- The American Conservative - https://www.theamericanconservative.com -

The American Conservative Presidential Symposium

A good magazine presents a robust discussion of the national life, and The American Conservative has aimed since the beginning to show that conservatism cannot be reduced to a checklist or mere partisan formula. To that end, we have always encouraged a wide-ranging examination of the choices our political system offers—and fails to offer.

This symposium is not an endorsement and is not necessarily representative of TAC‘s editors or contributors a whole: rather, it’s a collection of viewpoints that encourage readers to examine the election from different angles and draw their own conclusions about Hillary Clinton, Donald J. Trump, Gary Johnson, Evan McMullin, Jill Stein, and other choices confronting America on Nov. 8.

Helen Andrews [1] Daniel Larison [2]
W. James Antle III [3] Chase Madar [4]
Andrew J. Bacevich [5] Thomas Mallon [6]
Gene Callahan [7] Daniel McCarthy [8]
Donald Devine [9] Scott McConnell [10]
Rod Dreher [11] Noah Millman [12]
Bruce Fein [13] Daniel Oliver [14]
Michael Fumento [15] Gracy Olmstead [16]
Philip Giraldi [17] Gerald J. Russello [18]
Paul Gottfried [19] Jason Sorens [20]
Leon Hadar [21] Michael Tracey [22]
Jack Hunter [23] Eve Tushnet [24]
Carol Iannone [25] Robert VerBruggen [26]

Helen Andrews

Here in Australia, conservatives thought the Tea Party was the second coming of Mosley’s Blackshirts, so you can imagine what they think of Donald Trump.

Their outsider’s perspective on American politics has a kind of purity to it, in that it is determined entirely by a hormonal instinct for which opinions carry high status. And who can blame them? Australians pay a social penalty for endorsing conservative positions in their own country’s politics, and disowning unfashionable figures in a foreign country replenishes their capital at no cost to themselves.

Americans who have been well-served by globalism are in the same position. On the benefit side, voting for Hillary brings them self-esteem and the esteem of their peers. On the cost side, they stand as much chance of being hurt by low-skilled immigration or cop-bashing as a Byron Bay yoga mum.

Self-interest of a more material kind motivates two categories of Clinton supporters. The first comprises the clients of our national patronage machine, a group that already includes an alarmingly high proportion of the electorate and will come to include a permanent majority if programs like free college tuition get through. (Boss Tweed would blush with envy.) The second is made up of the #NeverTrump professional conservatives who have noticed that if Hillary wins, they still have a job tomorrow, whereas if Trump wins, they don’t.

I will confess my own self-interest in this election: I would like to have an America to move back to. When I read about an opera company in Perth canceling a production of Carmen because its setting was perceived as pro-tobacco [27], or a Queensland college student sued for six figures over an innocuous Facebook post mischaracterized as hate speech [28], I tell myself it could never happen in America. That is precisely what sets America apart from superficially similar Anglosphere countries like Australia. They are all free countries, but from experience I can tell you, America is freer.

Voting for Donald Trump is a way of saying: let’s keep it that way.


Helen Andrews is an American living in Australia who has worked as an editor and a think-tank researcher.

Back to top [29]

W. James Antle III

When Bill Weld became governor of Massachusetts in 1991, I wrote a series of essays comparing his election to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Democrats in the state legislature, led by gangster Whitey Bulger’s [30] brother Billy, were the communist hard-liners.

This was the pre-C.J. Pearson era [31], so thankfully nobody published these essays. Five years later, I went third party rather than vote for Weld for Senate after he said something unflattering about Clarence Thomas.

I never thought I would have occasion to vote for Weld again. But I will be voting for Weld for vice president and Gary Johnson for president on the Libertarian Party ticket come November 8.

Not that Johnson seems to want my vote. He has failed to offer any meaningful concessions to social conservatives in a rare election where millions of our votes were actually up for grabs. In his zeal to ensure that nobody is denied the cake of their choice from their local religious baker, he has also made a hash of libertarian principles.

Johnson has bought into Weld’s view that there is a huge audience for fiscal conservatism unencumbered by social conservatives, even if Donald Trump’s success in the Republican primaries suggests the opposite. Johnson wants moderates and Bernie bros [32] more than he wants disaffected conservatives.

I arrived at Johnson-Weld by process of elimination. Hillary Clinton is offering all the war and welfare our devalued currency can buy. I don’t trust Trump, a man who slandered [33] Pat Buchanan (Pat has generously forgiven him) and would be advised by Chris Christie and Rudy Giuliani, to make the GOP less neoconservative. Nor would I be proud to tell women I voted for him.

Darrell Castle will receive such a small number of votes that casting my ballot for him accomplishes little a write-in wouldn’t; as conservative disaffection with the GOP has grown, the Constitution Party has shrunk. Jill Stein is no Ralph Nader. Evan McMullin is as much a protest against what’s good about Trump as what’s bad, promising to return conservatism to its glory days under George W. Bush. No thanks.

McMullin is nevertheless doing the job Johnson wouldn’t do. Still, Johnson will get enough votes to be noticed but not so many he helps Clinton—the upside of his outreach to the left is that he will actually take some votes from her. Those votes will still mostly be interpreted as votes for less government and as dissent from the right, despite Johnson’s best efforts.

But I’m old enough now not to confuse Johnson-Weld with a world-historical event.

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

Back to top [29]

Andrew J. Bacevich

I am unwilling to vote for either of the two major-party candidates, viewing the one as utterly unacceptable and the other as quite undesirable. So I will cast my ballot in favor of one of the “third party” candidates. Doing so allows me to perform my civic duty while also expressing my dissatisfaction with a political process that presents us with such lousy choices. In a practical sense, it’s a completely meaningless gesture, of course. But I choose to see it as the path of honor.

Andrew Bacevich is the author, most recently, of America’s War for the Greater Middle East: A Military History [34].

Back to top [29]

Gene Callahan

November 8, my vote is for Jill Stein … but only because I live in New York, a state that is already decided.

Deciding who gets my vote to has been a long and difficult process. Early on, I determined that there is no issue more important than ramping back the aggressiveness of U.S. foreign policy: our policies have been wrecking the lives of millions in Iraq, Libya, Syria, Yemen, etc., and produce blowback here in America. So my first choice was Bernie Sanders, who seemed the most sane candidate on foreign policy who might also have a chance to win. (I disagreed with Sanders on many other matters, but priorities are priorities.)

When it became clear Sanders was going to lose, I watched Donald Trump’s campaign closely, as it appeared he might be the second least hawkish choice. Since Trump is always throwing up trial balloons to see how they play with voters, it was hard to get a good sense of what foreign-policy approach he would take. So I decided that my choice would hinge on his VP pick: if he chose a typical Republican hawk, I would have to look elsewhere.

And as Pence appeared to be, indeed, a typical Republican hawk, I looked at Johnson and Stein. Of the two, only Stein was consistently anti-interventionist, and so I decided that she is my candidate.

All that being said, if my state were in play, my decision would be different: Hillary Clinton has run the ugliest political campaign of my adult life, demonizing much of the American electorate as “deplorables” and inciting her supporters to bully anyone supporting Trump, sometimes violently assaulting Trump voters, sometimes destroying their property, and sometimes trying to deny them their livelihoods. It is essential we punish these bullying tactics, and to do so, if I were in a swing state, I would switch my vote to Trump.

Gene Callahan teaches economics and computer science at St. Joseph’s College in Brooklyn and is the author of Oakeshott on Rome and America [35].

Back to top [29]

Donald Devine

Upon what standard should a conservative vote this November?

Fortuitously, I was recently reading one of the founders of the modern movement, Frank Meyer, who offered this principle for the 1960 election: “Should not the primary aim of conservatives be to consolidate and strengthen a conservative movement directed towards the recovery of the United States from control by liberal ideologues?”

Under that standard, the fact that Donald Trump is driving the nation’s cultural elite crazy with his attacks on political correctness is reason enough to vote for him. He undermines its overwhelming power over the national mind by his very existence.

The dilemma is that if one does not support the comic, he is stuck with the one who personifies the cultural blob. She might deep down be more conservative in some ways than Trump, but Hillary Clinton will be pushed far left by her mass and media base, especially if Democrats take both houses of Congress, which is quite likely in a landslide.

With the presidency and Congress, she could easily plunge the country into bankruptcy. And double that for the culture. Her foreign-policy romanticism and need to prove her toughness make her more likely to get into unnecessary wars.

Clinton is absolutely certain to move the country further into the social and economic void, while The Donald could do anything, offering some room for conservative maneuver.

He will not fix insolvent Social Security, Medicare, and other entitlements. He supports protectionism for his fellow crony capitalists. He is from a different planet than social conservatives, and originalist judges are more hope than promise. He says America First but also hits major powers like China and neighbors like Mexico. After Barack Obama’s generous use of the presidential “pen and phone,” it is improbable Trump will not continue building executive power.

If elected, Trump will not be conservative, but he will not be a puppet of the liberal monolith either. The best one could expect would be some rearguard blocking from the House, outside pressure by serious conservatives, and some base upon which to rebuild.

Donald Devine is a senior scholar at the Fund for American Studies, the author of America’s Way Back: Reclaiming Freedom, Tradition, and Constitution [36], and was Ronald Reagan’s director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management during his first term.

Back to top [29]

Rod Dreher

For the third presidential election in a row, I am withholding my vote. But this time, I emphatically mean it.

I trust that I do not have to explain why I cannot vote for Hillary Clinton. There are a thousand reasons, none more important to me than the Supreme Court, especially with regard to religious liberty. There is no third party on my state’s ballot whose candidates I can support.

So why not Trump? To his credit, Trump raised issues of trade and war that the GOP establishment would not have confronted if he hadn’t grabbed it by the scruff of its flabby neck and rubbed its nose in them. Trump has all but destroyed the Republican Party, and boy, did the GOP have it coming. “A state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservation,” said Burke. So too a political party.

The problem is Trump’s character. I don’t mind that he breaks with GOP orthodoxy on trade and foreign policy. My conservative convictions are primarily social and religious—and Trump would be an unmitigated disaster on that front. He is a narcissist with no self-restraint and is to traditional conservatism what France is to rock ’n’ roll. More to the point, his thin skin and his recklessness would put the nation at greater danger for war and economic instability than would the abominable Clinton. That risk is not worth the possibility of better Supreme Court nominations. Besides, if my support for the Iraq War taught me anything, it’s the danger of backing a politician to send a message to people I can’t stand.

Yes, I’ll still vote Republican down-ballot, but no matter who wins the presidency in November, America loses. Therefore, I choose to cease shoring up the imperium, and instead to focus on constructing local community by practicing the anti-political politics of the Benedict Option. It’s a localist, Christian politics committed to strengthening current institutions and creating new ones that give traditionalists the resilience to endure the tough times ahead.

The culture war is over, and my side lost. We are living in occupied territory. The long resistance we must carry out will not start in the Imperial City.     

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative and author of the forthcoming The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation [37].

Back to top [29]

Bruce Fein

The United States is at the precipice of total self-ruination. The crippling of liberty and benumbing government lawlessness have beset us for decades. The cause is our extra-constitutional foreign policy of perpetual, global presidential wars in a juvenile quest for world domination.

That foreign policy is fueled by a lavish multi-trillion-dollar military-industrial-counterterrorism complex against which President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned over 50 years ago. It has saddled the nation with a staggering, climbing $20 trillion debt and hijacked the nation’s genius and talents from production to killing, at huge cost to prosperity.

The cure for our self-ruination is the Constitution’s foreign policy of invincible self-defense in which only Congress can cross the Rubicon from peace to war. It has done so only five times in 227 years, and only in response to an actual or perceived attack against the United States itself. (A treaty ratified by the Senate cannot substitute for a declaration, which requires the concurrence of both legislative chambers.)

That is why I will cast my 2016 presidential vote for Gary Johnson.

Among all the candidates, only he has exhibited hints of understanding that the glory of the United States is liberty, not the global projection of force; that our salvation lies in the Constitution and due process, not limitless executive power to play judge, jury, prosecutor, and executioner—i.e., to kill any person the president decrees is endangering national security based on secret, unsubstantiated evidence; that the citizens’ right to be left alone from government snooping is the most cherished right amongst civilized peoples, one that should never be disturbed without a judicial warrant based on probable cause; and that our endless gratuitous presidential wars abroad are making us less safe by awakening enemies who would otherwise be diverted by internecine convulsions.

Only Mr. Johnson will keep us out of war with China over the South China Sea.

Bruce Fein is a constitutional lawyer and a founding partner at Fein & Delvalle PLLC.

Back to top [29]

Michael Fumento

That lever in the voting booth for presidential candidates? I’m not pulling it this year.

If I’m going to vote I want a choice—you know, like a democracy. What I see this year is not just a harbinger of the end of American democracy but rather evidence that it’s already here.

Democratic voters were actually offered only one Democrat, along with a self-declared socialist who presented no realistic competition. Then the party rigged the primaries against him anyway. GOP voters got plenty of candidates, so many that Trump’s opponents split their votes, saddling Republicans with a nominee most of them never wanted.

To my mind the last “presidential” president (although I didn’t like him at the time) was Bush the elder. Since then we’ve had three incredible losers—except in the literal sense. Each was elected and then reelected. Yes, I know that since the last of the founding fathers, lousy presidents have perhaps been more the rule than the exception. But we seem to have entered a phase where the system filters out candidates of genuine stature and competence. The cream sinks to the bottom. We have now endured 24 years of incompetence with at least four more to come.

Is this a drought or a permanently changed weather pattern? Are we getting worse politicians, or has the electorate changed? I’d say both. An oligarchy/plutocracy presents the limited slate, but the voters do choose from among them.

And lately, voters have been scared, seeing both economic and social decline and looking for a grand-slam batter rather than one who simply gets on base consistently. Someone who can reverse a half-century of slowing GDP growth single-handedly. That no president can do—but a dictator might. Hence the appeal of Trump’s promise to “Make America great again.” Hence the willingness to support such a stark authoritarian with the accompanying loss of freedom, as we did 15 years ago with the “Patriot Act” to fight the “War on Terror.”

With a most heavy heart and a desperate desire to be proved wrong, I believe that all too soon even the pretense of democracy in America will disappear.

Michael Fumento is an attorney, author, journalist, and former paratrooper who covered the Iraq and Afghanistan wars from the ground.

Back to top [29]

Philip Giraldi

I will be voting for Donald Trump on November 8 even though I abhor his comments about Muslims and cringe over his tendency to shoot his mouth off regarding problems that he clearly does not understand. I am doing so because there are two major issues that particularly concern me. They are war versus peace and what to do about illegal immigration, which I believe is changing the culture of our country and not for the better.

On both of those issues Trump has been consistent. He would respect Russia’s Vladimir Putin and deal with him fairly in an effort to avoid conflict. As Russia is the only country in the world that could plausibly destroy the United States, that is the correct policy. On immigration, Trump would take the necessary steps to control our borders and enforce immigration law. He would also begin the process of repatriating those who are here illegally. If we are truly a country where the rule of law operates, that is the right thing to do.

Hillary Clinton is on the wrong side of both issues. She is surrounded by neocons who have defected from the GOP, and she has been threatening Russia over Syria and Ukraine while ignoring the fact that such provocations could lead to nuclear war. She has also threatened to ring nuclear-armed China with missiles. Domestically, she is promising amnesty for the illegals who are already here and would presumably follow the Obama precedent of selective enforcement of immigration laws, both rooted in what appears to be a cynical intention to create a Hispanic voting bloc loyal to the Democratic Party.

I also support Trump because he has been a richly deserved wrecking ball on the Republican Party establishment. The corrupt and largely ineffective GOP leadership has abandoned virtually every conservative principle that the party once stood for. It has embraced unending war, has surrendered regarding illegal immigration, has ceded the moral high ground on social issues, and has abjectly failed to protect American workers and the U.S. economy against globalism.

Philip Giraldi, a former CIA officer, is executive director of the Council for the National Interest.

Back to top [29]

Paul Gottfried

Despite the fact that I helped launch a declaration of support for Trump from scholars (broadly understood), I’ve always regarded myself as a hesitant supporter of my candidate. I was initially a backer of Rand Paul, but when I saw that candidate and his campaign fading, I went over to Trump. (By then he had become the head of a much-needed insurgency against the GOP establishment.) I’m painfully aware of the Donald’s lack of discipline and staggering verbal ineptitude and have written articles about these worrisome problems. My fellow Trump supporters complain about my lack of enthusiasm for theirourcandidate, to which I respond that it’s my utter loathing for his opponent and for those neocons who have defected to her that keep me chained to his side.

I do have political hopes—for example, getting rid of government social engineering pursued under the banner of fighting discrimination, controlling our borders more effectively than either national party has been willing to do, and ending our crusade to impose our “democratic values” on those who don’t care to have them. I doubt that Trump will deliver the full package if elected, but I’m sure he’ll do a lot more than Hill to bring us closer to my goals. He’ll make some effort to protect our borders and get rid of felonious illegal residents. He may also mean what he says when he promises to try to cultivate better relations with the Russian government. But whatever Trump does in foreign relations can’t be any worse than what I expect from a Hillary presidency, particularly if the angry, righteous lady in the pantsuit surrounds herself with the likes of Robert Kagan, Bret Stephens, Max Boot, and Bill Kristol.

And, oh yes, unlike recent Republican presidential candidates, Trump looks like he’s interested in winning. He may sound crude and impulsive, but unlike Mitt and McCain, he delights in being confrontational with the Democratic smear artists and their lackey press.

Paul Gottfried is the author of Leo Strauss and the American Conservative Movement [38].

Back to top [29]

Leon Hadar

Maryland is going to vote for Hillary Clinton, and since I assumed that my vote in this state wasn’t going to have any impact on the outcome of the presidential race, I initially considered casting my ballot for the Libertarian Party candidate, Gary Johnson. But his performance during the campaign failed to impress me, not to mention my growing differences with the libertarians on issues like immigration and trade.

Indeed, I believe that when it comes to immigration, trade, and foreign policy, the globalist agenda promoted by the two major political parties has harmed U.S. strategic and economic interests and benefited mostly the political and economic elites—who hope to maintain the status quo by getting Clinton elected.

I do think that advancing economic and political liberalism is important as a way of preserving individual identity and providing humans with wings to fly. But humans also want to belong to a group, to maintain a sense of collective identity, to have roots in the past. When these two colliding needs are not in balance, a political backlash to achieve new equilibrium is inevitable.

Trumpism as a movement represents this political backlash and an attempt to achieve this new equilibrium. As I wrote previously [39], I hope that Trumpism can evolve into “a new and inclusive political movement along the lines of a New Nationalism, an American Gaullism, or a modified version of globalism that places the national interest at its center.” A new nationalism that would not be based on racial identity, but reflect American historical and cultural identity, would have to be “more communitarian than libertarian in its general approach, more Hamiltonian than Jeffersonian on economic policy, and more Nixonian than Cheneyan on foreign policy.”

Donald Trump probably gets all of this, which explains why he won the Republican presidential nomination and has a chance of winning the general election. And his victory would clearly deliver a blow to the Washington establishment and open the door to political and economic change along the lines I described.

While I don’t believe that Trump is a racist, a nativist, or even a misogynist, I have been appalled by his occasional personal misbehavior and by some of the comments he has made. I would have preferred to see a highly educated and articulate gentleman occupying the White House. But facing the choice between Trump and his Democratic opponent, I plan to vote for him on November 8.

Leon Hadar is a senior analyst with Wikistrat, a geo-strategic consulting firm, and teaches international relations at the University of Maryland, College Park.

Back to top [29]

Jack Hunter

The incomparable awfulness of the 2016 election was supposed to be a breakout moment for the Libertarian Party. The combined factors of Hillary Clinton being one of the weakest and most disliked major party candidates in history and Donald Trump turning the Republican Party on its head in the most polarizing fashion imaginable ensured that far more voters than usual would be desperate for alternatives.

On paper, Gary Johnson and William Weld looked like a great ticket—both former Republican two-term governors from blue states who might give the LP credibility [40] and, hopefully, formidability. While I still believe the most obvious and politically serious vehicle for libertarian ideas is the Republican Party, a healthy LP could aid those efforts, and it might be beneficial for the liberty message to be broadcast by someone in the general election.

But the spectacular, high-profile education campaign many expected the Libertarians to deliver never materialized. The fault lies with Johnson, who after too many [41] missteps proved he was not up to this messaging task. Even he has admitted [42] as much.

Still, if I agree with Clinton on two or three issues, and with Trump on maybe a half dozen, I still agree [43] with Johnson-Weld on probably [44] 50 or more. As a libertarian conservative who disagrees vehemently with the LP ticket on abortion [45] and religious liberty [46], the Libertarians are still the clear choice [47] and will have my vote.

But I’m cognizant of these policy distinctions only because I’m intimately familiar with what Libertarians stand for. Most Americans aren’t aware. It was up to Johnson-Weld to make voters understand that they stood for less government, less war, and more tolerance [48], in stark contrast to what the two major parties were offering in 2016. Unfortunately, for them and libertarians, that never happened [49].

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

Back to top [29]

Carol Iannone

This election is different from all others. The Republican candidate has had to endure not only the variegated leftist bias emanating from our media and elites but also vociferous opposition from a cohort of Republicans and conservatives.

Democracy is self-government. We cannot shirk our duty to take the best option under the circumstances and to prevent the worst—a continuation of the Obama years via Hillary Clinton, wedded to a program of taxation, regulation, redistribution, and enforced group equality, all of it “by any means necessary.” And make no mistake, anything other than a vote for Trump is a vote for her.

Trump is willing to cut through the stultifying smog of political correctness that has been choking off free discourse in our time, speak of American greatness, and act out of the enlightened self-interest in which the Founders believed.

The Democrats no longer even pretend to respect the rule of law, as they showed in their one-party machinations in passing Obamacare. For their part, the Republicans have been unable or unwilling to stop a president determined to go beyond his constitutional powers to advance the agenda of the authoritarian left. Our renowned checks and balances are not working.

At one time neoconservatives had all the right answers—on facing down Communism, on the need for greater market freedom, on the excesses of the welfare state and its spiritual costs. But then they started getting it all wrong.

Trump has seen that mass immigration, free trade, and the democracy project, all of which may have admirable aspects, need rethinking in light of what history is teaching us. Immigration has harmed many workers. Free trade has drained away jobs. All men may desire freedom, but not all cultures are prepared for it, as we saw in Iraq.

The middle-class culture and sensibility that supports liberal self-government is eroding. Multiculturalism is undercutting individual rights and individual responsibility. We are becoming a nation of group rights, with a fictive Marxist overlay of an oppressive dominant class purportedly suppressing the downtrodden minorities.

Trump is not the final answer for our brokenness, just the better answer today. We’ve had the Square Deal, the New Deal, the Fair Deal, and now we can get a better deal. And that’s a great deal for now.

Carol Iannone writes on literature and culture for a variety of publications.

Back to top [29]

Daniel Larison

Traditional conservatives have almost no good choice in the presidential election this year. However, there is one party whose ticket most closely represents what I believe, and that is the American Solidarity Party, which is running Michael Maturen and Juan Muñoz. The Solidarity Party comes out of a tradition of Christian democratic and populist politics, and the party platform emphasizes a consistent pro-life ethic and a commitment to subsidiarity.  

The Solidarity Party opposes military action that violates just-war principles and holds that “a less aggressive foreign policy will reduce the threat of terrorism within our borders.” They reject the use of torture, they favor closing most U.S. military bases overseas, and they call for the repeal of the Patriot Act. They offer a platform that is socially conservative and economically populist in other matters, but one that is also arguably more libertarian in its foreign-policy and national-security positions than the Libertarian ticket.

The Republican nominee can’t be trusted to do anything he says, and the Democratic nominee represents most of what is wrong with our current political class. Even if that weren’t the case, I have never cast a vote for a major-party nominee, and I see no reason to do so this time. Since I happen to live in a state (Pennsylvania) that accepts the Solidarity Party ticket as official write-in candidates, I have the opportunity to vote for the party that most closely aligns with my views. I’ll be writing in Michael Maturen and Juan Muñoz on Election Day.

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at The American Conservative.

Back to top [29]

Chase Madar

One of the few constants of Hillary Clinton, in all likelihood our next president, is a militarized response to any foreign-policy problem. What are the chances of antiwar Trumpistas and Berniebros pushing her administration into more pacific statecraft, perhaps even out of the seven (at last count) countries where we are now waging war? Me, I’m optimistic.

It’s true that the surprisingly vigorous primaries in both major parties were fueled, as ever, by domestic concerns. But there were contrasts in foreign policy too. Trump roundly condemned the Iraq invasion—a major violation of GOP etiquette—and (falsely) claimed to have been against that war from the beginning. Trump is also more pacific than Hillary on the Ukraine crisis.

How much do Trump’s dove noises mean? Not a lot: George W. Bush, after all, campaigned on a “more humble” foreign policy and disavowed nation-building. I expect Trump, given his erratic and authoritarian personality and style, would be even more of a war risk than Hillary. But his attacks on Hillary’s knee-jerk hawkishness, however contradictory and opportunistic, are at least putting the message out in the conservative-populist precincts of the public sphere, where they have already gained traction, for instance in the #DraftOurDaughters meme blasting Hillary as a warmonger.

As for Bernie, though he voted against the Iraq War, he is hardly a bold voice for peace, as seen in his support for the Libyan war, drone assassination, the Afghan war, and ongoing patronage of Egypt, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. Even so, his overall foreign-policy position—essentially the same as Obama’s—is significantly less militaristic than Hillary’s. In the debates, Bernie condemned Henry Kissinger, called for the normalization of diplomatic relations with Iran, and spoke of Palestinians as human beings. Bernie’s followers tend to be dovish, but they are animated mainly by a social-democratic agenda at home, to which they correctly see Hillary Clinton as a major obstacle. This preexisting hostility to Madame President is easily convertible into opposition to her next act of war, whether a no-fly zone with expanded airstrikes in Syria or armed escalation in Ukraine. Clinton, who represents anything but fresh hope and new ideas, is not going to get the same honeymoon from progressives that Obama enjoyed (and abused).

All right, smart guy, so whom are you voting for? I’m in deep-blue New York, so it doesn’t matter, but if I were voting in my native Ohio, I’d hold my nose and choose Clinton, whom I see as a more manageable problem than Trump. I am genuinely looking forward to a broad antiwar coalition constricting Hillary’s pro-war reflexes, a coalition that is more than a little deplorable. Do the liberal hawks and neocons clustered around Hillary know what a rough ride they’re in for?

Chase Madar is an attorney in New York and the author of The Passion of Bradley Manning: The Story Behind the Wikileaks Whistleblower [50].

Back to top [29]

Thomas Mallon

I intend to cast a write-in ballot, which will somehow both remove me from and allow me to participate in a competition between corruption (her) and monstrous absurdity (him).

A friend has suggested that I write in George H.W. Bush, a fine old fellow and a quite solid president. I didn’t think this possible until the friend reminded me that GHWB, having served only one term, is not prohibited from running for another by the 22nd amendment. Alas, whatever pleasure I took in the thought of writing in Bush’s name was quickly snuffed by the realization that this means Jimmy Carter also remains eligible for a second stint in the White House.

My current plan is to enjoy casting my first presidential vote for a woman. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has been strong and clear-headed in her denunciation of Trump. She calls him, with accurate economy, “cruel.” She is a bit more liberal than I am on one issue or another, but she is an excellent public servant, and I could leave the voting booth with my head high after writing in her name.

If Trump wins, I’ll be down at the Board of Elections the following morning to withdraw my registration as a Republican. If he loses, I hope that every Republican who supported him and inflicted this nightmare upon us will engage in shame and soul-searching. If the Republican Party undergoes a rebirth into something morally and intellectually sound, that will be grand. If it fails to do so, then let it, as the first Republican President said, perish from the earth.

Thomas Mallon, a novelist, essayist, and critic, is the author of, most recently, Finale: A Novel of the Reagan Years [51].

Back to top [29]

Daniel McCarthy

Twenty-five years ago, America’s leaders made a catastrophic decision. As the USSR dissolved, they continued to pursue the creation of a world systema global order of democratic liberalism policed by U.S. military power. During the Cold War, the realities of the superpower conflict checked the ideological excesses of liberals and democracy-promoters. That was true with respect to their ambitions abroadmost Americans did not imagine the whole world would become like us; the thing was to prevent it from becoming like the Sovietsand also of their domestic objectives. America had to remain strong as a nation-state, economically and culturally, to resist not just Soviet military might but also the allure of the socialist ideal.

Once the Soviets were out of the way, however, our liberal elite was released from its constraints: they were free not only to remake the world in their image but to remake Americans as well. For two decades, Republicans and Democrats, Clintons and Bushes alike, waged wars and employed all the soft and hard power at Washington’s disposal to transform everyone everywhere, from Moscow to Moscow, Idaho. For a while, ordinary Americans believed their leaders’ promises: the new global order would mean endless prosperity and a safer world.

But it was all a self-serving lie by a self-deluded ruling clique. The 9/11 attacks, the Afghan and Iraq wars, massacres in Europe, and perpetual chaos in the Middle East proved that globalism does not mean a world at peace. The Great Recession discredited the dream of perpetual growth. And all the while, the nation’s cultural cohesion frayed, as citizenship became less important than playing the role assigned by Washington and Wall Street.

Donald Trump represents a rejection of the path America’s leaders have followed for a quarter-century: a change in basic attitudes toward our role in the world and the relationship of citizens’ national interests to elites’ financial and ideological interests. Trump’s flaws are obvious, but those who fear that he’s too radical or authoritarian misjudge the danger: the system we presently have, unrestrained ideological left-liberalism, is radical and authoritarian in its unchecked excess, and if a force like Trump isn’t available to correct it, a more dangerous counterforce threatens to arise on the left or the right.

Trump and his ideas should not be unconstrained themselves, of course. But it’s clear where the constraints on him will come from: from the media, from business and financial elites, from the opposition party, and even from his own party. That’s if he wins. More likely he will lose; but the better he does, the stronger the rebuke to the bipartisan elite, and the greater the chance they will begin to restrain their ideological rapacity.

Daniel McCarthy is the editor of The American Conservative.

Back to top [29]

Scott McConnell

I will vote enthusiastically for Donald Trump. If I lived in a swing state, I might have to consider the real possibility that he wouldn’t be able to govern successfully. But I don’t. Meanwhile, the core elements of Trump’s campaign—support for immigration levels based on immigrants’ ability to assimilate and help the American economy; trade deals judged by a realistic weighing of their impact on American manufacturing; skepticism about military intervention (and opposition to the Iraq War); rejection of the exceedingly dangerous Beltway groupthink moving us toward confrontation with Russia—are as important as ever and ought to be primary concerns of the GOP going forward. The larger Trump’s vote, the more likely they will be.

Of course Trump has been a poor representative of Trumpism in numerous ways: his propensity to personalize issues; his failure to prepare for the personal attacks to which he was vulnerable; his failure to acquire or display much policy fluency; his penchant for crude “Jacksonian” hawkish statements. Nonetheless, Trump has achieved something truly historical. His primary victories exposed how disconnected was the Beltway conservative establishment, which opposes Trump on every one of his core concerns, from the broad majority of GOP voters. Because attacks on Trump’s person, rather than his policy positions, defined Hillary Clinton’s campaign, it seems that Democrats are none too confident that many of their voters aren’t latent Trumpians either. That’s an achievement to be celebrated and built upon.

I hope Trumpism and “the American Greatness agenda” find new, less flawed tribunes. For Donald Trump to have made it this far—against GOP, Democratic, and media establishments combined against him to a degree I’ve never witnessed in my lifetime—required levels of personal courage and self-confidence that are difficult to match. Because he shattered so many molds, those who follow in his footsteps won’t need to.

Scott McConnell is a founding editor of The American Conservative.

Back to top [29]

Noah Millman

When Donald Trump entered the primaries, I thought he was, if not quite a breath of fresh air, then a blast of gale-force wind that might finally force the GOP to repair its rickety house before something terrible happened to it. Instead the house collapsed, and The Donald is lord of the ruins.

Trump raised some absolutely essential issues in this campaign and exposed the emptiness of many political shibboleths. But he has not distinguished between those shibboleths deserving of scorn and the vital norms that underpin any democratic system. Moreover, he is manifestly unfit for the presidency and plainly has no actual plans to address most of the issues that he raised. I believe he would be a singularly disastrous president.

As for Hillary Clinton, I have never counted myself among her odiators. She is not very good at wholesale politics, and she wins no prizes as a manager. But on a retail level she can be quite effective—she was a very good Senator for my home state, for example. Not all of politics is understanding how the machinery of the regulatory state works, but some of it is, and Clinton has demonstrated a more than competent mastery in that area. Donald Trump, by contrast, has been singularly inept at every activity except self-promotion, a conclusion evidenced by the entire scope of his business career as well as the conduct of his campaign for president.

Some of Clinton’s domestic priorities I agree with; others I disagree with. I would like to see a candidate who was more forceful in addressing climate change, and I would also like a candidate who was more critical of a trade regime that benefits corporations and hurts workers (one of the issues that Trump has raised forcefully, as did Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primaries). But Clinton is a creature of the center, and while the center unfortunately does not always hold, it is perfectly capable of moving when necessary. Clinton moved to the right on crime and welfare reform when the politics of the 1990s demanded it. I have no doubt she will move where the politics of the 2010s demand she go.

My primary reservation about Clinton involves her foreign policy instincts, which I believe are distinctly bad. She is an American primacist with a genuinely disturbing lust for military action. She was wrong on Iraq, wrong on Libya, and wrong or Syria. I expect her to be wrong repeatedly and in a similar fashion during her administration. I have deep concerns about her approach to both Russia and Iran, problematic actors on the international stage that require deft diplomacy rather than reflexive hostility. She is the most belligerent Democratic nominee since Johnson, and I would not be shocked to see her presidency end in a similar fashion to his.

But Trump provides no responsible alternative, just as Goldwater was not a responsible alternative to Johnson. Trump’s notion of an “America First” foreign policy is neither a restrained, Jeffersonian conservatism of the heart, nor a cool, calculating Hamiltonian conservatism of the head, but an unbridled Jacksonian conservatism of the testicles. I am confident that in the best case a Trump presidency would seriously damage American interests. The worst case is difficult to calculate.

I considered voting for a third party candidate, and might have done so if any had presented a compelling proposition with a chance of affecting the course of politics going forward. In my opinion, none has.

On November 8th, I will be voting for Hillary Clinton.

Noah Millman is a senior editor at The American Conservative.

Back to top [29]

Daniel Oliver

First, let’s dispose of some of the reasons for not voting for Trump.

1. Claim: Trump’s an American Hitler.

Response: No, he’s not. And even if he were, America is not that far gone. If he wins, every Democrat and probably most Republicans will be salivating to impeach him as soon as possible—though probably not till January 23, unless Congress wants to work over the weekend.

2. Claim: He’s a boor and he gropes women.

Response: So what? Is he going to make rap music worse? Would you rather have a boor or a crook? Hillary Clinton is a certified crook (certified by the FBI, even if not prosecuted) who, like her husband, will do serious damage to the rule of law (Where law ends, tyranny begins.—John Locke). And doesn’t groping sound like a high crime or misdemeanor to you?

3. Claim: A Trump victory will badly damage the Republican Party.

Response: Not clear. The damage may already have been done. But just as likely, his loss will put some moxie into the party, which if it had had any at the Republican National Convention would have denied him the nomination.

The affirmative case:

1. He’s not Hillary Clinton. Case closed?

2. His list of Supreme Court nominees is very good. Case closed?

3. Although his immigration policy, as stated, may be completely unrealistic, it shows an understanding of the concept of a country: borders (of the enforced variety) and determination by the country, not by affected individuals, of who gets to be an immigrant. Case closed?

4. Trump says he believes in federalism. In response to Obama’s edict that public high schools “may not require transgender students to use facilities inconsistent with their gender identity,” Trump said: “I think the states should make the decision.” Yes! Case closed!

Daniel Oliver is chairman of the board of the Education and Research Institute and senior director of White House Writers Group. In addition to serving as Chairman of the Federal Trade Commission under President Ronald Reagan, he was executive editor and subsequently chairman of the board of National Review.

Back to top [29]

Gracy Olmstead

Some have argued that we must choose “the lesser of two evils” in deciding between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. They say that to vote third-party is to waste one’s vote.

But both candidates support the idea of a strong, interventionist executive. And Trump, while making some promises to conservatives on issues like abortion and foreign policy, has not demonstrated enough consistency to inspire confidence. What’s more, he seems to foment the worst instincts of his nationalist base, while reinforcing the racist and misogynist stereotypes so many use to wrongly castigate conservatism.

If there were ever a year to vote third party, this seems to be it. America’s party system—broken as it is—might emerge from this strange year with some motivation to change, to foster new leaders, and to build more appealing party platforms.

I have waffled between the American Solidarity Party and independent conservative candidate Evan McMullin. In many ways, I agree more with the platform laid out by the American Solidarity Party. They present a pro-life platform that is unequivocal, extending from before birth until natural death. They affirm principles of subsidiarity while not ignoring the plight of poor and vulnerable Americans. They break party stereotypes in every way.

In some ways, McMullin seems to be an establishment Republican. However, he’s a staunch pro-life candidate, supports criminal-justice and immigration reform, and advocates deregulation and decentralization of the federal government. His foreign-policy stance seems more interventionist and hawkish than I would like, but he has called the Iraq War a mistake.

The American Solidarity Party does not yet have a strong presidential candidate people could rally to. A vote for them may not send the message that a vote for McMullin might—especially considering the following he’s garnering in conservative states like Utah and Idaho. So this year, I’m voting for Evan McMullin.

Gracy Olmstead is associate managing editor at The Federalist and the Thursday editor of BRIGHT, a weekly newsletter for women.

Back to top [29]

Gerald J. Russello

A good friend once remarked to me as we were discussing some recent outrage that “it is always later than you think.” And so it is with this election.

We are faced with a choice between two authoritarians, and while I understand the pro and con arguments for each, I think the belief that one is marginally better than another can can give us only so much comfort. What this election has shown more clearly perhaps than before is that we the people are choosing merely a master, not an elected magistrate; in fact, we are choosing only a functionary who will appoint our true masters, a “swing” justice or two on the Supreme Court; our real, permanent government of unelected bureaucrats abides. That this in no way reflects the system envisaged by the Founders or our founding documents is beside the point. The founding generation knew free government could not survive if the people do not want it. And most of the people do not want it.

Authoritarian government has its advantages, but they are not so great that I will exercise a choice of one form of over another in the largely mistaken belief that this is a democratic process. Clinton is (probably) not going to allow her progressive minions to drive all religious people completely from public life. Trump is (probably) not going to destroy our global prominence in a fit of mindless chest thumping. But this is small beer. One speaks the language of a smothering bureaucrat. The other, that of a street bully. Neither befits a free people.

I often wonder whether the Romans knew, and if so how, that the empire and culture was in eclipse. Partially from their example, we do not have the luxury of their ignorance. And so that ancient wisdom becomes more important: put not your faith in princes. As Russell Kirk often advised, we must put our communities first, and find our salvation outside politics. Accordingly I will not be casting a vote this November.

Gerald J. Russello is editor of The University Bookman [52].

Back to top [29]

Jason Sorens

Every election is a wearying affair, but this one more than most. The vast majority of voters will, understandably, hold their noses and vote for either the corrupt, cronyist insider or the bigoted, authoritarian demagogue. Yet the only truly ethical vote in this election is for Libertarian Gary Johnson. Whatever his flaws, Johnson is the only candidate unlikely to commit any gross injustices or subvert the remnants of the constitutional order if he is elected. His willingness to admit his flaws and seek advice, and his humility about what the U.S. government can do both at home and abroad, are welcome but all too rare traits in politicians. Since by most estimates Hillary Clinton has more than an 85 percent chance of winning the election, a vote for Johnson will be a safe vote as well. If he wins more than 5 percent of the vote this time, the Libertarian Party will qualify for matching funds and ensure that an alternative to the duopoly plays a prominent role in 2020.

Whatever one’s choice in the presidential election, the more critical races might actually be down-ballot. Voters need to educate themselves on what their statehouses have been up to and their state legislative candidates’ knowledge of and positions on the issues. The federal government is a hopeless cause for reformers of any stripe, but especially for conservatives and Republicans. In 1992, Republicans held a one-point advantage in party identification among voters under 35; today, they suffer from a whopping 30-point disadvantage, according to a recent University of Massachusetts-Lowell poll. George W. Bush and Donald Trump have ruined the Republican Party’s name for an entire generation of voters, and we can expect Democratic domination at the national level for some time to come as a result—though it may be concealed in 2018 and 2020 with a backlash against an unpopular President Clinton. (That voters become more conservative with age is a myth.) It is only at the state and local levels where committed activists can make a difference.

Jason Sorens is a lecturer in the Department of Government and program director of the Political Economy Project at Dartmouth College.

Back to top [29]

Michael Tracey

I’ve opted not to vote. The term I prefer for this is “conscious abstention.” Not voting marginally diminishes the overall rate of turnout, thereby delegitimizing the ultimate outcome and constricting the winner’s claimed “mandate.” The idea, theoretically, is to increase the likelihood that the winner will be removed from power at the earliest possible juncture. This tack is slightly unexpected for me because I used to be one of those who’d proclaim that voting is every citizen’s solemn duty. Now I’d say it’s a civic duty to refrain from legitimating the process that produced the situation we are now beset with.

Trump might be better than Hillary on foreign policy (my top issue), but he’s far too volatile to conclude that with any certainty, and he may well end up being catastrophically worse. The Clintons’ outrageous stoking of a war fervor over Russia is quite simply depraved and should disqualify them from reentering the White House.

Hillary’s ever-growing tangle of legal problems was long ago written off by Democrats as a “nothingburger,” but now it could cost her the election. There’d be some poetic justice to this eventuality, even if the consequence were the empowerment of an ill-tempered ogre who could easily take the country over the cliff with a single late-night tweet.

It’s possible that Trump could revert to his pre-campaigning days and again become a “New York City moderate” type, governing without any allegiance to movement-conservative orthodoxies and even potentially partnering with the left. Hillary would almost certainly be hobbled from day one by ethics investigations from Congress and the FBI, making her tenure truly a throwback to the scandal-plagued 1990s, which culminated in Bill Clinton’s impeachment. I wouldn’t rule out that same fate befalling Hillary.

Democrats deserve punishment for nominating a candidate with such severe legal problems, stifling a genuine populist insurgent in the most craven possible fashion (I supported Bernie Sanders but find his recent hectoring pro-Clinton conduct highly off-putting). Their shambolic, “rigged” primary process can’t be countenanced, nor can the 2016 electoral debacle as a whole, so I’ll do my small part in rejecting this horror show by declining to vote.

Michael Tracey is a journalist based in New York City.

Back to top [29]

Eve Tushnet

1. A few years ago a friend summarized the worldview of both major political parties as, “Would it help if we killed your children?” I’m pro-life and dovish almost to the point of anarchism; I want decentralization of power and less punishment and control. You tell me who the hell I can vote for. I hope you don’t vote for Donald Trump. He will betray every position he claims to share with you. Whoever you are, he has shown contempt for your community and he does not care what happens to you. Otherwise, I don’t even know: Vote for the abortion hawk and her Catholic accomplice if you must. Vote for Gary Johnson [53], whose main distinguishing feature is a relatively restrained foreign policy, so it would be real nice if he knew where places like Aleppo were. Vote for the CIA guy, yeesh; Mormons are the new Catholics and I guess I hope it works out well for them.

2. The last vote I cast in a presidential race was my 2000 vote for George W. Bush, the pro-life candidate with a “humble foreign policy.” You’re welcome, America.

3. Contempt for your political opponents is sinful—even if they hated you first. Part of Hans Fallada’s greatness [54] was his ability to see people who were literally becoming Nazis as members of his community. Love your enemies; bless those who curse you. Point #1 shows I’m great at this.

4. Contemporary conservatism swoons for ugly authorities instead of beautiful ones. Among other things, we lack artistry. Where are the satirists and portraitists, the anti-rationalists, the fans of useless suffering, those who know deserved punishment isn’t the opposite of mercy but its prerequisite? Whom should I be reading?

5. I’m probably voting for DC statehood because retrocession to Maryland isn’t on the ballot.

Eve Tushnet is a writer in Washington, DC.

Back to top [29]

Robert VerBruggen

I’m writing in David French, the National Review scribe who briefly flirted with a third-party bid earlier this year.

French was right not to run. He lacks the needed experience. But the point of my vote isn’t to elect the president; it’s to send a message to the major parties. Here’s that message in essay form, because Virginia won’t even count my ballot [55].

Whatever good he could do if he were sane, to steal a wild counterfactual from Peggy Noonan, the risks of granting Trump the world’s most powerful office are simply too great. Clinton will drag this country as far to the left as humanly possible, pausing occasionally to kick it in the gut with corruption scandals. Gary Johnson is a joke unworthy of the vote I am throwing away. Evan McMullin hints too strongly at a return to the GOP status quo, which cannot be the way forward after Trump.

Why French? I do have a connection to the man: he contributed to NR’s now-defunct Phi Beta Cons blog, which I edited for a few years, and we’re still linked on social media. He is by all accounts a decent person, and he’s worked as a lawyer defending free speech and religious freedom.

More importantly, though, he has spent his life immersed in the biggest challenges today confronting the party and the country. Living in Kentucky and Tennessee he’s seen the decline of the white working class firsthand. He and his wife adopted a daughter from Ethiopia, and he has written unflinchingly about both of the fundamental facts underlying American race relations: whites still treat blacks unfairly [56], and the black community is plagued by high rates of violence [57] and lagging educational performance. He’s a veteran and takes foreign entanglements seriously.

The post-Trump GOP will need someone like David French. Plus it would be pretty cool to be Facebook friends with the president.

Robert VerBruggen is managing editor of The American Conservative.

Back to top [29]

33 Comments (Open | Close)

33 Comments To "The American Conservative Presidential Symposium"

#1 Comment By Andrew On November 4, 2016 @ 3:22 am

Why is it necessary to include independent minded progressives at the so-called American Conservative? We have plenty of sources for progressive opinion.

Anyway, Gottfried nails it, unsurprisingly. If he does manage a come from behind win, the fact that he fights, sometimes as viciously as the leftist Democratic nominee always does whomever they nominate, will probably be a big part of the reason, after the Kempian wimp parade of nominees the GOP usually goes with in Bush, Dole, baby Bush, McCain, and Romney. Pick a guy who punches them in the face right back, and we might win-who knew?

Really can’t believe Jack Hunter is still being taken seriously around these parts, or any others.

#2 Comment By Chris T On November 4, 2016 @ 3:50 am

I cannot help but think if Hillary wins, she will do for the Democratic Party what she did for Libya

#3 Comment By Mel Profit On November 4, 2016 @ 7:33 am

How any conservative could admit to voting for Mrs Clinton astounds me. This American fetish about voting–it is our duty, our responsibility–is third grade civics fluff and, worse, mischief-making. Show some honor, some decency–and if you can’t stomach Trump, then sit still and do nothing. Voting for someone you despise and know will further ruin the nation is not patriotism, it is idiocy.

#4 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 4, 2016 @ 8:06 am

To TAC Presidential Symposium participants W. James Antle III, Andrew J. Bacevich, Gene Callahan, Rod Dreher, Bruce Fein, Michael Fumento, Jack Hunter, Daniel Larison, Chase Madar, Thomas Mallon, Noah Millman, Gracy Olmstead, Gerald J. Russello, Jason Sorens, Michael Tracey, Eve Tushnet, and Robert VerBruggen I recommend Gene Callahan’s own excellent, timely “Making Do With What We’ve Got” published yesterday at TAC:

“The only way an individual might actually be able to survive the media onslaught that descends on every outsider candidate would be if he: (1) Is very wealthy, so he doesn’t have to worry about the donor class rejecting him. (2) Doesn’t care in the least about scandal. His reputation already is scandalous! (3) Is an egomaniac so that the constant attempts at smearing him simply slide off him. (4) Is a master manipulator of the media, so that he can outplay them at their games. So, the choices are: (1) Elect someone fitting the above description, if anyone like that should happen to come along; or (2) Just accept that the status quo will continue on and on…

“If we are going to overthrow a corrupt system, we can do so only with the resources actually at our disposal. I might wish that Buddha, or St. Francis, or Lao-Tse were around at this moment in our history to lead a perfectly pure revolt against the militaristic, amoral oligarchy currently ruling us. Heck, I’d happily settle for Dwight Eisenhower or Calvin Coolidge. But none of those people seem to be available. If we wait for perfection, the current system will continue indefinitely, until it produces some global catastrophe like a nuclear war with Russia. We aren’t living in Eden: perfection is not an option. We have to make do with what we’ve got.”


#5 Comment By JamesT On November 4, 2016 @ 8:46 am

Unfortunate there is no love for Darrell Castle. He seems better than Gary and certainly better than Bill Weld. Interesting to see all this. I wonder if the ASP will replace the CP next cycle as the right wing alternative.

#6 Comment By J. Scott On November 4, 2016 @ 10:15 am

Guys. Guys. Calm down. America is okay. We’re not staring into the abyss. We aren’t the brink of an inevitably slide into decay and ruin. The economy is chugging along well enough. Nobody is coming for your guns. Nobody is going to ban your churches. Crime is down. Most people trust police overall, but most people also think that it would be better to have more transparency and accountability in policing. Mexican immigrants are pretty nice people overall, same as the Irish immigrants, and German immigrants, and Chinese immigrants and so on. They will make good Americans. Most Americans support free trade, and do so because free trade is genuinely good for the country. Most Americans support some kind of social safety net, not as a replacement for needing to work, but because they recognize that the market is not a fair arbiter of someone’s worth, and that sometimes economic inevitability can inflict suffering.

It’s okay. Things are going to be okay.

I get the feeling sometimes that the TAC writers just really need a hug.

#7 Comment By Wick Allison On November 4, 2016 @ 10:51 am

Noah, my thoughts exactly. Thank you.

#8 Comment By Steven Donegal On November 4, 2016 @ 11:00 am

Helen Andrews. If Trump wins, maybe we can swap houses. You”d love Seattle.

#9 Comment By Mike On November 4, 2016 @ 11:34 am

I would concur with JamesT. It is surprising that no one seriously considered Darrell Castle. He not only knows and carries the issues constitutional, cultural, and liberty-minded conservatives care about, but he also has the character Donald Trump so glaringly lacks.

I appreciate opting out of the Trump-Clinton mess, but there is a choice that represents a better America: the Constitution Party’s Darrell Castle.

#10 Comment By Hankest On November 4, 2016 @ 11:38 am

Oliver: “Hillary Clinton is a certified crook (certified by the FBI, even if not prosecuted).”

I don’t even know what that means, that some undisclosed FBI agents get to certify who is a crook?

How about Trump? He used Trump Foundation cash to support an AG in Fla, which is illegal (that’s not in dispute even by Trump). Then once the AG received that money she decided not to join a lawsuit with other AGs against Trump University.

And even a passing knowledge of Trump U shows it was a scam preying on poor people, getting them to max out their credit cards to line a self proclaimed billionaire’s pockets. That’s far worse than the email “scandal” i think, frankly i think it’s worse than Maddoff who at least had the decency to largely prey on people who could afford it, or at least afford lawyers.

Then of course the times Trump has not paid his contractors. Doesn’t that make him a crook? Should i ask someone at FBI to make a determination?

Anyway, as a NYer who has witnessed Trump’s inanity for decades, nearly everything he touches turns to crap. That’s why i won’t vote for him, i’ll probably do what i did in 1996 write in my Dad.

#11 Comment By HDW On November 4, 2016 @ 11:45 am

How any conservative could vote for Donald Trump flabbergasts me. It is my impression that conservatives stand for civility and traditional morality and I see not a speck of those attributes in Trump, an “ugly American” if ever there was one.

#12 Comment By Hankest On November 4, 2016 @ 11:50 am

One more thing, all the Trump supporters claiming he’s less hawkish than HRC (which wouldn’t be a major accomplishment), need to show me where HRC ever said anything as stupid as this:

“‘With Iran, when they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water,’ Trump said.”


And no, “we came, we say, he died” as idiotic as that was, isn’t even close.

#13 Comment By Captain P On November 4, 2016 @ 11:51 am

Very odd that no one endorsed the pro-life, libertarianish, anti-war Darrell Castle. If you’re not going to vote for a candidate with a chance of winning, I’d think at least someone at this magazine would pick him.
Johnson’s a flake, the “American Solidarity Party” doesn’t even have a functional website, and McMullin is literally running just to stop Trump from winning Utah.

#14 Comment By CK On November 4, 2016 @ 11:57 am

I agree with @JamesT. Rod Dreher says there is no third party on the ballot in Louisiana he can support. Castle is on the ballot is Louisana. What are his objections to the Constitution Party? What about the other writers who are writing in even more obscure non candidates.

I don’t see how voting for McMullin or writing in David French fits with the founding mission of this publication either. Looks like TAC is on its way to becoming NeoCon Lite.

#15 Comment By chs On November 4, 2016 @ 12:17 pm

I wonder if anyone remembers the name of George Norris. He was a retiree in Texas, who, with his wife, had a part-time orchid business that he made a very little income to supplement his retirement.

In 2003 his home in his Texas neighborhood was raided by multiple agents of the Fish and Wildlife Service, who where armed to the hilt and clad in military protective gear.

Norris apparently did not dot an i or cross a t somewhere with some orchids he imported from South America. So, the old man and his wife were raided and he was sentenced to 17 months in prison.

He was raided by armed federal SWAT agents from the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Which one of the Candidates for President would allow this type of attack on citizens to increase????

We understand that under Obama the federal government began stockpiling ammunition. We know that Clinton has a penchant for wanting to control everything.

I want to cast a vote FOR the candidate who won’t let that garbage happen. Those actions speak to the fact that “our nation” is more important to some than our citizens. My understanding has always been that in this country the people come first and are the only thing that matter.Like cattle we have been factionalized by the elite culture and political elites in order to have more leverage against us to rule us. I don’t want to sound too paranoid, but I know that there are some Machiavellian folks out there who think that way and are very paternalistic in their worldview.

I want to vote for someone who is not at all like the paternalistic elites.

#16 Comment By Publius On November 4, 2016 @ 1:45 pm

A conservative voting for Hillary is not a conservative but a quisling.

I’m sorry, but we must speak plainly.

Hillary’s campaign manager is John Podesta. The latest wikileak dump demonstrates that John’s brother, Tony, was invited to a “Spirit Cooking” event by some wack Serbian woman, and the question was asked whether John was coming as well. Here is the email:


Go ahead and look up “spirit cooking” online and then tell me whether these are people with whom a conservative can honestly deal. To my mind, these are people who belong, for their own sake, in a mental institution.

Unless you have some sort of benighted and unreasonable objection to satanist soirées.

#17 Comment By PAXNOW On November 4, 2016 @ 1:51 pm

The overriding issues are peace, immigration, subservience to a foreign power, employment, the Supreme Court, and the Federal Reserve Banking system. Clinton will ensure all these issues remain at a boil. Trump offers some hope that there will be some positive change.

#18 Comment By Jaybird On November 4, 2016 @ 2:14 pm

What a wretched collection of prevaricators!

To those accustomed to playing Hamlet for cash on the world stage (Dreher, Larison and Bacevich pop to mind) it never seems to occur that fate very often presents us only with unpleasant alternatives. Take Sully over the Hudson River for example. He could, I suppose, have railed against “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune” or refused to sacrifice his delicate principles against water landings and pulled back on the stick hoping to stay aloft indefinitely. Instead he took the age old flight instructor advice to “pick out the smallest tree—-and hit it”.

There are 155 passengers who should be eternally grateful that it was Sully, and not Rod Dreher or his ilk, in the cockpit on that fateful day.

#19 Comment By Kurt Gayle On November 4, 2016 @ 2:18 pm

Noah Millman says he is voting for Hillary Clinton and writes:

“[Hillary Clinton] is the most belligerent Democratic nominee since Johnson, and I would not be shocked to see her presidency end in a similar fashion to his.”

During his presidency President Johnson increased the number of US troops in Vietnam to more than 500,000.

During Johnson’s presidency 37,298 American soldiers were killed in action in Vietnam.

Johnson was so unpopular that he took the unprecedented step of announcing to the American people on March 31, 1968 that he would not stand for re-election.

Millman: “…I would not be shocked to see her presidency end in a similar fashion to his.”

#20 Comment By Vg On November 4, 2016 @ 3:19 pm

Whey did no one bring up Darrell Castle?He seems to be the best conservative in the race.He’s party of the biggest conservative third party and is on ballot in 24 states.Including write in he is on in 46.The media blackout is included even here?

#21 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 4, 2016 @ 5:36 pm

I’m generally on the left, but I’ll probably be voting for Darrell Castle (as a registered write-in), mostly on the basis of his non-interventionist foreign policy and his solid pro-life credentials. I’m really surprised he didn’t get a mention here.

#22 Comment By MrsDK On November 4, 2016 @ 7:33 pm

I truly appreciate the fact that all these writers took the time to present their viewpoints. TAC has hands-down some of THE BEST and most thought-provoking writing on the web. Thank you for showing that we all don’t fit into neatly defined and labeled platforms.

#23 Comment By Michael Powe On November 4, 2016 @ 8:55 pm

I subscribe to the magazine and read the web articles regularly, so it’s a disappointment to find such a collection of calorie-free statements by “contributors and their friends.”

I don’t think I read a single Trump-supporting statement that in any way considered what his economic plan will do to the country. Not one. Why is that? Well, I’ll hazard that it’s because they all have sinecures and friends in high places, and are fully protected against economic catastrophe. Suffering for principle is always worth it when someone else is doing the suffering.

Overall, this collection of opinion confirms the disconnect from reality of much of what passes for conservative thought. The Republicans currently in power are roundly condemned by people who then announce their intentions to vote for them, anyway. If Trump wins, he’ll likely have a solidly Republican Congress. A Congress already populated with legislators willing to give more tax breaks to the rich, and push more tax burden onto the poor. The Economist labeled him The King of Debt, and its analysis showed how much his economic plan would damage the American economy. A matter of no concern to his supporters, who apparently are stuck on the belief that the Finger of God will tip the scale to prevent catastrophe. Theorizing about closing foreign bases (bringing home hundreds of thousands of vets to — no jobs), stiffing members of NATO, a $4 billion wall along the southern border. All so interesting and fun to muse on, in the comfort of our drawing rooms, with a snifter of brandy or maybe a nice port.

The general indifference to the impact of the Trump Presidency on real life in America may ultimately be as ineffectual as the Republican Congress. Clinton may yet win.

“Mrs Clinton is a better candidate than she seems and better suited to cope with the awful, broken state of Washington politics than her critics will admit. She also deserves to prevail on her own merits.” (The Economist)

I’m going with a different conservative magazine in this instance, one in which ideological purity is not the litmus test.

#24 Comment By Fran Macadam On November 4, 2016 @ 11:37 pm

I was going to write something more, but Kurt Gayle has made responses that say better than I what I think. Thanks, Kurt.

One thing, though: I know that some TAC authors voted, as I once did, for Barack Obama. In the wake of his entirely bankster-controlled reign, in hindsight I would not now do so. I can’t imagine doubling down on that same error now by voting the deplorable and irredeemable Clintons, as some TAC authors say they are. That seems to me, the very definition of invincible ignorance.

#25 Comment By K-Dog-One On November 5, 2016 @ 8:21 am

To those who have commented that Darrell Castle was not discussed, you need to read W. James Antle III’s piece.

#26 Comment By connecticut farmer On November 5, 2016 @ 10:35 am

Mr. Millman endorses, however reluctantly, Hillary Clinton while simultaneously describing her as ” the most belligerent Democratic nominee since Johnson, and I would not be shocked to see her presidency end in a SIMILAR FASHION to his” (emphasis mine).

That “similar fashion” consisted of tens of thousands of America’s young men killed and many more wounded during that self-same Johnson administration (and with more to come under Nixon). Sounds like he never thought through the implications of such an endorsement.

Trump? Johnson? I mean…GARY JOHNSON??? Some choice I’ve got!!

#27 Comment By Hector_St_Clare On November 5, 2016 @ 11:56 am

Helen Andrews,

I’ve spent ten days in my life in Australia, but from following Australian politics it’s not at all my impression that Australia is in general a more ‘PC”, socially liberal country than Australia. Pauline Hanson (who I have a fair amount of sympathy for) is still an elected politician in good standing, as is Jacquie Lambie and other tough anti-immigration politicians. Gay marriage is still illegal there, and your abortion laws are at least on paper a slight bit tougher. Something like “The Intervention” w/r/t the Aboriginal communities would never fly in America (though in fairness, the social problems of Aboriginal Australians are far more severe than any ethnic group in North America). In contrast when I look at Australia I see a country that at least in some regards has escaped some of the worst excesses of American social and cultural liberalism, at least thus far.

#28 Comment By bacon On November 5, 2016 @ 1:17 pm

@ Andrew – Why indeed include independent minded progressive comments on the TAC site? Nothing complicates one’s chosen arguments and conclusions more than listening to the other side.

@ J.Scott – Your America is the one I live in. Every day the sky does not fall, in spite of the hysteria of partisans on the right and the left.

andrew –

#29 Comment By Commenter Man On November 5, 2016 @ 5:20 pm

To @J. Scott: Excellent comment, I second it. They all need to take a few deep breaths and go out for a walk!

To @Andrew: maybe TAC includes progressives because they like to promote good conversations, rather than an echo chamber. This is why I read TAC.

To most all the authors arguing for third party candidates: You might find the ranked choice ballot initiative in Maine interesting. Other than that: what were you thinking? Unless you live in a state which is safe for your candidate and want to “send a message”, all these words are not of much use to readers who (still!) need some analysis regarding which of the two main candidates to vote for.

#30 Comment By Mel Profit On November 7, 2016 @ 7:09 am

The Comey announcement yesterday says it all: The US is a tin pot oligarchy not worthy of my vote. J’accuse. I refuse.

#31 Comment By David Pascual On November 7, 2016 @ 9:14 am

Donald Trump is a New York real estate tycoon. As such, his job involves being in the best possible terms with the powers that be so he can get the planning permissions his business requires. And he has been doing precisely that all his professional life. He is as much a part of the Establishment as Hillary Clinton. If HRC is a corrupt politician, Donald Trump is a corrupter of politicians. He clearly has no moral or ideology, at best he is a politically incorrect, lovable (for some) scoundrel. Why would anyone think that he will do any of the things he says he’ll do once elected?

#32 Comment By T.W. On November 7, 2016 @ 5:52 pm

I have to say that the most depressing thing about this entire election,in my view, has been seeing how little otherwise good, smart, people are bothered by racism, misogyny, and anti semitism. The Republican nominee has a campaign that,at best, has winked at and dog whistled to white supremacists and at worst is shot through with white nationalists itself. Read David French’s own words about the hate stirred up against him because of that man. Donald Trump has unleashed bitter, vitriolic bigotry ON PURPOSE. Vicious hatred that there is no indication he would cease to incite should he win the white house. Yet so many, including the vast majority of the writers above, just don’t care. They don’t even mention it! It’s soul crushing. It ensures that no matter how much minorities may be inclined to listen to what conservatives have to say on policy, we can never support you because you do not ultimately have our most fundamental interests at heart. A man is running for president who intentionally caters to and stirs up people who deny my basic humanity and role as an equal American,and “conservatives” are gonna vote for him because taxes? Why should any black or Hispanic person ever listen to anything else you have to say?

#33 Comment By Commenter Man On November 7, 2016 @ 5:55 pm

@baon: we responded to the same people in the same way! You beat me to it, your comment was not on the site when I wrote though.

Great minds think alike 🙂