It is often said in elections that you pick the least evil of two options. If Donald Trump were to receive the GOP nomination, no longer does this rule apply. Against all odds a con-man has waged a protracted war on the GOP establishment, maintaining unexpected support in polls that has translated into several election victories.
Trump’s continual support in the polls and across several demographics have defied the odds and caught most by surprise, me included. The Washington Post reported that on Super Tuesday Trump only needed 39 percent of the vote to seal the deal. His nomination is a very real possibility that leaves many a dyed-in-the-wool conservative or libertarian asking where to vote from here, when given a choice between Trump and either Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in the general election.
Trump Is No Option for People Who Love Liberty
One thing is for certain: if you are a liberty-oriented voter, voting for Trump is a non-starter. I am not alone in this sentiment. Several have recently penned pieces stating they would never vote for Trump, no matter the options. When a reporter described Sanders’ campaign to Trump, Trump mistook the socialist’s campaign for his own.
This only further highlights the National Review symposium’s statement that Trump “is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.” Trump is authoritarian to the core.
His slogan—Make America Great Again—isn’t just an ideal, it a hubristic misunderstanding of his own capabilities and the nature of government. Stated as if Trump possesses the unique insight to will this country from the brink of collapse, it mistakes the greatness of America as his own. It is more than an indicator of policy—it is a fundamental misunderstanding of free markets and the classical liberal position.
Others have detailed his past positions. They aptly detail how Trump is not a conservative, or for small government; would likely abuse power; and cares little for individual freedom, property rights, or a constrained executive branch. On nearly every issue, he has or currently holds a position that matches more closely the Democrat platform than the Republican. Few of his positions changed before his run and the sincerity of any position change is in doubt.
Trump Can Win or Lose Without Me
But this article is not an argument about his credentials or policy positions. It is an argument in favor of low voter turnout. If you are unsure about Trump’s sordid political history, explore other articles. This is for those who feel trapped between a rock and a hard place and in order to avoid another four to eight years with a Democrat in office feel they must vote Trump.
We hold up voting as a near-religious exercise. For some, questioning the value of a vote is sacrilege. Let us first suspend the presumed holiness of voting and instead consider what we think is best long-term. If you value self-governance as a central theme to American life, and that limited government is key to prosperity and civil society, then the image of the only party that even pretends those are values worth consideration is important. Casting these values aside for party devotion mistakes the value of the party for merely group action instead of idea promotion.
Alexander Hamilton is not my favorite American Founder, but he is right in this principle even if he applied it poorly: “If we must have an enemy at the head of Government, let it be one whom we can oppose, and for whom we are not responsible, who will not involve our party in the disgrace of his foolish and bad measures.”
The worst election result is not a Clinton or Sanders presidency, but a Trump presidency, where we have lost the credibility of opposition. It will fail to persuade others that limited government works, that liberty matters, that rights exist, and government is best when constrained. Trump’s election by the only party that even hints at these principles destroys credibility and undermines the long-term benefits of party principles.
No doubt there are those who will vote Trump no matter what, but what is not yet determined is whether he wins or loses, or whether he receives the approval of a majority of the country. Low voter turnout sends a clear message: We care about our principles and won’t endorse an authoritarian con-man. This about as organized-protest as I get, but a clear message is necessary: We do not endorse Trump. Hell, we’d rather put up with Hillary.
A Trump Presidency Means Bigger Government
Remember this as well: a president must still work through and with Congress, so even a lawless president has limits. But it is not so easy to recover from bad branding. President Nixon stands out as a useful analogy. He hurt both the credibility and substance of the GOP message. He’s a big-government crony who left a long-lasting negative impact on the brand of the GOP, one that even now is hard to shake.
Consequently, after Nixon the response was an expansion of federal government looking to curtail future failures and implied corruption. Campaign finance law was a direct response to his highly questionable campaign activity. Not only do bad Republican presidents expand the federal government, they often invite more expansion from the opposing party when their turn is up.
Trump is in a similar position. His lack of ideological commitment, populism, and adoption of strong-armed big government tactics will only serve big-government ends and destroy the image of the Republican Party. If conservatives seek to persuade others that small government is the way to go, it starts by rejecting Trump as forcefully as possible.
If the last man standing after the Republican National Convention is Trump, best to write in Mickey Mouse come November. Better yet, stay home and watch Netflix instead.