a conservative, don’t bother. You’re too far gone to reason with.)
Whereas Hillary’s and the left’s objectives are quite clear, Trump’s and the alt-right’s objectives are more cleverly disguised in bland, meaningless catch phrases like “Make America Great Again.” Yes, it is likely Hillary will doom the country to decades of disrepair and any recovery to even the current status quo will be a mighty chore. But I believe the direction Trump takes us is more sinister because the power of opposition to liberalism will be stolen from us behind a smoke screen of pragmatic politics.
Here’s the truth no one wants to face, though. We have only ourselves to blame! We allowed this to happen to us. We elected then reelected politicians who did not represent us and who did not toe the ideological line. And we are not toeing the line in our personal lives, allowing the leftward shift of society to overtake us with an overwhelming melancholy of “What power do we have?” But we created this monster. And what we are failing to realize is that American-style governance has always been of the people and by the people. The power has always been in our hands. And it still is, if only we will claim it. And so the time has come to finally draw a hard line. Whether we want it or not, this is where conservatives take a stand. This is where we fight to keep the conservative voice alive or lose it forever. This is the actual greater principle.
What I believe is that abandoning one principle in order to save another jeopardizes both. The decline of the Protestant church in Hitler’s Germany into a proxy of the Nazi government is testament to why one cannot compromise with cancer. The downward spiral of our own societal norms, the normalization of deviance, demonstrates just how easy it is to accept a lower principle while holding it faithlessly aloft as the higher one, thus making it meaningless. Today I feel as though Republicans are arguing, in essence, that Jesus should’ve just compromised with the Pharisees and Sadducees so that he could’ve avoided His torture and death on the cross. But He would’ve also avoided, you know, the greater principle.
And as long as we’re talking about God, He gave us the only principles that matter. And on those Trump comes up short again and again, having committed adultery (and bragged about it), having borne false witness against others, having worshiped other idols ahead of God (power, money, fame). I could go on, but suffice it to say that this is not the type of person we should be hitching our political wagon to. Yes, I know, we’re not electing a saint, but character matters as much today as when we argued the same thing against a Bill Clinton presidency. To say now that Hillary’s transgressions are worse only acts to excuse Trump’s failures, and shifts the line in the sand. It is yet another compromise of our political and societal principles. But even so, it isn’t so much that Trump is singularly bad. It is that we as Republicans have allowed our “representatives” to compromise away our core principles. And the problem now is that Trump represents a marked departure from conservatism toward a 1990’s style of liberalism that only delays our demise by about 20 years or so. Well pardon me, but big whoop!
If we will not stand on principle then principle simply will not stand, and future elections (if you will be able to call them that) may very well witness only the bland monotone of homogenized liberalism. And though Trumpers cast their stance against a fear of a Clinton presidency, I believe the real fear should be of losing our only remaining principle – conservatism itself, which is being ceaselessly attacked by both the left and the alt-right as a defunct ideology.
And so, like it or not, we have no further room for compromise. Our backs are up against the Oval Office wall. Yes, a Hillary presidency will be less than optimum (oh heck, it’s gonna suck raw eggs!), but keeping the voice of opposition alive keeps the hope of an eventual return to normalcy alive. And if the Republicans will not accept the opposition mantle then another party must form that will.
Smothering conservatism with a Golden T means that hope withers on the vine and Conservatism will never again produce fruit. In other words, we must be essentially as dogmatic as the Democrats in order to survive. To paraphrase Sam Adams:
“If you love victory better than fundamental truth, the tranquility of the nanny state better than the animating contest of principled politics, then go in peace. We ask not your counsel. May the chains of statism set lightly upon you.”
And that is why anyone who calls himself a conservative should not vote for Trump; because principle matters. If you are caught in the logic trap that says voting for someone other than Trump is a waste you should consider the fact that voting for Trump makes no meaningful change to politics-as-usual. Voting for Trump because you think he’ll change the culture of Washington is like handing the keys of a whore house to Bugsy Malone hoping he’ll turn it into a convent. Trump is a big-government tax-and-spend liberal. He is the Establishment. If you want your vote to actually make an impact, then you will stand against Trump this November.
If our collective voice is loud enough, believe me, the Republicans will notice. Even the Democrats will notice, and your voice, that is to say government of the people and by the people, actually will mean something. Unfortunately, we won’t change the course of this election (it wasn’t going to change anyway, no matter how many #NeverTrump’ers like Dennis Prager end up voting for The Donald), but we end up influencing other elections going forward and we hold our representatives accountable.
But the change comes from us, and only if we stand on principle.