If I don’t say so myself, my #NeverTrump bona fides are pretty impressive.
I watched in dismay as I helped the Ted Cruz presidential campaign, seeing Republican primary voters select Donald Trump out of a field of 16 viable candidates and make him president-elect. I signed an open letter committing to “working energetically to prevent the election of someone so utterly unfitted” to the presidency and wrote many articles lambasting Trump. I left the Republican Party on his nomination and voted for Libertarian Party presidential nominee Gary Johnson in the general election. After the election, I hoped for Trump’s impeachment and President Mike Pence.
In 2016, two matters primarily worried me about Donald Trump: his character and his policies.
The character issue included unethical business practices (Trump University), egotism (“I’m really rich”), litigiousness (3,500 lawsuits, or one every four days), bigotry (against Judge Curiel) and vulgarity (“Grab ’em by the p**sy”). His policies worried me even more: I saw unbridled impulsiveness and worried about neo-fascist tendencies (thus my nickname for him, Trumpolini). His 2004 statement, “I probably identify more as Democrat,” suggested he would triangulate between Democrats and Republicans, going off in his own populist direction.
Nearly four years later, Trump’s character still troubles and repels me. If anything, his egotism, disloyalty and bombast exceed those vices when he was a mere candidate.
But, to my unending surprise, he has governed as a resolute conservative. His policies in the areas of education, taxes, deregulation and the environment have been bolder than Ronald Reagan’s. His judicial appointments are the best of the past century (thank you, Leonard Leo). His unprecedented assault on the administrative state proceeds apace, ignoring predictable howls from the Washington establishment. Even his foreign policy has been conservative: demanding that allies contribute their fair share, confronting China and Iran and singularly supporting Israel. Ironically, as David Harsanyi notes, a potential character flaw actually works to our advantage: “Trump’s obstinacy seems to have made him less susceptible to the pressures that traditionally induce GOP presidents to capitulate.”
(Economic performance drives many voters to support or oppose a sitting president, but not me: partly, because the president has only limited control, and partly, because it’s a transient issue that matters much less than long-term policies.)
Of course, I also disagree with Trump: protectionism, his indifference to public debt, his hostility toward allies, his soft spot for Turkish strongman Erdoğan and his dangerous meetings with Kim Jong-un. His unrestrained behavior interferes with proper government functioning. The tweets are a protracted liability.
But, of course, we all disagree with some of what every president does. More surprisingly, I agree with about 80 percent of Trump’s actions—a higher percentage than any of his predecessors, going back to Lyndon Johnson.
I have come to understand the wisdom in Salena Zito’s September 2016 witticism about Trump that “the press takes him literally, but not seriously; his supporters take him seriously, but not literally.” Or, as Daniel Larison notes, “We need to judge Trump by his actions and not his words.” I also agree with James Woolsey that Trump would be a much better prime minister than president.
Slowly but inexorably over the past three years, my approval of the policies has outbalanced my distaste for the person. Finally, knowing that Joe Biden will represent the radicalized Democrats in November, I conclude that I will do my small part to help Trump get re-elected by writing, giving and voting.
I reached this conclusion reluctantly but unhesitatingly. Emotionally, esthetically and intellectually, I would prefer to keep my distance from Trump and inhabit a neutral space between the parties, as in 2016. But I will vote for him as the politician who represents my conservative views. I urge other reluctant conservatives to do the same.
The first reason you vote for a presidential candidate is because of that person’s positions. As far as I can determine, other than his Corvette ownership, there is nothing Biden supports that I can support. (Biden’s party believes you shouldn’t own cars, let alone Corvettes.) The second reason you vote for a presidential candidate is because of his or her party, which means the people who will be appointed to executive-branch positions and the federal judiciary. The Republican Party has a lot of flaws, but the Democratic Party is nothing but flaws.