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The Most Conservative Case Against Trump

The Trump is wild (Helen Lane/Shutterstock)

Ross Douthat makes it, in this very fine piece. He begins by talking about critics of the pro-life movement who say that pro-lifers must not really believe that abortion is murder, else they would support violent action to stop this mass murder. In fact, says Douthat, Catholic Just War Theory does not allow one to stop evil by any means necessary. For one, all legal means to stop the evil must have been exhausted. For another, you have to be reasonably certain that your actions won’t call up a greater evil than the one you intend to defeat.

What does this have to do with Trump? Douthat:

A vote for Trump is not a vote for insurrection or terrorism or secession. But it is a vote for a man who stands well outside the norms of American presidential politics, who has displayed a naked contempt for republican institutions and constitutional constraints, who deliberately injects noxious conspiracy theories into political conversation, who has tiptoed closer to the incitement of political violence than any major politician in my lifetime, whose admiration for authoritarian rulers is longstanding, who has endorsed war crimes and indulged racists and so on down a list that would exhaust this column’s word count if I continued to compile it.

It is a vote, in other words, for a far more chaotic and unstable form of political leadership (on the global stage as well as on the domestic) than we have heretofore experienced, and a leap unlike any that conservative voters have considered taking in all the long years since Roe v. Wade.

Douthat says he agrees that “grave evils will follow from electing Hillary Clinton.

But the Trump alternative is like a feckless war of choice in the service of some just-seeming end, with a commanding general who likes war crimes. It’s a ticket on a widening gyre, promising political catastrophe and moral corruption both, no matter what ideals seem to justify it.


[B]ecause the deepest conservative insight is that justice depends on order as much as order depends on justice. So when Loki or the Joker or some still-darker Person promises the righting of some grave wrong, the defeat of your hated enemies, if you will only take a chance on chaos and misrule, the wise and courageous response is to tell them to go to hell.

Exactly right, and bravo. I have not seen the most profound anti-Trump conservative case made so well by anybody.

This is the tragedy of the 2016 presidential vote for conservatives: a choice between the most progressive and corrupt Democratic nominee in our lifetime, versus a Republican of convenience whose answer to the very real problems we face is to blow it all up and create chaos.

To me, it’s not Trump’s stated policies that’s the problem. It’s his character. Douthat elaborated on this point in his Sunday column, which I commend to your attention. In brief, Trump has no core convictions, and possesses — or, to be precise, is possessed by — a temperament that he cannot control, and which would get this country into a world of trouble were he to take the White House. Prudence is said to be a cardinal conservative virtue. Trump has not one scintilla of it. As governing a superpower is not a reality television show, I think the chance of war and civil unrest under a Trump presidency is much greater than under a Clinton one. These are the evils, or potential evils, greater than any of the certain evils that a Clinton administration would bring. We can’t take that chance.

The desperate day may come when a Trump is justified for conservatives. But we are not there yet, and we should hope that we don’t get there. What we face with Trump is not a restoration of conservative order, but the dismantling of the American order. This unwinding is already happening fast enough on its own; it does not need assistance from a President Trump, and conservatives voting for him Because Hillary.

Now, I confess that this is an easier position for me to take — being #NeverHillary and #NeverTrump — because I live in a state that’s going to go solidly for Trump. If I lived in a swing state, I don’t know what I would do. I still would not vote Trump, but I would have to face the decision I faced in the autumn of 1991: do I vote for an objectively crooked Edwin Edwards to save the state from David Duke? I did then. Would I now? Is Trump as bad as Duke? These are questions I get to duck this year, but a lot of you readers no doubt have to face them. I’m eager to hear in the comments section how you are wrestling with them.

Note to commenters: I’m going to police this thread pretty closely to keep out trolls and bomb-throwers. I want to hear from conservative readers who are struggling with their vote, to hear how they are reasoning. I don’t care if you’ve decided to vote Hillary, Trump, or third party; I want to know how you arrived at that decision — and, if you haven’t made the decision yet, what’s weighing on your mind?

UPDATE: I have to include this funny pic, which a reader just sent. Something tells me that this image was shot in Wisconsin, and that Uncle Chuckie slipped out under the cover of darkness and put up the sign:


about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. A veteran of three decades of magazine and newspaper journalism, he has also written three New York Times bestsellers—Live Not By Lies, The Benedict Option, and The Little Way of Ruthie Lemingas well as Crunchy Cons and How Dante Can Save Your Life. Dreher lives in Baton Rouge, La.

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