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The American Conservative 2020 Presidential Symposium

With one week to go, our writers, staff, and contributors share their takes on the election.

 

Rod DreherLeonora Cravotta
Arthur BloomHoward Ahmanson
Andrew J. BacevichDonald Devine
Scott McConnellGene Callahan
Daniel McCarthyTony Woodlief
Peter Van BurenGerald Russello
Emile DoakGeorge Liebmann
W. James Antle IIITerry Schilling
Gracy OlmsteadDeclan Leary
Paul Gottfried

Rod Dreher

Readers of my blog have been convinced for a long time that they know how I’m going to vote this fall, despite my public agonizing over it. The liberals are sure I’m going to vote for Trump in the end, and the conservatives believe that I’m going to vote for Biden. They can’t imagine that anybody is conflicted. Well, I have been.

Donald Trump has been a lousy president. He was given so many opportunities to advocate for real populist reform, especially on the economy, but he has not delivered. His presidency has been consumed by his narcissism and chaos. It is hard for any actual policy ideas to gain traction in the Trump-dominated environment. To his credit, though, he has nominated good judges, and though this is perhaps the soft bigotry of low expectations, he hasn’t started any new wars. The case for Trump, at least to me, is about him standing as the last bulwark against the woke left taking over the federal government, and using its power to advance the cultural revolution. That’s not nothing. What’s more, I believe that over the next couple of decades, as the American populace moves further to the left—that is, as the Boomers die out, and the much more liberal Millennials and Gen Z gain more power—the federal judiciary is going to be the last line of defense of First Amendment liberties, religious liberty in particular.

There have been times when I have considered voting for Biden just to get Trump out of office. On the right, we won’t be able to have the serious and necessary conversations about reform populism until Trump goes, because he sucks up all the air in the room. I want serious populist political voices—for example, Sen. Josh Hawley’s, Tucker Carlson’s, and J.D. Vance’s—to have a chance to be heard, and to lead the right. Plus, I long for stability in the White House. Having said that, it is very, very hard to justify giving any power to Biden, who, despite his moderate affect, fully endorses the radicalism of his party’s extreme on social issues.

And yet: four more years of Trump, and his QAnon crackpottery, could cause the right to be fully discredited and exiled from power for many years. A vote against Trump would be, for me, a vote to give the real populist right a chance. But is that kind of strategic voting sensible?

I haven’t voted in a presidential race since 2004, because I am so alienated from both parties. I am deeply on the right on social and cultural issues, but more to the left on economic policy, in the sense of wanting the government to do more for workers and ordinary people, and wishing that the GOP were not so much in thrall to its donor class. I’m a Tucker Carlson/J.D. Vance conservative. It’s easy for me to withhold my vote, living as I do in Louisiana, a red state that is going to go for Trump. But I am tired of not voting for president, and want to push myself to make a decision, and live with it.

Fortunately, when I looked recently at the Louisiana ballot, I discovered that the American Solidarity Party was on the presidential line—that is, its nominee Brian Carroll and his running mate Amar Patel. When I read the platform of the ASP, I found that I didn’t agree with everything, but the overwhelming majority of its pro-family, Christian Democratic (in the European sense) policies I could endorse. I realized that 2020 will be the first time in my life that I can cast a presidential vote for a candidate and his party, as opposed to against the greater of two Republicrat evils. So that’s what I plan to do, while voting Republican for Senator Bill Cassidy, and for U.S. Representative Garrett Graves.

Brian Carroll won’t win, but I cannot pass up the chance to show my support for a party that actually represents the full spectrum of my views as a conservative Christian. To be honest, if I were in a swing state, I don’t know that I would do this. I probably would, though, because it’s unusual to experience voting as an act of civic affirmation, instead of civic despair, and I would like to do that at least once in my life.

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at TAC.

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Arthur Bloom

Having been told countless times that any conservative committed to his principles must denounce Donald Trump, I find mine telling me the only honest thing to do is embrace him. I do not believe the people who tell me that if Biden wins things will go back to normal, a normal that was overrated in any case by all the people who have lost their minds since 2016, if not by Iraqis or Libyans. There is no normal after the FBI and intelligence community initiates a spurious investigation of the incoming president at the behest of the outgoing White House, or after Congress tries to impeach that same president based on accusations that match Joe Biden’s activities much more closely than Trump’s. Don’t let anyone tell you the latter is responsible for America’s slide into authoritarianism.

The most substantial thing a voter has a say about this November is whether they wish to approve or disapprove of all this. I disapprove of it. Whatever the disappointments of this administration, or however most Republicans differ from my ideal views about the economy or international relations, or however one finds him personally unpleasant, if one wishes to choose the lesser of two evils, it seems obvious to me that that is Trump, whether or not one agrees with any positive case for him.

If a candidate is supported by the CIA, Wall Street, the Atlantic Council, Bill Kristol, China, and big tech, pick the other one. It’s not complicated. Please, America, for the sake of the republic, do not reward these people by putting Joe Biden in the White House. Giving these people the confidence of having gotten away with it is a bad precedent, and an invitation to consolidate their power further. That’s why this November I hope Americans vote to wipe that smug bullfrog grin off the face of America’s most powerful Gus Hall voter, as I intend to do.

Arthur Bloom is editor of TAC online.

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Andrew J. Bacevich

The 2020 presidential election is being hyped as the most important ever. I suppose it might be if a contested outcome poses a threat to the constitutional order. It grieves me to say that such a possibility cannot be completely discounted. But if (as expected) Joe Biden wins and if (as all patriotic citizens must hope) a peaceful transfer of power occurs, then the 2024 presidential election rather than next month’s may well end up being the pivotal one. 

Biden is unlikely to be a transformational president. He’s too old and too much a creature of the establishment. The most we can hope for from a Biden presidency is that it will keep the ship of state from capsizing. Addressing the pandemic and restoring economic growth will absorb administration energies and attention. Progressives will demand more, of course, but once Biden is in the White House, they will find themselves obliged to bide their time.

Meanwhile, the really interesting story will concern the post-Trump GOP. If it remains loyal to the ex-president, it will forfeit any possibility of returning to power in the foreseeable future. The party may simply disintegrate. My bet is that Republicans will turn away from Trump (as some are already doing) and seek new leaders committed to a new conception of conservatism. Should that occur, then 2024 could see a showdown between progressive Democrats with lots of pent-up energy and a new cohort of Republicans who have rediscovered conservative principles.

That would be an election worth getting excited about.

Andrew J. Bacevich is president of the Quincy Institute and TAC‘s writer-at-large.

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Scott McConnell

I’m voting for Donald Trump. I think he’s been a C + president, unprepared to effectively staff his executive branch, overly reliant on cronies and family, his most important campaign promises unfulfilled. He might have constructed a Trumpian congressional majority in 2017-2018 but failed to do so. Earlier this year I donated to Klobuchar and Yang, and was inclined to support any kind of centrist Democrat, on the theory that Trump had at least nudged the GOP in good directions (and away from the Bush-Cheney-McCain style of warmongering) and that a more disciplined and savvy nationalist-conservative GOP candidate might emerge during the next cycle. In a long voting history, I’ve voted for Democrats about half the time.

But the summer of George Floyd changed that. The poisonous spawn of left-wing academia—critical race theory, a Marxist offshoot which defines America and essentially all Western societies as irredeemably evil, found suddenly a comfortable home in the Democratic Party and, seemingly, in all elite liberal institutions. Suddenly every platform—CNN, the Times, Democratic leaders, the Twitter mob, the big name universities, were screaming in unison: cops are racist killers, looters and arsonists are to be celebrated as peaceful protesters, every notable white male figure in American history deserves to be trashed—and if they happened to have a statue commemorating them, literally. I shudder to think what will happen when these mobs have the levers of the federal government behind them. 

Of course we all know that Joe Biden is not “woke.” But he is clearly on the edge of senility, and in Kamala Harris he chose, of all possibilities to succeed him, probably in the year or two, the most mob friendly possibility he could. It was Harris who solicited bail funds on social media for the looters and arsonists before the fires were extinguished in Minneapolis, it was Harris who in mid-June after billions of dollars of damage had been inflicted told an interviewer the “protests…are not going to let up and should not.” A mainstream Democrat like Nancy Pelosi could not find it within herself to condemn the ripping down of a Christopher Columbus statue in Baltimore: “People will do what they do,” she said.

A younger Biden might have chosen otherwise. He could have picked Klobuchar; Elizabeth Warren has at least a track record of intellectually serious economics based liberalism. But whatever mysterious process guides Biden’s decisions at this stage of his life landed on a woman who bombed as a presidential candidate and represents little besides wokeism—she had actually charged Biden as a racist for opposing the wildly unpopular and educationally ineffective regime of forced busing during the ’70s. While this is not true of all Democrats, the party in the main now stands for an enforced lie, about race relations in America, about American history, about the legitimacy of the American experiment. Trump, for all his failings, does not.

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of TAC.

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Daniel McCarthy

I’m voting for President Trump, the only president since the Berlin Wall fell who hasn’t started a war. Donald Trump has advanced the conservatism that The American Conservative was founded to advance—on trade, immigration, and foreign policy—and has been the most reliable president since Ronald Reagan (or ever) for bedrock conservative concerns about taxes, judges, and the right to life. Neocons who have rebranded as “NeverTrump” want wavering voters to put personality over policy. This is how they sold George W. Bush to the GOP, too, with genocidal consequences for the Christians of the Middle East. No one of conscience should listen to them.

Joe Biden himself voted for the Iraq war. And President Obama, who campaigned as a critic of the war, nonetheless was convinced by the liberal interventionists with whom he surrounded himself to go to war in Libya, and nearly to do so in Syria. A Biden administration will be packed with the same liberals and led down the same path: if even the “antiwar” Obama wouldn’t resist them, the Biden who voted to invade Iraq surely will not. By contrast, Trump ignored John Bolton’s warmongering advice, and Trump’s recent foreign policy appointments have been of the sort of people TAC has always wanted to see in policy roles—indeed, some are TAC writers. Libertarian non-interventionists and independent minds on the antiwar left have every reason to support Trump over Biden, if actual policy counts for more than intellectual prestige. There are too many think-tank critics of U.S. foreign policy whose realism is only academic. Be brave, do the right thing, and re-elect the president who has delivered peace.

Daniel McCarthy is editor of Modern Age and TAC editor-at-large.

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Peter Van Buren

Some 60 percent of Americans tell pollsters the nation needs a viable third party but then turn around and won’t vote for one because, in a self-fulfilling prophecy, voting third party somehow means the worst two party candidate ends up winning. Third party fails because we don’t trust it enough to give it the votes it needs to succeed. Democrats, from the Obamas on down, tell me I would be wrong to vote third party again, naive, a closet Putin supporter. The wrong guy will have the nuclear codes, so I will literally be responsible for Armageddon. Hard to build a movement around possible responsibility for ending life on earth.

I guess I can stay home, the functional equivalent of hiding out in the monastery coloring in manuscripts while medieval society devolves around me. Hmm, sounds like another plague out there, better close the window. But if I vote Biden/Harris I am endorsing the rally call of the Democratic Party against change.

But if I vote Trump I am telling the Democrats they failed, again, and they may realize they must become something of a third party in 2024 or they will functionally no longer exist, pretend opponents like those teams who played against the Harlem Globetrotters years ago. A Trump win could be a wake up call to the Democratic establishment that they have to deal with real desire for change, not ignore voters, or try to scare us into abandoning our conscience by again trading short term goals for long term progress. Dismissing such a vote as only sending a message dismisses the importance of the message.

For those who support Biden for some perceived short term gain, please, vote that way. But don’t disparage others of us for believing we can do better. Too many have accepted, election after election, the long con. Give an even longer view a chance.

Peter Van Buren is a TAC contributing editor and 24-year State Department veteran.

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Emile Doak

Democratic primary voters deserve our gratitude for making the choice this November so easy. The Biden/Harris (or is it Harris/Biden?) ticket is thoroughly awful. Its embrace of the full spectrum of woke culture war positions, abortion chief among them, is immediately disqualifying. But there’s so much more to despise! They’ve got the fervent backing of our Silicon Valley oligarchy, and these past few weeks have shown exactly how our tech overlords plan to wield their unprecedented power against political opponents. Delaware Joe’s cozy history with his home state’s credit card companies doesn’t exactly portend that he’ll be much of a crusader against unchecked corporate power once in the office he’s always coveted. Add in the parade of Iraq war architects lining up to endorse Biden/Harris, and you’ve got a perfect storm of the worst people in our politics supporting the Democratic ticket. No thanks.

So what of the uncouth New York businessman on the other side of the ballot? I find hysteria over Trump’s behavior tiresome. Of course he’s a terrible role model for my children. We’ve known this for decades. He’s a rude vulgarian whose impulses are consistently handicapping his better political instincts. I won’t defend his behavior, or his many dubious first term personnel decisions.

But it’s past time we get beyond the man himself and look at the bigger picture. In the five short years since announcing his candidacy, Donald Trump has shattered a multitude of stale, outdated, counterproductive GOP conventions. The right is finally having conversations about which foreign, economic, and immigration policies actually benefit the American people—not the global managerial class. A Trump second term would help ensure the right continues to move in this direction, instead of snapping back to the discredited pre-2016 consensus of Wall Street and Big War.

Incidentally, the rootless ruling class that yearns to return to those days has invaded my home state of Virginia, effectively rendering my vote moot. But nevertheless, I will cast my ballot for Donald Trump, in a feeble attempt to remind those recent residents that we few relics of the old Old Dominion remain.

Emile Doak is TAC‘s vice president of advancement and programs.

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W. James Antle III

Sitting in a corner sipping a beer from an appropriate social distance, I witnessed a familiar scene for a thousandth time. Three twenty-somethings were seated at a table, with a young man and woman interrogating a third friend, a fellow I gathered served in a branch of the armed forces, about his support for President Donald Trump.

The interrogators rehashed a number of arguments that were already stale in 1972, with Saul Alinksy conspicuously replaced with “that’s not okay.” The Trump supporter largely refused to play along, sitting stoically and staring at his beer while his friends informed him of their righteousness, sounding as much as a bad parody of the 1980s Christian Right (except totally secularized) as stereotypical liberal college students.

While far weightier issues are at stake, I suspect this election will be decided in part by voters who hope that Trump’s disappearance would mean the end of his exhausting political discourse versus those who fear this kind of inquisition will be a permanent feature of American life and that even fairly benign Democrats will offer no resistance to the coming Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Trump has actually exceeded my meager expectations. I anticipated that Rudy Giuliani would be secretary of state, running an unreconstructed neoconservative foreign policy, rather than on a search for Hunter Biden’s emails or hanging out with Borat. Despite Mike Pompeo’s best Giuliani impression, there has been no war with Iran. The Trump years have made Tucker Carlson more influential on the right than Bill Kristol, diminished (admittedly only after attempting to enhance) John Bolton’s standing among conservatives, and sent many a neocon back to their ancestral Democratic homes while getting partisan Republicans to talk about the imperative of ending “endless wars.”

As important as this is, however, it is not as good as, you know, actually ending the wars. Pompeo, Tom Cotton, and Nikki Haley are better positioned to succeed Trump while the president has destroyed Jeff Sessions’s career. Perhaps Trump has finally realized that personnel is policy. 

Here is my dilemma: my friend Michael Brendan Doughertycorrectly predicted Trump would wind up “making the causes of a pro-American trade policy and foreign policy more stupid, ugly, and repulsive to many who would benefit from them,” yet his defeat will likely be a severe setback for these causes as well given the forces it would empower in both parties. Older paleocons would undoubtedly point to the experience of Pat Buchanan as evidence that even a more sophisticated version of Trumpism would be savaged by the elites (including, as I pointed out in this space four years ago, Trump himself). But Trump also would have to govern much more effectively than he did in his first term for Trumpism to mount an enduring challenge to the Beltway blob, and he shows little interest in doing so.

A pity Kanye West is not on the Virginia ballot.

W. James Antle III is politics editor at the Washington Examiner.

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Gracy Olmstead

This year, I intend to write in the American Solidarity Party’s candidate, Brian Carroll, for president. While politics is indeed the art of compromise, the options offered by our two political parties are—for me, at least—impossible to choose between.

Trump’s approachto immigration and the plight of refugees,foreign policy (especially—but not limited to—the war in Yemen), agricultural policy, and environmental policy have all been concerning to observe over the last four years. In many instances, human rights atrocities have been callously ignored. On issues regarding the ecological health of our nation, Trump’s administration has refused to make difficult but necessary decisions to safeguard our land, water, and food sources. Far from “draining the swamp,” Trump’s leadership resulted in billions of taxpayer dollars being funneled into the pockets of the nation’s largest, wealthiest farms.

In many conservative circles, frustrations with Trump’s character are dismissed as petty complaints over “personality.” But personality and character are different things—and the latter must be taken seriously, even where we might offer leniency on the former.

Trump is a serial philanderer and adulterer who bragged about groping women without their permission. He has bullied and demeaned his political enemies on Twitter with a constancy and vehemence that are inexcusable. As Ross Douthatput it, Trump is “a bigot and an aggressive liar, he winks at violence, and … [w]hat he’s given to cultural conservatives with the courts, he’s taken by making us seem like hypocrites and making embarrassments like Jerry Falwell Jr. the face of conservative Christendom.”

Trump’s character points to a denigration of the dignity of human persons that does not, in my mind, fit with a truly consistent life ethic. Being pro-life is not just about protecting the unborn. It is about seeing human life as sacred: from birth to death, in every circumstance, across every ethnicity, age, and gender, in one’s political “enemies” as well as in one’s allies. Honoring the sanctity of life requires a treatment of human persons that reverences their inherent dignity. This demeanor is markedly absent from Trump’s character, and from his presidency.

So why not vote for former vice president Joe Biden? There are things about Biden’s platform I appreciate, even while there are many I disagree with. But Biden’s (and the Democratic Party’s) deep entrenchment on abortion is the primary reason I cannot vote for him this year. As professor of Christian ethics Andrew Walker has suggested, we ought to ask ourselves: “Is our vote contributing to a systemic injustice by further entrenching its worldview? Are we empowering mechanisms that will dilute abortion’s grip on American politics or promote it?”

Voting for a presidential incumbent who hasrefused to condemn white supremacy is something I cannot do. But I also cannot and will not vote with a Democratic Party that has sought to advance abortion at every stage of development, and completely ignores the plight of the unborn.

Isuggested in February that Simone Weil’s warnings in On the Abolition of All Political Parties” should caution Americans on both left and right: “partisan spirit makes people blind,” Weil writes, “makes them deaf to justice, pushes even decent men cruelly to persecute innocent targets.” Weil’s words require us to consider the many instances in which our political parties have willingly embraced violence and injustice to serve their own profits and power (and have thus made us complicit in their work).

This is why I will vote with the American Solidarity Party: a party that displays a consistent life ethic, a desire for prudence and subsidiarity in politics, and a steadfast opposition to ourthrowaway culture. My hope is that enough Americans will follow suit to send a clear message to our political leaders that we are not blind or deaf to justice, and will not stop seeking the good.

Gracy Olmstead is a writer and journalist located outside Washington, D.C.

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Paul Gottfried

Let me start by admitting the obvious. On November 3 I am voting for the reelection of Donald Trump and for every Republican I see on my ballot. Although Trump is verbally impulsive and often sounds like an egomaniac, he has been a more than adequate chief executive. (In a delicate balancing act, Roger Kimball described Trump as “socially and aesthetically impossible” but then proceeded to praise his accomplishments in office.) Before the coronavirus beset us, Trump managed to improve our economy significantly by renegotiating trade deals, deregulating commerce, and lowering taxes. Although some of his beneficiaries may not appreciate his achievements, Trump did more to lower black and female unemployment than any other American president. He also worked tirelessly to control illegal immigration and tried to protect our police force against disempowerment by local and state governments occupied by the left. Trump’s other accomplishments were also real, whether it was decimating the ISIS caliphate or brokering a peace between the Israelis and two Arab Emirates. 

But these are not the major reasons I am voting for the incumbent. The most critical reason is that I loathe and fear the Democratic Party and its media allies. They have done everything possible to bring down a president who is not to their liking and to squelch effective opposition. Indeed, as a European historian, I am struck by the remarkable similarities between Trump’s enemies and how the Nazis and Communists seized power. The assistance given to the looting mobs this past summer by Democratic operatives, Biden’s unwillingness to admit that Antifa terrorism is more than an “idea,” and the claim that the Democrats will free us from the disorder they helped instigate in areas under their control, are all routine tactics used by those engaged in a coup d’état. The lockstep support given by the media to these activities and most recently, their suppression of information about the Biden family’s shameless financial dealings with China and in the Ukraine point toward what has become de facto censorship. Biden’s (really Kamala Harris’s) elevation to the presidency would render our already precarious freedoms even more fragile.

Paul Gottfried is the editor-in-chief of Chronicles.

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Leonora Cravotta

On November 3, I will vote to reelect Donald J. Trump as the president of the United States. I have been a Trump supporter since the escalator ride in 2015. Trump was elected in 2016 because he presented himself as not only understanding the struggles of working-class people but also as providing these “forgotten men and women” with tangible solutions to their problems and optimism for the future. I refer to him as the unlikely messenger, the one many failed to immediately recognize.

The left-leaning mainstream media focuses too much on Trump’s style and tactics. They profess disdain for his daily use of Twitter and his proclivity for blunt but memorable sound bites. The media along with the Democratic machine have used every arrow in their quiver (to quote Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi) to take him down from, Russiagate to blaming him for COVID-19, but nothing has succeeded.

The opposition’s attempts to diminish President Trump have failed because he has succeeded for the American people in delivering results. He has significantly improved the economy, bringing unemployment down to a record 3-4%. And even after the economic ravishment of COVID, the rate stands at 7.9% (13% for the African American community). He has bolstered our national security, enhanced our foreign policy, implemented criminal justice reform, advocated for a “right to try” path for pharmaceuticals, championed school choice, and so much more.

I remain loudly and proudly pro-Trump and cannot wait to cast my ballot to “keep America great.”

Leonora Cravotta is TAC’s director of operations.

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Jack Hunter

I haven’t voted for a major party candidate for president since Republican Bob Dole in 1996, and that was only because I was 19 and my first choice in the GOP primary, Pat Buchanan, told me to.

This is a tradition I intend to continue this election when I vote for Libertarian Jo Jorgensen for president.

Republican Donald Trump has probably come closest to making me vote for a major party for president again. As a libertarian-conservative, I appreciate that this is the first president in decades who hasn’t started a war, has dramatically changed the conversation about foreign policy within the GOP, enacted deregulation and tax cuts, chose solid SCOTUS justices, passed major criminal justice reform legislation, and defies and derides the Deep State, something no other president is likely to do in my lifetime. 

I have said on this site that I would still vote for Trump if he made the bold move of pardoning whistleblower hero Edward Snowden.

But some of the ugliness in our politics, how the right talks about immigrants and refugees now, the president constantly stoking division needlessly in the most childish of ways—these are things I cannot endorse. Beyond policy, there is the larger issue of Trumpism and what it means for the right and the country long term that I cannot support. I would support Trump over any Bush-Cheney alumni Republican, and a vote for Biden is comparable to restoring that old guard. There are reasons so many NeverTrump neoconservatives now stump for Joe. Add in the massive amount of debt Trump and his GOP has wracked up, and there are just too many disqualifiers.

So the Libertarian will get my vote, one merely of conscience. In this chaotic environment, sometimes that is the best one can do.

Jack Hunter is the politics editor at Rare.us and the former new media director for Sen. Rand Paul.

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Howard Ahmanson

A few days ago I sent in my ballot. I dislike Trump, but I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Biden. For president, I wrote in Brian Carroll and Amar Patel of the American Solidarity Party. This is not a party big enough to qualify for the ballot in California. They are an attempt to bring to America the Christian Democratic philosophy so popular in Europe. I cultivate an image of myself as “fiscally moderately liberal and socially conservative,” largely to twit the “fiscally conservative and socially liberal” philosophy so popular among the elites and educated classes (and no one else) and regularly presented as the cure to the Republican Party’s problems.

Is this a “European” philosophy? Yes. But the philosophy of Donald Trump and Michael Anton is that of the European right, not the uniquely American “fusionist” philosophy of the Reagan era that we grew up knowing as “conservatism.” And the philosophy of Bernie Sanders and the like (and I’m not sure that Biden, in the end, will be able to stand against it) is also that of the European left. We are all “Europeans” now, it seems.

Howard Ahmanson is a philanthropist living in Orange County, California, and a member of TAC‘s board of directors.

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Donald Devine

The election is a simple choice for this conservative. If Joe Biden wins and the Senate is controlled by Democrats, the Biden/Sanders manifesto and its political emanations promise to: 1) pack the Supreme Court by adding the necessary number of justices to impose woke culture as constitutional law, 2) increase the number of senators by four to assure its legislative control forever, 3) eliminate extended Senate debate on controversial items usually requiring super-majorities, and 4) break the bank on spending and debt to turn the U.S. permanently into a third world nation. Changing the basic structure of the government is a radical program and requires ignoring the niceties and casting a party-line vote—and then working to fix the rest.

Donald Devine is senior scholar at The Fund for American Studies

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Gene Callahan

I’ve been traveling through the rural northeast frequently the last two months. One constant, everywhere I’ve gone: the struggling farms and trailer parks out in the country have Trump signs in the yard. The million dollar Victorians in town have Biden signs. This has nothing to do with race: Cooperstown, NY is over 96% white, and filled with Biden signs. Meanwhile, a Puerto Rican friend in Brooklyn was complaining to me that all of his relatives in the Catskill Mountains support Trump.

Maybe the poor Trump supporters are stupid, and voting against their class interests. But, then, the wealthy Biden supporters must be voting against their class interests as well, right? Or maybe, in this case, we can apply some elementary Marxist analysis, and ask if the anti-Trump hysteria amongst the upper-middle class is the “ideological superstructure” that modestly conceals what would be an embarrassment if left naked: the upper-middle class benefits from moving manufacturing to China, as they get cheaper electronics and rising 401-Ks. They benefit from mass immigration since they can hire low-wage, easily exploitable nannies and gardeners, with no need for fussy withholding tax paperwork. And Trump is threatening those “perks.” Meanwhile, the lower-middle class loses their jobs to Chinese slave labor and illegal immigrants who work below minimum wage and without benefits.

In other words, maybe the rural poor and the rural rich each understand their class interests just fine, and are choosing who to support accordingly.

Gene Callahan is the author of Economics for Real People and Oakeshott on Rome and America

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Tony Woodlief

In 33 years of eligibility I have never once voted for a politician, and I damn sure don’t intend to start now. I have, however, voted against a murderer’s row of charlatans, chickenhawks, and molesters in my years. I believe there is something deeply American about standing athwart history with two middle fingers raised.

I recommend you vote early, but not so early that some weasel has time to hack the system, invalidate your record, and schedule your ballot for harvesting by one of Eric Holder’s “get-out-the-vote” crime syndicates. As you approach, you’ll be offered a variety of literature. Decline anything from candidates with a fighting chance. Instead, find that poor shivering soul clutching pamphlets extolling the American Federalism Party, the Veganism Now Party, or anything that sounds like its website is a MySpace page. Gently receive the tender loon’s offering and pretend to scrutinize it on your way into the polls. Enjoy how confusion ripples the placid faces of the major-party henchmen.

As for your vote, I can’t tell you how to access that unique well of hatred that makes you you, but I’ll describe my method. Years ago my friend Bill, an Army officer and fellow grad student, hosted our department for a cookout. While everyone was happy to eat his food and drink his beer, most of our colleagues despised Bill’s beliefs. One of them—call her Jane—took Bill’s small children aside, taught them a left-wing chant, then led them, her eyes glittering with hateful glee, on a little protest march through the gathering. Ever since that day, I’ve found voting to be a snap. I simply identify the candidate most likely to embody Jane’s hopes for America, and I vote against that son of a bitch with everything I’ve got.

Tony Woodlief is a writer who lives in North Carolina.

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Gerald Russello

When I participated in this symposium in 2016, I argued that given our choices, not voting was a perfectly reasonable decision. For 2020 I still think that is the case. 

I know many conservatives will disagree. Trump’s election did halt the smug elitism chomping to surge forth from Brooklyn and overwhelm the country, and it shook some of the unquestioned nostrums of the ruling class. He has had some clear successes: judges, no new wars, a good criminal reform bill. And it did allow a brief moment of reflection; remember all those mainstream reporters being sent to the “real” America? But it has not lasted. The left has doubled down in a way that is by turns unsurprising, concerning, and frightening. The net result has been an even stricter left wing orthodoxy.

It was the Republicans who missed an opportunity—but they missed it years ago. The fruits are now clear. The media, entertainers, corporate commissars, human-resources consultants and assistant deans who run the country grew up in educational and cultural institutions conservatives largely abandoned. When given a chance—admittedly under a deeply flawed leader—there were not enough troops or ideas available. Most of the conservative establishment is still too tied into the libertarian/hyperpower fantasy to see that the foreign policy establishment and big business want nothing to do with them. There was too little outreach to minorities when it could have made a difference. Trump has been unable to control the deep state to the degree needed. 

The nation is undergoing a great awakening—many of those suburban progressives and woke warriors are embracing a religion, not a set of political positions. And only an equivalently strong belief system can provide an alternative. Because of that I fear there will be a lot of burnt-over country in the future no matter who wins the election.

Gerald Russello is editor of the University Bookman.

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George Liebmann

Means are more important than ends in the politics of free countries. As a bookseller’s son I had no difficulty in the last election in deciding that I would not vote for Donald Trump. I supported Johnson.

Trump identified concerns: opposing “liberal imperialism” and its attendant refugee flows abroad; realizing that America’s lack of a rebatable VAT tax rendered trade agreements disadvantageous; facing fear, manifest in the 1850s and 1920s of too-sudden immigration; and curbing Supreme Court usurpations.

 His deregulatory and tax initiatives produced economic benefits, including unappreciated relief for the poor through expansion of the standard deduction and tax credits. The Democrats offered Red-baiting without Reds, sexual license, delay of coronavirus relief measures, partisan impeachment, and over-exploitation of race. The New York Times has done as much to debase discourse as Mr. Trump. 

But there is no more benefit that can be derived from another Trump victory. He has been undone by Caesarism. From exaggerated inaugural crowds, exclusion of persons with valid passports, efforts to extract from the F.B.I. director the personal oath of Hitler’s generals, the Roger Stone pardon, concealment of tax returns, failure to adhere to debate rules, and impugning of the election’s outcome, it is clear that Suetonius’s Lives of the Twelve Caesars provides a better guide than the Federalist Papers to the course of a second Trump administration.

Trump was right that some of the Charlottesville demonstrators, like George Orwell and President Macron of France, thought it wrong to destroy public monuments, and in seeking to regularize relations with Russia, one of Franklin Roosevelt’s “five policemen” of world order.

Democratic extremists will be no more successful than FDR in “packing” the Supreme Court. There is growing “liberal” appreciation of the benefits of federalism in law enforcement, and opposition to the closing of schools and “defunding the police.” Biden may foster needed youth employment programs, reforestation and flood control, and tax changes to curb enormous fortunes.

There is one overriding issue. We cannot have an unstable president whose thoughts have now turned to encouragement of armed paramilitary groups to reinforce his political position, telling them to “stand by.” Those two little words should doom the Trump presidency in the minds of all responsible Republicans.

George Liebmann, a Baltimore lawyer, is the author of numerous works on politics and history, most recently America’s Political Inventors (Bloomsbury, 2019)

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Terry Schilling

There are a lot of policy reasons to vote for Donald Trump over Joe Biden, but there is a fundamental difference between them that runs far deeper than policy.

Donald Trump believes America is good. Joe Biden is controlled by a group of people who believe America is evil and irredeemable, that America has oppression and tyranny in its very DNA, and that it must be fundamentally transformed. If you hate America, you’re definitely voting for Joe Biden. He’s your guy.

This presents an easy binary choice. I love America. So I’m voting for Donald Trump. He’s the only candidate who will actually stand up for parents and empower them to raise their children against the evil forces in our broader culture. He’s the only candidate who will let us practice our religion publicly and freely. And he’s the only candidate who loves America and what she stands for—liberty, justice, and equal treatment under the law. He deserves our vote.

Terry Schilling is the executive director at American Principles Project.

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Declan Leary

This will be my first chance to vote in a presidential election (I had just turned 17 in 2016), and I’ll be casting my lot for Kanye West. 

I vote in my home state of Massachusetts, which the Democratic Party holds locked in a death grip. That was all well and good when fine men like James Curley and Bill Bulger held sway over the state party, but the expulsion of conservatives and populists from the halls of Democratic power (together with the complete, deserved irrelevance of the MA GOP) has left anybody with a brain in the state without a home in its politics.

Trump is not without his virtues. Were I a citizen of a state where he had a chance, I would vote for him without much hesitation. But the fact that my vote counts even less than everybody else’s allows me to dwell, without remorse, on the negatives.

Despite lip service for the pro-life cause, federal funding for Planned Parenthood has increased since his election, and few serious steps have been taken toward reform, to say nothing of abolition. The conservative line on marriage has simply been erased, and the LGBT agenda holds almost as much sway in the Republican Party as the Democratic.

These are some of the problems Trump has actively accelerated, but the list of problems he has simply ignored is endless. The GOP has bought the progressive line on birth control hook, line, and sinker. Nobody has talked about land reform since, like, 1877. God has been banished from our schools, our government—and our churches before long. Even after the Trumpian realignment, neither side seems particularly interested in fixing any of these things.

While the bipartisan consensus continues to leave conservatives behind, one candidate, and one candidate alone, has voiced his concern for these vital and forgotten causes. In 2020 I can ask, without a hint of irony: Who better than Kanye West?

Declan Leary is the Collegiate Network Fellow at The American Conservative.

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