Although I’ve only been a lurker and occasional commenter at GayPatriot over the past two and a half years (between working full-time, earning another degree, and making a move, I haven’t felt like I had much time for blogging), I still check in regularly to see what’s going on and what people are talking about. From comments V the K, ColoradoPatriot and the other contributors have made here, I gather I’m in the minority among the blog contributors–but in sync with many readers and commenters–in my willingness to support Trump in this election.
Trump was definitely not my first choice: I would have originally put him somewhere near the middle of the pack of 17 declared candidates, and, among the final four candidates, I would definitely have preferred Cruz. As someone who considers himself a constitutional conservative, I would have preferred a nominee with a clear record of supporting such principles, but now that Trump is the Republican nominee, I am willing to back him.
My willingness does not come from blind party loyalty, but instead, from a clear understanding of my priorities and what is at stake in this election. While I am more than conversant with Trump’s faults, as I will explain below, even some of his faults provide good reasons for backing him rather than voting in a way that would–directly or indirectly–lead to a victory for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats.
Although I could begin by outlining my points of agreement with Trump and then detailing and responding to various points of concern, others have done so already elsewhere, and for the sake of my particular argument, at this point, it is more useful to say a few words about my philosophy of voting. While many people hew to an idealistic vision of voting whereby you are supposed to vote for the person who shares most of your views or principles, anyone who has been voting very long quickly realizes that such a vision rarely squares with reality. So what to do? One can vote, as the saying usually goes, for “the lesser of two evils,” which is how many of the people I know think about voting in presidential races, or one can approach it in some other way. Some people say they vote for issues rather than parties or candidates, others say they vote for the person and not the party, and still others have other approaches.
Many people’s views on voting evolve over their lifetimes. During Bill Clinton’s first term, it became evident to me that voting on character was in many respects more important than voting on issues because I’d rather vote for a person of character who will try to do what he says he will do, than for a slippery, dishonest snake who will lie and “triangulate” and poll-test all of his positions just for the sake of holding on to power. I reasoned that even when I disagree with the person of character, I can act on that disagreement to oppose policies or proposals that I disagree with.
But what happens when all of the candidates seem to have objectionable characters in some respect or another, and no candidate adequately represents your views on the issues? One response is to throw up your hands and say you won’t be part of the process, and many say they are going to do that this year. My response is to say that in such a situation, one has to vote strategically in order to best achieve one’s objectives.
Anyone who has ever taken a class in strategy or game theory will have come across topics such as decision trees, Nash equilibriums, and games such as the prisoner’s dilemma. Without going into too much detail, what one learns from studying such matters is that often the best strategic choice is not necessarily the choice that appears to be in one’s best interest at first glance. Sometimes the best strategic choice involves taking risks that one wouldn’t ordinarily decide to choose.
In this election, as a constitutional conservative, I believe that in a contest between Trump, Clinton, and a variety of third-party candidates, voting for Trump offers the best strategic choice for advancing constitutional conservative principles. I say that while fully recognizing that Trump is more of an opportunist than he is a conservative.
But let’s examine the situation. We know that Hillary Clinton is no constitutional conservative. We also know that Hillary Clinton is no Bill Clinton, an opportunist willing to “triangulate” for the sake of power. Hillary is a committed leftist who is proud to think of Republicans as “enemies.” That’s not hyperbole, but Hillary’s own words from one of the debates. She views herself as a “progressive…who can get things done.”
During her time in the Senate, Hillary had tried to craft an image as a somewhat “moderate” Democrat, but that didn’t help her against the leftist Obama in 2008, who not only appealed more to their party’s leftist base, but, as a relative unknown, had none of Hillary’s baggage and the added bonus of more melanin. When she became Secretary of State, however, she quickly reverted to the kinds of behaviors that had earned her so much distrust during her husband’s time as president. And with the Clinton Foundation, she and her husband had found a new way to enrich themselves through their so-called “public service.”
So what would a Hillary Clinton presidency look like? This excellent piece written a few months back by the always worthwhile Daniel Greenfield offers a persuasive preview:
The national debt will go up. So will your taxes. Hillary Clinton is promising a trillion dollar tax hike. And that’s during her campaign. Imagine how much she will really raise taxes once she’s actually in office.
Two Supreme Court justices, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Anthony Kennedy will likely leave office on her watch. That’s in addition to Scalia’s empty seat which she will fill resulting in an ideological switch for the court. Additionally, Kennedy, for all his flaws, was a swing vote. Hillary’s appointee won’t be swinging anywhere. The Supreme Court will once again become a reliable left-wing bastion.
Even if the Democrats never manage to retake Congress, they will control two out of three branches of government. And with an activist Supreme Court and the White House, the left will have near absolute power to redefine every aspect of society on their own terms without facing any real challenges.
And they will use it. Your life changed fundamentally under Obama. The process will only accelerate.
You will have less free speech. You will pay more for everything. Your children and grandchildren will be taught to hate you twice as hard. Local democracy will continue being eroded. Your community, your school, your town, your city and your state will be run out of D.C. You will live under the shadow of being arrested for violating some regulation that you never even heard of before.
Every day you will notice basic aspects of life that you took for granted just vanishing while a carefully selected multicultural audience cheers on television.
Hillary Clinton had a man sent to jail for uploading a video about Mohammed. What do you think she’ll do to even more vocal critics of Islam? How long will it be until a new Supreme Court decides that a Mohammed cartoon is “shouting fire in a crowded theater” and not protected by the Constitution?
I wish I could say Greenfield is exaggerating, but I know that he is not. As Glenn Reynolds always says, read the whole thing.
And I haven’t even touched on the reckless dishonesty and unquestionable corruption of the Clintons. As Fred Barnes noted in a recent piece, “Hillary Clinton is the most corrupt person ever to get this close to becoming president of the United States.” Barnes notes:
Is there any public figure who lies as routinely as Clinton? Not in my lifetime in Washington. Not Richard Nixon. Not LBJ. Not Donald Trump. Not even Bill Clinton. She skillfully, though probably unconsciously, spreads out her lies to lessen the impact. But when you pack them together, as Rep. Trey Gowdy did while questioning FBI director James Comey at a House hearing, they’re shocking.
And in that case, he is just talking about the e-mail scandal. The Clinton Foundation is another story completely, and an even more appalling one on its face.
The Clintons are so unscrupulous in their quest to gain and hold on to power while enriching themselves that they could teach a graduate-level course on political corruption and political machines that might shock the denizens of Tammany Hall.
For those reasons and many more, my political position this year has always been one of “Never Hillary.” Hillary Clinton must not become president. If she does at this point in time, the damage she will be able to do to the country will be irreversible.
So then, why Donald Trump? Honestly the main reason, the most basic reason, is that Hillary is a guaranteed disaster, and Trump is admittedly a gamble, but in a desperate situation a gamble is the best choice.
I’m more than sufficiently aware of the case people make against Trump: he’s a narcissist, he’s dishonest, he’s impetuous, he’s unscrupulous, he’s not a “true conservative,” and, last but not least, he displays authoritarian tendencies in many of the things he says.
Of those, the most significant complaint is that he may have authoritarian tendencies, and that may appear to be the most challenging concern to reconcile with my claim that I consider myself a constitutional conservative. How can one vote for a candidate who may be tempted to act like an authoritarian after taking office?
For me, the answer to that question is one of faith, not in Trump, but in the genius of our constitutional system. Ever since it became evident that Trump would be the nominee, my thinking about this issue has remained the same: Trump may try for unconstitutional power grabs, but Congress and the courts can and will block him along the way.
What makes me so sure? Well, for one thing, Trump is running as a Republican. Rick Manning, a contributor at The Hill knows what that means. A few days ago, Hillary had the chutzpah (to use Manning’s apt description) to suggest that Trump would use the IRS to target political enemies, as if Obama hadn’t done exactly that (and worse) already. Manning’s assessment of that argument is exactly on target:
No matter the explanation, the truth is that the Democrats in Congress won’t accept a GOP president using the federal government to abuse the left and the Republicans will join them. So, Hillary Clinton fans, fear not. A Trump presidency will be constrained by the very Congress that fecklessly tried to confront Obama, because Democrats will suddenly rediscover moral outrage should their supporters end up on the wrong end of an audit.
And that is the reality of Washington: Republican presidents and politicians are held to a different standard than their Democratic counterparts, because when Democrats abuse their office using their pen and phone, it is met with either a cheer and the media buries complaints.
Most of us remember how effective the Democrats and their allies in the press were at weakening George W. Bush during his second term — completely in contrast to the fecklessness of the Republican leadership who continually caves in response to President Stompy Foot’s demands. What happened with the Democrats under Bush, could just as easily happen again under a President Donald Trump.
As another Kurt, Kurt Schlichter, put it so memorably the other day: “…the election of a tacky jerk like Donald Trump is the only thing that could ever motivate the ‘elite’ to rediscover checks and balances upon executive power.” Once again, read the whole thing. (Hat Tip: commenter RobertArvanitis at Bookworm.)
Of related interest is another worthwhile post at Bookworm responding to the hysterical screeds that started appearing Friday after Trump’s convention speech entitled “Dear Elites — no, Trump is not a fascist, but Hillary probably is.” There are many great points made there, but this little nugget alone is almost enough for a prima facie case: “Another Trump promise is to respect the Second Amendment, keeping guns in the hands of private citizens. Remember: The single biggest barrier to total state control is an armed citizenry.”
So to reiterate what is one of my central points: the fact that the press and the left are in full panic mode attacking Trump as some sort of Mussolini while promoting the hopelessly corrupt Hillary Clinton as a “reasonable” alternative should tell us all we need to know. The press and the left will do anything to provide cover for Hillary Clinton. Anything. And they are ready and willing to hold Trump accountable for even the slightest infraction. As I see it, that is a feature and not a bug of a potential Trump administration.
“We appear in line to get our own version of Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi, the media tycoon/buffoon who headed four Italian governments. Italy seems to have survived Berlusconi reasonably well, which is more than one can say for their fate under Benito Mussolini, a version-in-drag of which is heading the ticket of the Democratic party.”
Now while I recognize that many find the idea of voting for Trump distasteful because they don’t care for his style or approach or they are not convinced he is a conservative, they insist that they’re going to “send a message” to the party by sitting the election out or voting for Gary Johnson or another third-party candidate instead.
I know several of those people on Facebook, and they are constantly on the defensive saying, “don’t tell me that a vote for a third-party candidate means I’m voting for Hillary. I am voting for a candidate I believe in.”
And, in reply, I’m constantly tempted to say, good for you, but then don’t complain when Hillary’s America seems more and more like the world Greenfield described in the article linked and quoted above, or like the vision of a corrupt, criminal government outlined in Dinesh D’Souza’s new movie of the same name.
Earlier in this post, I talked about the idea of voting strategically, and in the context of national elections, for a constitutional conservative, voting strategically means understanding how our system works well enough to be able to achieve results which align with one’s principles. One of the reasons why third parties rarely catch on in the U.S. is that presidents are not elected directly by the people, but through the electoral college, and winning in the electoral college requires winning a majority of electoral votes. The nature of the electoral college, therefore, is one reason why third party candidates rarely do anything more than split the vote in years where they have a strong showing.
Although there have been cases — most notably in 1968 — where third party candidates have won states, or while a few third party candidates have captured electoral votes through other means (such as proportional assignment of electors), most states assign electors on a winner-take-all basis, which means that strong third party candidates only insure that the winners of states with strong third party showings will award electors to the candidate who receives a plurality of votes rather than a majority. In states where Democrats hold a registration advantage over Republicans that means that in a year where a strong third party candidate depresses the Republican turnout, in most cases the Democrat will receive enough votes to win a plurality and capture the state’s electoral votes. This is not a theory, it is a mathematical fact.
While the electoral college is part of the explanation for why third parties rarely catch on in this country, the structure of the government is another. Our constitutional republic is based on the idea of the separation of powers and the system of checks and balances. We have three, co-equal branches of government: the executive, the legislative and the judicial. This point may seem obvious, but it is just another way of emphasizing that the United States is not a parliamentary democracy. In a parliamentary system, there is much greater room for multiple parties because the process of forming a government often depends on negotiating among many competing interests. Small parties organized strongly around one principle or another can have a much greater impact on policy if they can help a plurality party form a government.
In the U.S., one implication of this reality is that if third parties are to have any impact and to increase their influence in national elections, the best way of doing that would be to establish a significant presence in the legislative branch to begin with. Once people see that a third party is viable and influential in the legislative process, they are more likely to take a chance on voting for a third party candidate in a national election. Until that happens, though, voting for a third party candidate in a national election will only split the vote by reducing the number of votes that the major party candidates receive.
What all of this means is that unless someone can show me how and where Gary Johnson or another third-party candidate has a chance of winning enough states to block a Clinton victory in the electoral college — and not just capturing “protest” votes — a third-party vote is effectively equivalent to a plea of “nolo contendere”: in other words, saying, “I endorse the outcome of the election in my state.” In specific terms, if you live in a state that is likely to vote for Hillary Clinton, therefore, you are effectively endorsing her victory in your state by refusing to vote for the candidate with the best chance of defeating her.
Earlier I talked about the concept of strategic voting and I referenced “the prisoner’s dilemma.” This excerpt from The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy provides the context and an explanation of the implications of the game for the players:
Tanya and Cinque have been arrested for robbing the Hibernia Savings Bank and placed in separate isolation cells. Both care much more about their personal freedom than about the welfare of their accomplice. A clever prosecutor makes the following offer to each. “You may choose to confess or remain silent. If you confess and your accomplice remains silent I will drop all charges against you and use your testimony to ensure that your accomplice does serious time. Likewise, if your accomplice confesses while you remain silent, they will go free while you do the time. If you both confess I get two convictions, but I’ll see to it that you both get early parole. If you both remain silent, I’ll have to settle for token sentences on firearms possession charges. If you wish to confess, you must leave a note with the jailer before my return tomorrow morning.”
The “dilemma” faced by the prisoners here is that, whatever the other does, each is better off confessing than remaining silent. But the outcome obtained when both confess is worse for each than the outcome they would have obtained had both remained silent. A common view is that the puzzle illustrates a conflict between individual and group rationality. A group whose members pursue rational self-interest may all end up worse off than a group whose members act contrary to rational self-interest. More generally, if the payoffs are not assumed to represent self-interest, a group whose members rationally pursue any goals may all meet less success than if they had not rationally pursued their goals individually. A closely related view is that the prisoner’s dilemma game and its multi-player generalizations model familiar situations in which it is difficult to get rational, selfish agents to cooperate for their common good.
That game is relevant because the solution to the game depends on the two prisoners both choosing the second most appealing option (both remaining silent) rather than the most appealing option (one confessing and having all charges dropped) based on their expectation of what the other prisoner may choose to do.
You may be thinking: but I’m not guilty, I didn’t do anything wrong, I don’t deserve to have to choose between two unsavory options. Perhaps that is so, but you are going to have to live with the consequences in either case. And as long as you have to live with the consequences, the best choice means acting in a way that will try to minimize the damage, or settling for the candidate who will do the least harm to you and your interests.
Voting for a third party candidate might be your way of “virtue signaling” by indicating that you have reservations about Trump, but if enough people cast such votes and Hillary wins, I hope you are ready for the consequences, because they won’t be pretty. As a friend of mine remarked a few weeks back, saying “Never Trump” is just another way of saying “I’m ready for Hillary.”
Conversely, saying “Never Hillary” is another way of saying “I’m ready for Trump.” As noted above, he is far from my first choice, but am I ready? The more I think about it, yes I am. As I’ve explained, I have every confidence that Congress, the press, and the courts can and will check any authoritarian impulses at every turn, just as I have every confidence that the Democrats, the press, and the many leftists already ensconced in the judicial branch will do everything they can to enable and provide cover for Hillary’s abuses of power. They will be shameless about it, too, just as they have been during the Obama era.
In the video below, Bill Whittle effectively explains that the Democrats have become more shameless in their corruption and lawlessness not because they think we are stupid nor because they think we don’t know, but because they expect we are too cowardly to do anything to stop it.
But we can stop it. We can defeat Hillary by electing Trump and start working to reverse the tide of leftist abuses that have mounted every day during the Obama administration.
Will it be easy? No. Will it be fun? No. Will the left throw everything they can at anyone who tries to interrupt the progress of the “long march” through the institutions? Absolutely.
Saying you don’t like Hillary but don’t have the will to vote for Trump is tantamount to being a conscientious objector during a war. Conscientious objectors don’t win wars and never have. Join the fight or get out of the way. And if you agree with me that Hillary’s brand of corrupt statism must be stopped, then stop giving ammunition to the Democrats who, I can guarantee, like Hillary, see you as the enemy and intend to use every corrupt means at their disposal to gain and hold power over you.