Donald Trump is the Republican nominee, and there is considerable pressure for conservatives to choose the “lesser of two evils” and vote for him next week even if they are not thrilled with the choice. Are liberty loving conservatives like myself simply sore losers because we our favorite candidate was not chosen? The reality is much more complicated than that, and until both sides understand this, there will never be unity in the conservative movement.
There is considerable reason for conservatives who believe Trump is as dangerous as I do to not vote for him. I will not delve into the reasons why this fear exists, but conservatives who don’t see that fear should still recognize that it is real some of us. We are not simply upset that our candidate lost. Ted Cruz was not even my first choice, but I gladly turned to him when Rand Paul dropped out because I believed he would still, more or less, lead the country towards greater liberty. Donald Trump, on the other hand, will destroy liberty, and that is why I cannot vote for him.
First off, let’s do away with the myth that not voting for Trump is equal to voting for Hillary Clinton. This is ludicrous. My vote does not belong to the Republican Party. Not voting for Trump is the same as a liberal not voting for Trump or Hillary. Why is the liberal’s vote atomically going to Trump because she will not vote for Hillary while mine goes to Hillary because I will not vote for Trump? The parties do not own any of our votes. If they did, our votes would be essentially meaningless. Why would Republican candidates try to run on policies that would advance liberty if conservatives vote Republican regardless?
Second, I am not convinced that Donald Trump would be better for the country than Hillary Clinton. I am torn by this and can see both sides. The dangers of Hillary are obvious, so I will outline why Trump could potentially be worse.
There are many policies Trump supports that would be detrimental to liberty. His views on trade and eminent domain are atrocious, to name a couple. His nationalist stances are deeply disturbing. As much as I love my country, it is not right to put “American interests” first. We should put liberty first. Always. Principles are more important that interests. Nations that have sought their own interests first have elected dictators such as Hitler and Mussolini. I am not saying Trump would be nearly as bad as them – I don’t know exactly how bad he’ll be – but he expresses at least a mild form of their ideology, which should concern anyone who cares about freedom in America.
If the political spectrum is understood as fascism on the far right and socialism on the far left, then I want nothing to do with either. A wise history teacher of mine in school explained that the extreme ends of the spectrum reach around to form a circle, so there is little difference between the extreme right-wing and extreme left-wing. The sides may hate each other like Hitler and Stalin, but their policies are the same for the people. I see little reason to believe that the extreme right is any safer than the extreme left.
In fact, I reject the traditional political spectrum. Why do we have to choose either left or right? What about freedom? If the extreme of both sides lead to tyranny, why not choose liberty? I’ve been told that I must choose between a police state and a welfare state. Liberals express concern over the police state, and conservatives rally against the welfare state. Why can’t I choose neither? Why does neither side see how the police state and welfare state can work together to destroy liberty? Why must I be told to choose a side or else I am choosing the other by default?
I have all but given up on the Republican Party as a vehicle for advancing liberty. If it does wish to redeem itself, it has a better chance to do so if Hillary Clinton is the president rather than Donald Trump for the simple reason that it is easier to stand against an enemy than a friend. This makes sense if you apply it to your life. Is it not easier to call out the bully you cannot stand than your friend who’s committing the same offenses? I doubt Republicans in Congress would have the backbone to stand up against a Trump administration. And if they did, opponents would question why they supported him in the first place. What is the point in voting for someone if you are going to oppose everything they do?
I am going to say something that will probably get me kicked out of the Republican Party for good. I am glad that Obama became president. I believe he has been good for the country. I voted for Romney in the last election (the first presidential election I could vote in) because I fell for the lies that I am now trying to expose, but if I could go back I would have voted third party. To be clear, I oppose almost everything Obama has done thus far. The majority of his policies have been detrimental to liberty. Yet if it had been McCain or Romney proposing policies than only mildly threatened liberty, where would the conservative and liberty movements be today? Would we have senators like Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Mike Lee? Would there be a Freedom Caucus in the House? No, most of us would have wasted our time defending President Romney or McCain.
In addition, Trump would ruin the very meaning of conservatism. Liberals have blamed the free market for many of our economic problems because they occurred under a Republican president. Many of President Bush’s policies were not at all about capitalism but promoted crony capitalism, but many people do not understand the difference. If Republicans, who are supposed to be for capitalism, continue to advocate for cronyism, like Trump surely will do, then capitalism will continue to become contorted in the public eye, making it more likely that people will embrace socialism. The same can be said for other aspects of conservatism that Trump will be said to represent. Yes, Hillary Clinton’s policies will be horrible, but at least we will be able to point to the enemy and clearly show that capitalism and conservatism is not the problem. Will it be too late by then? Maybe, but I don’t see a better alternative. We have to think in the long run. Progressivism did not creep up in one day.
Trump advocates talk about the need for unity. I agree, but I do not want the same type of unity. I do not want blind adherence to some higher authority. I do not want unity for unity’s sake. I want us to be united behind principles and stand together where we have similar values. There are many libertarians and conservatives like me who would gladly align with Democrats where we have a similar goal. Criminal justice reform comes to mind. However, uniting with Republicans just because they’re Republicans destroys this type of unity. Partisanship divides us until we are no longer able to see each other’s perspective. Is that the kind of unity we want?
I do not believe as some Republicans do that we should give up some of our principles and be more like liberals. Instead, I believe that there are common values already shared between conservatives and liberals. Everyone does not fit inside a neat little box. There is plenty of room for overlap. And sometimes, when you look at both extremes of the spectrum, the values on both sides are quite similar, and they are values that most Americans oppose. I would rather stand with a liberal who will fight for liberty on some fronts than a Republican like Trump who will destroy liberty on many more.
I have spent years trying to show liberals that I am not the type of Republican they believe I am. I am not racist, sexist, and everything else they claim I am. I do care about people and have many of the same goals they do, but I disagree about the way to get there. I have sought to find common ground so we can work together. Criminal justice reform is my specialty, and while there are real differences between liberals and me, we both have reasons to support many of the same policies. The problem is that many liberals believe in a caricature of conservatives. They believe we are totally oppose and could never work together. Part of the problem stems from Republicans like Trump who espouse ideas that are not truly conservative.
I have tried hard to criticize everyone I disagree with, including Republicans. I want to make sure that no one could mistake me for the caricature they have in their mind. I try to make my values clear. I will support liberty and criticize those who threaten it, even if they claim to be on my side. There are many liberals who similarly criticize Democrats. We could come together and oppose the establishment. We could find where we agree and seek to change the political spectrum.
What would instantly destroy this progress would be to support Donald Trump. What ground do I have to stand on if I support someone who presents everything I have tried to prove I am not? I would be a hypocrite and untrustworthy. I would further the division in this country and prevent the unity I desire. How could I ask liberals to support principles over politics by standing with me where we agree and criticizing their own side when I’m not willing to do the same?
Obama was elected largely as a reaction against George W. Bush. Back then, conservatives like me did not stand up against him. The better of us still tried to say we supported our principles but had to support him because he was the president. We did not stand up for what we believe in. We defended our president, but we did not defend our principles against attacks that came because of the president. We lost the opportunity to explain why polices like the bailout had nothing to do with capitalism. And who did we offer as an alternative to Obama? Someone not much better than Bush – and perhaps worse.
We must not fall into the same trap. If we truly care about advancing liberty, we must pledge to only support candidates who share this goal. If we do otherwise, we destroy the foundation we stand on. We tell our enemies that they were right about us; we were lying about our true goals. I will not do that. I want to be able to look people in the eye and tell them I did not vote for either major political party’s candidate because I refuse to choose between them. I think for myself. I do not let any party do my thinking for me. Rejection of the choices is a legitimate choice.
Besides, I live in Minnesota. If there was ever a year Minnesota would turn red, it is not going to be this year. Trust me. With Minnesota’s past, it would be more likely we choose Libertarian Gary Johnson than Donald Trump. My vote is simply not going to make a difference. Therefore, why not make a stand for my principles? Why give up everything I said above for the sake of a meaningless vote? That’s what’s irrational. Even if the situation were different, I would still not vote for Trump, but considering the circumstances, critics should lay off people like me because we’re not actually affecting the election.
The most persuasive argument to vote for Trump is the Supreme Court. If Trump were a decent candidate, it would be a legitimate point. However, the Supreme Court alone is not enough reason to vote for a candidate that will set our country back. For one, there is no way we can know if he will follow through on his promise to appoint a Constitutionalist as a judge. We have every reason to believe he will not. Trump has expressed interest in unconstitutional acts, such as limiting free speech, using eminent domain for private purposes, and using capital punishment at the federal level for state level crimes. Why would he appoint a Supreme Court Justice who would stop him on all these points? He has clearly shown that he will ignore the separation of powers at least as often as Obama. It would be inconsistent for him to appoint a decent justice, and if he did, he is bound to ignore the Supreme Court anyway.
A President Hillary Clinton and a liberal Supreme Court would not be the end of America. Yes, everything would get a lot worse, but it has been getting worse for years. I see no reason to assume that the next four years are going to be the breaking point. We have other means of stopping Hillary and the Supreme Court. We could potential have Congress to thwart their plans, and I am a strong proponent of state nullification. Hillary Clinton is bad, but we can get through her presidency.
I am sure we can get through a Trump presidency too. However, the backlash against whoever wins the presidency is bound to be strong. I, for one, would rather the backlash be against a Democrat, giving Republicans a chance to finally elect a real conservative. If it is Trump everyone rallies against, though, perhaps we will end up with someone like Bernie Sanders in four years. In addition, it will take years to undo the damage Trump will have done to conservatism and capitalism. While there is a chance he will not be as terrible as I imagine he will be, the chance that he could be worse than Clinton means I cannot vote for him.
I understand that everyone does not share my concerns about Trump. Many conservatives think he is bad but believe Clinton would be many times worse. I am not in this camp, but if that is what you believe, go ahead and vote for Trump. I cannot do that because I do not share your view. I will not hold it against anyone who votes for Trump who truly believes they are doing the right thing. I only ask the same in return.
We cannot let this election divide us. We cannot view each other as the enemy and the ones who will destroy our country. We need to come together in understanding. We can disagree, but we should strive to respect each other and help each other where we agree. If we do not, more than the Republican Party will he destroyed. We will split our own movement beyond establishment versus conservative. We will lose hope of achieving our ideals in the future.
No matter who wins the election, American is in for some tough times. We will need to stick together if we want to get through them. We can let the election divide us further, or we can learn how to look at each other as people and consider other points of view while not necessarily accepting them. I believe we have a chance of becoming stronger after this election. Liberals and conservatives could look back and realize that what we have in common is an establishment that has produced two candidates neither side really likes. If we can learn to understand each other and lose our hatred and anger, then maybe, despite the cost, this presidential election will have been worth it.