Kevin Boyd earlier today put up a post explaining why the impending nomination of Donald Trump has chased him out of the Republican Party and offering proof he’s changed his party registration. I’m not going to quite follow suit with that; I’ll leave my registration where it is for now in the hope that maybe something will change to bring me back into the party in actuality.
But I will say this – if voting for Donald Trump this fall is the definition of being a Republican, then I don’t consider myself one.
I look forward to helping a Republican victor in this fall’s Louisiana Senate race, and each of the four current candidates are well worth my support. I’m all for trying to produce a Republican mayor-president in East Baton Rouge this fall and I look forward to there being one I can support on the ballot. And I want to make sure there are good-quality Republicans filling the open House seats in Louisiana’s 3rd and 4th Districts.
I’m a conservative, after all, and proud to be one. Where the Republican Party can serve as a home for conservatives, as it generally has done since the founding of the conservative movement and, prior to that, as it upheld the principles of limited government and the protection of individual rights from the founding of the party, I am pleased to support the GOP. In speaking engagements and media appearances I’ve done, I have made the case that the Republican Party is the single most humane, righteous and accomplished political entity in the history of mankind and I actually believe that. Without Republican leadership in this country this world would have been a much, much worse place.
But there is little question the wheels of the GOP have become wobbly in those respects in recent years, and with Trump they’ve fallen off in my estimation.
I can’t support him. Do I leave space for that to change? Theoretically, perhaps. But I am looking around at other options, and I’ve already found a couple I like better than Trump. If Austin Petersen pulls off the Libertarian Party nomination at their convention in Orlando in three weeks, I might well throw in behind him. Petersen, a web publisher and social media guru who worked as the video production chief at FreedomWorks for a time, is a charismatic thirty-something who’s a lot more like a Rand Paul conservative (he might actually be a little more realistic on foreign policy than Rand Paul) than your typical Libertarian. And with a couple of reservations I also like Darrell Castle, the Constitution Party nominee; he’s a bankruptcy lawyer from Memphis who comes off as an honest man and a serious old-school conservative. I’d be lying if I said I knew a whole lot about either one, but so far I’d be comfortable with them. And if a Rick Perry or some other maverick Republican were to decide to stir things up with an independent run I might well go with that.
I plan to vote for a third-party candidate for president, is the point.
I haven’t signed any #NeverTrump pledge or anything like that. But I’m on that side of the fence. The only way that could change would be for Trump to, by some miracle, earn my vote. But today he became the presumptive nominee and he celebrated by doing four things. He admitted that he knew the smear he peddled yesterday about Ted Cruz’ father somehow being part of the JFK assassination plot wasn’t true. He talked about vetting John Kasich as his vice president. He said he’d be OK with the idea of raising the national minimum wage to $15 an hour. And he said he wasn’t going to self-finance his general election campaign.
Each of these is problematic in its own way. Each points out to me reasons why I’m correct in refusing to support this man.
When Trump unloaded that abject lie about Cruz’ father, it was completely unnecessary for him to do in order to win. He had won. Cruz was on his last legs in Indiana and virtually all the polls showed it. Presented with an audio clip of Rafael Cruz saying his son’s nomination was crucial to America getting back to God, the correct response for Trump would have been to say “The man loves his son and I don’t begrudge his advocacy for him.” Instead, he repeated a smear of Rafael Cruz his slimeball friends at the National Enquirer cooked up a couple of weeks prior that Cruz was supposedly photographed next to Lee Harvey Oswald in New Orleans shortly before the JFK assassination. That smear was totally untrue and fanciful, and Trump absolutely knew it – which he admitted today. It was gratuitous, spiteful and evil for him to go there, and it showed how little character he has.
That’s not gamesmanship. It’s not even smart politics. For me as a Cruz supporter, it’s a barrier to ever supporting Trump. He can’t earn my vote with that on his escutcheon, not even with promises to sink just as low in order to beat Hillary – because I’m not convinced that’s a good thing given the character of the man. That he didn’t apologize is mind-blowing.
Flogging John Kasich as his potential vice president is no improvement. What that does is two things: one, it gives fuel to the suspicion on the part of practically the entire GOP that Kasich’s whole purpose in staying in the GOP race after South Carolina when it was clear he had no business being there was to deny Cruz, and Marco Rubio while he was still in the race, an opportunity to coalesce the anti-Trump vote in a head to head race and this was the payoff. Kasich’s “alliance” with Cruz, which Kasich almost immediately repudiated by telling voters they should pull a lever for him, was a sham. We all knew that.
It also serves more generally as a giant middle finger to the conservative movement. Kasich is most certainly not a member; you aren’t a conservative when you claim you’ve expanded Medicaid in your state because it wouldn’t be Christian not to. He’s an establishment moderate, and a creepy one at that. For Trump to even consider him privately, much less publicly, is a clear signal to conservatives that he couldn’t care less about our votes.
Then Trump said he’d consider a national $15 minimum wage. After admitting the character questions are valid and giving a clear signal he’s with the establishment rather than the conservative movement, now he’s showing his economic credentials are nonexistent. Trump is supposedly a businessman and that’s why he’s worthy of our support, but he doesn’t know that basically doubling the national minimum wage is a death knell for small businesses who can’t afford to pay $15 an hour for minimum wage-quality labor? So much for that as a reason why Trump is better than Hillary.
And finally, there is the admission he’s got to ramp up his fundraising because he won’t be able to self-finance the general election campaign. Anybody who didn’t already know that wasn’t paying attention; Trump isn’t liquid enough to self-finance a half-billion dollar campaign. Frankly, the self-financing gimmick was a dumb play to begin with; to give it legs Trump had to forego the creation of a professional fundraising operation, and now he has to put one together on the fly. And because he wasn’t actually raising any money to speak of, Trump has been running a presidential campaign on the cheap. He got away with it thanks to $2 billion in earned media from TV networks who have been treating him like a dancing bear, but what got lost was any semblance of a professional campaign operation with an organization on the ground across the country. He’s got none of that and now he’s behind the eight ball against Hillary, who does have one.
Trump is also completely dependent on that earned media to keep him viable, and it is as plain as the nose on your face that since he’s now the nominee things will be much different. Gone will be the uninterrupted coverage of Trump’s rallies – he only got that because the networks were hoping he would say something crazy they could then report on for the rest of the day (or maybe there would be a fistfight in the hall, which would be just as good). He won’t get that as a general matter, and he especially won’t get it because now that he’s the nominee he has to act “presidential,” which means speaking off a teleprompter and trying not to make gaffes that stink up his poll numbers even worse than they are. They’re also not going to allow him to do phone interviews on national news shows anymore, and he won’t be able to get away with making stupid statements like the one about Cruz’ father on Tuesday without getting ripped to shreds by the interviewers. He’ll be making those crazy statements about Hillary, after all, rather than Cruz. CNN and MSNBC and George Stephanopoulos don’t care about Ted Cruz being defamed on their air; they’ll have a different attitude about the candidate they want to see win.
Not to mention the triumphant return of investigative journalism to come, in which there will be an hour-long Barbara Walters-style interview with Katie Johnson, the plaintiff in that rape lawsuit against Trump filed in California last week, a certain number of the Trump University plaintiffs being given their 15 minutes of fame, various aggrieved former vendors, suppliers and contractors on Trump’s various construction projects, and so on. He’ll get lots of coverage, but it won’t be as much fun for him as what he’s had to date. So depending on all that earned media as a substitute for an actual political campaign won’t look like such a great idea by the time the leaves change color.
But there’s one other thing about the self-financing issue, and that’s the fact Trump’s “self-financing” is actually some $36 million in loans he’s given his campaign. So now that he’s going to be hitting up all the big GOP donors for his campaign, they’ll get to swallow the fact their money is first going to pay Trump off for running for president. After he’s spent the whole campaign to date taking large dumps on the donor class, he’ll be asking them to make him whole. He could have put that to bed by saying he’s going to forgive the loans, but on the other hand he also has to make them believe him and that might be tough to do since he still hasn’t distributed all of that $6 million he raked in for his foundation supposedly to dole out to veterans’ groups when he did a telethon in Iowa rather than participate in the pre-caucus debate there.
There have been reports that Trump has been routing a lot of his campaign expenses – travel on his jet, for example, production of hats and t-shirts, office space and so on – through entities he owns. If it turns out that he’s jacking up the rates for those expenses and covering them through loans to his campaign that the donors will now be paying to retire, Trump could very well be in a position where he’s going to be turning a profit from running for president off the backs of his campaign contributors. That’ll be one hell of a good racket, but it doesn’t exactly scream “sincerity” about how he’s his own man and he’s so rich that he’s paying for the campaign out of pocket.
With all of those things just in the first day of his tenure as presumptive nominee, here’s my advice – don’t come to me with lectures and demands about how if I fail to get in line behind this guy I’m somehow responsible for Hillary getting elected president.
Seriously. Don’t do it.
I have warned you people that Donald Trump is a scam artist and a liar for months. I have said he’s a media creation and a fraud, that he doesn’t represent the values and philosophy of the Republican Party, that he’s a general election nightmare and that he lacks the character and judgement you want in the job. I have begged and pleaded with his supporters not to make the mistake of foisting him on the party, that the concerns which produced him as an alternative to the milquetoast moderates and establishment stooges the party leans toward in a normal cycle are real but that there were others in the race, most notably Cruz, who could better address them with substance.
I have said these things, and I have been ignored. I have failed, as have many others within the conservative movement. But my failure is not due to the invalidity of my arguments. My failure is due to the refusal of Trump’s supporters even to listen to them. That video clip from last week of Cruz attempting to engage with mouth-breathing morons holding Trump signs and shouting insults in his face as he responded in civil terms has been a microcosm of the entire campaign.
And now you want to make a demand on my vote? You want me to endorse what I have seen from Trump and his supporters? Why? Because otherwise Hillary will be president?
First of all, what I’ve seen of Trump doesn’t indicate to me that he’ll be any better than Hillary. Sure, you might get better Supreme Court justices from Trump but even that isn’t guaranteed; he’s not going to expend any real political capital on a confirmation fight, and that means the Senate Democrats would get a veto on his choices. Other than that? Why is a Trump trade war with China any better than a Hillary phony war against Syria? Why is Trump’s $15 minimum wage any better than Hillary’s $15 minimum wage? Why is Trump using federal funds for Planned Parenthood any better than Hillary’s federal funds for Planned Parenthood? Why is Trump’s “the government’s gonna pay for it” universal health insurance any better than Hillary’s plans for Obamacare post-collapse? Prove that to me. You can’t, of course, because anything you bring to me that Trump says on those issues I can contradict with other things he’s said on them.
And second, you certainly can’t prove that but for my support Trump will win. He won’t. CNN shows him down by 13 points to her as of Wednesday. That’s before the earned media turns sour. He’s at 89 percent disapproval with Hispanics, 80 percent disapproval with millennials and 70 percent disapproval with women. And he has 90 percent name recognition, so it’s not like he can turn those numbers around by defining himself; they already know who he is and they think he’s garbage. Trump isn’t even above water with white women; he’s down two to Hillary with them, while Mitt Romney won by 14 points in that demographic. My vote will not help you. It will only potentially help make this debacle not the worst debacle in political history. I’d rather break a little new ground with a plucky and deserving underdog than go down with that garbage scow.
Finally, as a conservative it’s my opinion that no matter how much I loathe Hillary Clinton, and my loathing for her knows no bounds, four years of her misrule would actually be better for conservatism, and its capacity to save the country over the long haul, than four years of Trump’s misrule. Lots of #NeverTrump folks have been throwing around the famous Alexander Hamilton quote which goes like this:
“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.”
There is a great deal of wisdom in that statement. There might well be pain and suffering with Clinton, but if Trump would govern similarly – and as a New York liberal with authoritarian tendencies and a contempt for the rule of law and limited government he’s pretty damned similar – then you’d have a similar amount of pain and suffering and Republicans and conservatives would be on the hook for it. We’d be stuck defending it. If you don’t think that’s true, I give you the eight years of George W. Bush – from his budgetary incontinence to the prescription drug benefit to Harriet Myers to No Child Left Behind to the attempted amnesty push of 2006. When it was over our party was so broken that it couldn’t beat a half-Kenyan red-diaper baby named Barack Hussein Obama, who had come up out of the political sewer of Chicago, whose only actual employment had been as a race-hustling community organizer and who was mentored by an honest-to-God Communist domestic terrorist.
Hillary Clinton is a walking disaster of a presidential candidate and she’ll be a walking disaster as a president. But the public knows this and if she is elected she will take office with an electorate already suspicious of her and an inevitable slide in approval ratings her personal charisma isn’t sufficient to backstop. She will be most vulnerable to defeat in 2020 and the true conservative renaissance could well commence at that time. Better that than to have conservatism driven completely out of the Republican Party by Trump and have to make our peace with white nationalism and a grievance culture of our own as a dominant part of the GOP’s coalition; there is no way to remove such a stench in four years.
I reject Trump. I reject him on character grounds, on policy grounds, on grounds of political competence, on grounds of his meager chances of victory and on grounds of philosophical principle. My vote is my own and he does not deserve it. For this to change would depend on Trump changing to earn my vote, and brazen demands made of me in lieu of that honest effort will only push me further into my position. Moreover, premature casting of blame for a Democrat victory on people who have warned about Trump’s insufficiency makes for a very poor argument giving off much more heat than light amid a campaign which has been both pitch-black and white-hot.
So don’t make those demands of me and those who believe as I do. They won’t help you. They’ll only do damage rather than “unifying the party,” something even Trump doesn’t seem interested in doing. You risk permanent destruction of what used to be a grand old party.