Donald Trump could end up being the Republican nominee, and the idea fills many conservatives (like me) with despair. By “conservatives,” I mean actual conservatives, the people who believe in limited government, a strong national defense, American federalism, and who reject the nanny state in all of its smothering incarnations. Put another way, I mean: people who are not liberals, like Donald Trump.
Star-struck, low-information celebrity cultists will vote for Trump under any circumstances because they do not know any better and do not care. For them, Trump is whatever they want him to be, and they will never change their minds. The rest of us, however, have a much more difficult choice to make. Will we really oppose Trump to the point of accepting any alternative, including Hillary Clinton?
The answer, at least for me, is: Yes. If forced into a choice between Clinton and Trump, I will prefer Hillary Clinton. The future of the entire conservative movement is at stake, and a Clinton victory over Trump might be the only hope of saving it.
The Hamilton Rule
A few years ago, The Federalist’s publisher, Ben Domenech, suggested that conservatives consider dumping the “Buckley Rule,” the late William F. Buckley’s admonition always to choose the most conservative candidate who can win. As Ben pointed out, things have changed since Buckley first issued this advice, including that the elite determination of “who can win” is often flawed. The Buckley Rule, for example, might have led to supporting Charlie Crist—you may shudder at will—instead of Marco Rubio in the 2010 Florida Senate race.
In its place, Ben raised the possibility of a “Hamilton Rule,” named after Alexander Hamilton. Although both were Federalists, Hamilton despised John Adams and his coterie among his own party to the point where he was willing to lose the election of 1800. “If we must have an enemy at the head of government,” Hamilton said in exasperation, “let it be one whom we can oppose, and for whom we are not responsible.”
In other words: Better to lose to a true enemy whose policies you can fight and repudiate, rather than to a false friend whose schemes will drag you down with him. This is a painful choice, but it also embraces realism while protecting the possibility of recovery in the future. The need to live to fight another day is why conservatives should adopt a Hamilton Rule if, God forbid, the choice comes down to Hillary and Trump.
Hillary Clinton Is Despicable, But Trump Is Worse
My hands almost could not type those words, because I think Hillary Clinton is one of the worst human beings in American politics. She has few principles that I can discern, other than her firm conviction that she deserves the Oval Office for enabling and then defending her sexually neurotic husband. She lies as easily as the rest of us breathe. She has compromised national security through sheer laziness at best, and corrupt intent at worst. If elected, she will enrich Wall Street and raid the public coffers while preaching hateful doctrines of identity politics to distract America’s poor and working classes.
But Trump will be worse. Morally unmoored, emotionally unstable, a crony capitalist of the worst kind, Trump will be every bit as liberal as Hillary—perhaps more so, given his statements over the years. He is by reflex and instinct a New York Democrat whose formal party affiliation is negotiable, as is everything about him. He has little commitment to anything but himself and his “deals,” none of which will work in favor of conservatives or their priorities.
His judicial appointments will likely be liberal friends from New York. His Great Wall of Mexico will never be built, and employers will go right on hiring cheap labor and outsourcing jobs, just as Trump does with his made-in-Mexico suits. His China Smoot-Hawley Tariff will never be implemented. His administration, led by a vulgar, aging man-child who is firmly pro-abortion, who jokes about having sex with his daughter, and brags about his wealth, will hurt the poorest and most vulnerable among us—including the unborn.
Trump Will Tar Conservatives Forever
Trump, of course, will dissemble and whine about all these eventual failures. His fans will excuse him, as they do now, but they have short attention spans and will vanish in later midterm elections and future presidential contests. His white nationalist supporters, clinging to him like lice in the fur of an angry chimp, will shake their fists along with him for a time, until they too eventually slink away. By 2020, his core constituency will be a tiny sliver of what’s left of the white working class, pathetically standing at the gates of empty factories they thought Trump would re-open.
More to the point, after four years of thrashing around in the Oval Office like the ignorant boor he is, voters will no longer be able distinguish between the words “Trump,” “Republican,” “conservative,” and “buffoon.” He will obliterate Republicans further down the ticket in 2016 and 2020, smear conservatism as nothing more than his own brand of narcissism, and destroy decades of hard work, including Ronald Reagan’s legacy.
Conservatives can recover from four, or even eight, years of Hillary Clinton. We might even flourish: remember, President Obama’s cult of personality—to which Trump’s mindless fan base bears more than a little resemblance—sacrificed more than 900 Democratic seats and a passel of governorships on its altar over the past seven years. President Obama won two elections and the Democratic Party lost hundreds. If Trump’s victory means this kind of “winning,” conservatives should want no part of it.
Our Long-Awaited Goal Was Right There for Us
In the end, a Trump administration will not only avert the first chance at unified Republican government in years, but will finish off the conservative movement itself. Indeed, it is a bitter irony that some of Trump’s blind followers are willing to declare defeat at the moment of impending victory, when a complete GOP takeover of all elected branches could finally overcome the obstruction of divided government. Trump’s voters are willing to “shake up the status quo”—whatever that means—by putting an ignoramus at the head of a party and a movement he’s actually trying to destroy.
And destroy it he will. If Trump is at the top of the ticket, Republicans will likely lose the Senate, but that pales in comparison to the overall discrediting of conservatism that will follow. In pulling down the GOP, Trump will take conservatism with it, and enshrine 30 or 40 more years of liberal dominance, beginning with his own liberal administration.
Again, cruel ironies will abound, as working-class whites in the Rust Belt and heartland who thought they were finally getting control of the government will find that a liberal coastal billionaire has actually frozen them out of it for the rest of their lifetimes, and maybe their children’s lifetimes, as well.
All of this will happen merely because Trump has chosen to identify himself as a Republican as a matter of egotistical convenience this time around. Conservatives and Republicans should be having none of it, which is why I intend to observe the Hamilton Rule should all this come to pass. It is time to think beyond Trump’s possible election and to take steps to protect conservatism as a movement capable of opposing liberalism long after Trump is gone.
It is precisely to protect the viability of the conservative movement that I will stand aside and accept that, if all else fails, Hillary must beat The Donald.