To Trump or Not to Trump?
The GOP civil war taking place over Donald Trump becoming the party’s presidential nominee has been painful and damaging to the Republican Party. Conservative leaders who were once cordial now publicly slam each other. Friends who worked on political campaigns together get into nasty feuds on social media, resulting in defriending incidents. Instead of respectfully disagreeing, many Republicans on both sides accuse those who differ with them of attempting to destroy the country. First, those who opposed Trump during the primary race accused those who chose to back him of supporting Hillary Clinton, because he was polling so poorly against her. After he was certain to get the primary nomination, his supporters turned around and did the same thing right back, accusing Republicans who do not want to vote for Trump in the general election as supporting Clinton.
While both accusations could be valid, whatever happened to free choice? This is why we have private, anonymous ballots in this country.
Some disgruntled conservatives believe they are being principled by not voting for Trump, and would rather gamble with the risk of Clinton getting into office instead, in order to send a message to the GOP that the party better promote someone for president seen as more conservative next time.
While I don’t think that is a viable solution — primarily due to how it will finally swing the Supreme Court to the left if Clinton gets to appoint the next justices, and also due to all the damage she could cause by implementing executive orders and using the DOJ to target conservatives and their causes — it doesn’t mean those who take this position are unpatriotic or deserve cruel remarks.
Now, did Ted Cruz go too far by giving a speech at the GOP Convention last week telling Republicans to “vote your conscience,” instead of “vote for Trump?” Perhaps. But there are two sides to every story. There was still a slight chance at the convention that someone else could have won the nomination; if the rules had been changed and enough delegates had been convinced to change their vote, etc.
Reasonable conservatives can disagree on whether Trump is sufficiently conservative enough, capable of beating Clinton and can be trusted to stick to Republican principles once in office. They shouldn’t be beaten over the head either way.
A recent poll in Utah found that Libertarian presidential candidate Gary Johnson is in a virtual tie with Trump and Clinton. Trump is at 29 percent, Clinton at 27 percent and Johnson has 26 percent. The third supporting Johnson cannot all be wishing the country goes down the drain. Nor can the third supporting Trump all have deserted their conservative principles.
Similarly, there is a long list of prominent conservatives who oppose Trump, many who say they will not vote for him as recently as this month. They cannot all be dismissed as establishment Republicans, and likewise, Trump has plenty of establishment Republicans supporting him, such as New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Arizona Senator John McCain. Conservative up-and-comer Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska and Sen. Mike Lee of Utah both have not endorsed Trump, and conservative commentator Charles Krauthammer has said he may have difficulty voting for Trump. Talk-show host Glenn Beck has been very vocal in his opposition. Talk-radio host and writer Michael Reagan opposes Trump and says if his dad were alive, the former legendary conservative President Ronald Reagan would oppose him as the GOP nominee.
Nevertheless, it cannot be dismissed that Trump has tapped into a wave of resentment against the GOP establishment. It seems every year the party’s elected officials and leaders move further to the left, betraying conservative principles, ignoring the grassroots efforts that got them elected and who contributed to their campaigns. One of the most conservative members of the US Senate, Raul Labrador of Idaho, is supporting Trump, although he earlier backed Cruz. The Christian leader James Dobson is a member of Trump’s evangelical advisory board.
It is not productive to make enemies of each other within the Republican Party, when we need to continue to work together in the future on many things unrelated to Trump. Clinton and the Democrats are sitting back cackling to see the GOP in disarray.
The situation in this country is likely just going to get worse in the future — as Christians who read the biblical book of Revelation believe — and at some point, there may even be a need to engage in civil disobedience. But until then, attacking each other and destroying the GOP over reasonable differences is just going to take us faster down that path.
I am not a fan of Trump, and have written quite critically about him in the past. I started my website Intellectual Conservative in the style of one of the greatest conservative icons of all the time, the late William F. Buckley, Jr.’s, and his National Review – and that magazine is monolithically opposing Trump. Yet even I have been attacked for allegedly betraying conservative principles by writing critically about Trump (I have written critically about virtually every Republican candidate for president during this election).
But will I end up voting for Trump in the general election? Very likely, although as a writer who often writes hard news pieces these days, I try to remain somewhat neutral and not endorse candidates who I write about. In 1996, I felt otherwise. I was so disappointed with the GOP for selecting moderate Senator Bob Dole as the Republican nominee, that I voted for the conservative-leaning Libertarian presidential candidate instead, Harry Browne, and switched my voter registration to Libertarian for awhile.
But everyone is different, and I feel somewhat differently now because I am so concerned how quickly the country has gone downhill in recent years. Especially, as a recovering attorney, I can not bear the thought of Clinton appointing Supreme Court justices and transforming the court to the left. I used to think the pro-life movement was one of the few areas remaining where conservatives are getting somewhere, in part by cleverly using Republican-controlled state legislatures and Republican governors to make incremental changes — but the number of judicial decisions striking down those laws over the past year or so is now reversing those gains.
Prominent, influential conservatives have been working on influencing Trump. I hear he is receptive and they are seeing gradual changes. He is now essentially tied with Clinton in national polls, he has considerable cross-appeal to moderates and even Democrats, and new information continues to break about Clinton’s Servergate scandal, her Clinton Foundation and just this past week the DNC email scandal broke.
With so many of the top conservative minds split over Trump, isn’t this evidence that supporting him or not now is not a black-and-white question, and perhaps we should view our fellow Republicans who disagree with us respectfully? Just don’t ask me to stop retweeting DeepDrumpf. However .. where’s the equivalent for Clinton?
Rachel Alexander is the editor of Intellectual Conservative. She is a senior editor at The Stream, and is a regular contributor to Townhall, the Selous Foundation for Public Policy Research, and The Christian Post, and provides weekend news items for Right Wing News. She frequently appears on TV and news radio as a conservative commentator. She is a recovering attorney and former gun magazine editor. She previously served as a former Assistant Attorney General for the State of Arizona, corporate attorney for Go Daddy Software, and Special Assistant/Deputy County Attorney for the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. As co-president of the UW Political Science Honor Society, she obtained degrees in Political Science and History from the University of Washington, followed by a law degree from Boston College and the University of Arizona. She was ranked by Right Wing News as one of the 50 Best Conservative Columnists from 2011-2016.