Is it too late to get one of those red hats?
I didn’t support Donald Trump during the 2016 election — not that it mattered. I wasn’t in a swing state and I wasn’t publicly opining about the general election. Had my vote mattered, I might have brought myself to vote for him, but it didn’t, so I didn’t.
On election night, I had a few drinks and enjoyed Hillary Clinton losing. It was a spectacle at which, to borrow a line, it would have taken a heart of stone not to laugh. I did text a friend or two that I hoped I was wrong about Trump.
In some ways, I was. He has kept his promises on judges, for instance. In other ways I think my low opinion of him has been thoroughly vindicated. Thus, in writing for The Federalist, I have defended President Trump and criticized him, sometimes in the same column.
I have also criticized the die-hard Never-Trumpers who are willing to jettison conservatism to pursue their vendetta against Trump. Like many Trump-skeptical conservatives I tried to call things as I saw them. Sometimes I was pleased with Trump’s policy, and sometimes I was appalled by him. I do not disavow any of what I wrote. Nonetheless, I now support Trump’s reelection.
To use the word du jour: I have been radicalized. The enormity of the efforts by the Democrats and their media allies to destroy Brett Kavanaugh forced me to reconsider my views. The concerns I have about Trump’s character, temperament, and propensity to damage America’s cultural and political institutions are still there, but I am supporting him anyway.
It is not just that the Democrats have vitiated any claim to possess superior character or temperament (though they have), or that Trump’s policies have been better than I expected. I now support Trump because the Democratic Party and its media allies are controlled by people who view conservatives not as political opponents to be voted down, but as enemies to be personally destroyed.
Trump will say anything, but Democrats will do anything. They and their media allies smeared a universally respected judge with an impeccable record as a serial sexual predator on evidence that would not have justified an indictment. They repeatedly lied and hid evidence in order to create delay (e.g., Christine Blasey Ford’s supposed fear of flying).
In the end, the evidence against Kavanaugh consisted only of the dubious testimony of a woman who could not recall basic details like a time or a place, whose story changed repeatedly, and whose witnesses remembered nothing of what she claimed. But Democrats did their best to forever brand him as a sexual predator anyway. They did not want a serious, confidential investigation; they wanted to publicly grind him into the dirt while the mob howled for his head.
They wanted the circus, the smears, the insane rumors and allegations from cranks. They wanted the tabloid journalism from formerly respectable outlets like The New Yorker. If Kavanaugh refused to withdraw, then they wanted Ford on national television. They even wanted the lunatic claims from a nutcase dredged up by a creepy porn lawyer, alleging that Kavanaugh ran a gang-rape ring as a teen. Even as the sexual assault allegations against Kavanaugh collapsed, they switched to smears about his high school yearbook and college drinking.
With rare exceptions, the national media repeated every smear and Democratic talking point. They spent weeks trying to destroy Kavanaugh’s life and reputation with lies, then had the effrontery to sneer at his anger when he took umbrage at being labeled a gang-rape mastermind. Lushes from the soused D.C. media lectured Kavanaugh about his teenage drinking. They earned every bit of Trump’s “enemy of the people” and “fake news” epithets.
Kavanaugh was a normal establishment Republican pick. Destroying him had nothing to do with opposing Trump’s particular flaws. This was about annihilating anyone who gets in the Democrats’ way, especially anyone who threatens their illegitimate Supreme Court policy wins. It was a declaration of war on every conservative, no matter how respected, reasonable, and mainstream.
There is no refuge from this sort of totalizing, destructive politics. The Republican rejection of Merrick Garland was political hardball; the sliming of Kavanaugh was categorically different and much worse. The Democrats crossed the line from policy disagreement to personal destruction, and in doing so they nuked any middle ground between themselves and conservative Trump skeptics. And they put every conservative on notice: You could be next.
If the Democrats will do this to a man as respected and mainstream as Kavanaugh, they will do it to anyone who gets in their way. The left has embraced mob justice that disdains our culture of due process and the presumption of innocence, and merely disagreeing with the mob provokes its wrath. At Facebook, the mob is after an executive who stood by his friend. At my alma mater, a dean was punished for tweeting skeptically about the woman accusing Kavanaugh of running a gang-rape ring in high school. Ordinary people are being targeted for having opinions the mob hates.
Capitulation to the outrage mob is contemptible, but it has become the norm, with lives ruined professionally and personally. The worst aspects of the online mob, the campus tribunal, and the gutter press have been embraced by the leaders of the Democratic Party, and they think any and everyone on the right is fair game. Those determined to believe the worst about the accused also believe the worst about those standing up for the rights of the accused, and want to destroy them as well. Dissent will not be tolerated—those who dare speak out against the witch-hunt will be burned as witches themselves.
I wish this was not so. I would rather be arguing about the Enlightenment than jumping on the Trump train. As a writer and scholar I want to persuade, not to destroy. I do not want American politics to be like this.
But as a voter who recognizes the unfortunate realities of our politics, I believe supporting Trump has become the responsible choice. Things may change, but right now Trump’s policies are better than I expected, he is not the authoritarian some feared, and he does not want to destroy me and mine. It isn’t much, but since Trump stands between me and those who would ruin me, he will have to do.
This is about self-defense. And that is why I’ve gone from “Meh” to “MAGA!”