Along with most of the Republican party, I’ve become dismayed of late at Donald Trump’s continued (or resurgent?) polling success. Especially in light of most pollsters recent switch to likely caucus-goers and likely voters in early primary states, our collective wishcasting about Trump’s inevitable demise appears to have been just that.
4 of last 5 IA polls now use likely voters. Cruz leads by 4. 3 of last 5 NH polls now use likely voters. Trump leads by 16. End times.
— Matthew DesOrmeaux ⚜ (@cynicusprime) January 9, 2016
With less than three weeks to the Iowa caucuses and the end of the republic (exaggeration?), many conservatives are already moving on to the truly apocalyptic general election scenario of Donald Trump vs Hillary Clinton. Mainstream conservative activists and pundits like Ben Howe appear to have already lept from the bridge and decided to support Hillary in the increasingly inevitable scenario where Trump is the nominee.
Howe’s reasoning is sound, except for one ommission - he ignores alternatives to voting for Trump or Clinton - third parties, or not casting a ballot for president at all. His decision is strategic, though not necessary. If one of them is to be elected, let it be the Democrat to prove how terrible she is instead of saddling Republicans with the equally bad consequences of their equally bad policies under Trump, the thinking goes.
Except a lot of people thought that about Obama eight years ago too. Some conservatives dissatisifed with McCain thought letting Obama get elected would show the country how terrible his wide-eyed progressivism was, thus ensuring none of his policies would pass, and he would be defeated after one term. We all know how that one turned out.
The problem is that it’s hard for anyone to be a one-term president these days. Once a president has enough support to get elected, they tend to maintain it at least through reelection, no matter what happens.
If Hillary wins, she’ll probably win reelection too. Democrats will rally around her no matter how terribly she governs; we only have 30 years of evidence to support it. Like Obama, she won’t be harmed by her election.
But Howe thinks Republicans will be harmed by Trump’s election. And? Trump’s nomination itself will damage the party beyond all hope of recovery. Helping Hillary get elected certainly won’t repair it.
If you believe that Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are “equally detrimental…evil and untrustworthy”, why would you support either of them when there are other options?
Why not support a third party? Some conservatives have suggested supporting the Constitution Party instead. Unfortunately, that party differs from Trump’s campaign only in volume, not substance.
What about the Libertarian Party? Their nominee four years ago was Gary Johnson, the former eight-year Republican governor of New Mexico. He actually ran for president as a Republican at first but decided to pursue the Libertarian nomination instead when he was dropped from the GOP debate schedule for a lack of support.
Even so, Johnson was the highest profile Libertarian nominee in decades and got over 1.2 million votes, more than twice as many as the previous nominee. Running again in the year of Trump and Hillary could increase his support dramatically.
By any measure, conservatives agree with the LP on most issues. They are fiscally conservative, even more so than Republicans. They want to reduce the size and scope of the federal government and return power to the states, even more so than Republicans. They support religious freedom, gun rights, low taxes, and a free market.
Sure, Libertarians also want to legalize drugs and prostitution, reduce the military budget, and limit police and surveillance power, all of which are non-starters for most conservatives. But we all have to make sacrifices in the political arena. As this year has shown better than any, there is no perfect candidate or party.
As a ideological libertarian, I usually hold my nose to vote for Republicans with whom I disagree on a few important issues, because I consider attempting to move the party in a libertarian direction more worth my time than trying to get Libertarian Party candidates elected. If Trump is the nominee, that strategy will be all but dead.
If you cannot bring yourself to vote for a third party, there is yet another option. Voting is important, and your local officials, congressmen, and senators need your support. But no one is forced to cast a vote in every contest on the ballot.
Vote for your usual choices down the ticket and leave the presidential spot blank. Let the major party chips fall where they may. Don’t taint your soul by supporting someone you oppose on every level and have fought against for 30 years just for the potential of future partisan gain.
In an election year when all hope seems lost on both sides, and #SMOD having abandoned us once already, we shouldn’t choose to actually support the lesser of two evils. Especially when we’re not even sure which evil is “lesser” this time.