Those of us who’ve pledged that we will never, ever vote for Donald Trump always get the same response: “You’d put Hillary Clinton in the Oval Office instead?” Clinton’s name is spoken like an epithet, as if it’s unthinkable that any conservative would take any single action that could facilitate her election. I will not, under any circumstances, vote for Clinton, but I also do not believe that Trump would make a better president. Not because Clinton isn’t as bad as you think, but because Trump is worse than you imagine.
There’s no real difference in character between the two. They lie as easily as they breathe: habitually, transparently, shamelessly. Hillary lies like a lawyer, always parsing her words to provide a legal escape route. Trump lies like a thug, contradicting himself with each successive breath and daring anyone to call him on it. They both seek to destroy their political opponents, and they’d probably both wield the levers of power to do so and to reward their friends. In other words, they’re both fundamentally corrupt.
We know what we’ll get from Clinton when it comes to foreign policy. She’s an internationalist interventionist with more muscular instincts than Barack Obama and less resolve than George W. Bush. She voted for the Iraq invasion but then went wobbly as the war dragged on. She backed the surge in Afghanistan, advocated intervention in Libya, and was famously more skeptical of the Arab Spring than Obama. Her “reset” with Russia was a disaster, but she’ll broadly back American allies, maintain our stewardship of NATO, and keep our other international commitments.
Trump’s foreign policy, insofar as he has a coherent foreign policy, is by contrast an entire casserole of crazy. At various points in the campaign, he’s promised that he’d order the military to commit war crimes by torturing terrorists and killing their families; he’s called our core alliances in question; he’s pledged to remain neutral in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians; and he’s switched anti-ISIS strategies so many times that no one has the slightest clue what he’d do. This is a man who has on multiple occasions endorsed a “bomb them all and take their oil” strategy for fixing the war-torn Middle East. He’d alienate every Muslim ally America has, including the Kurds, and he’s still completely mystified by the most basic defense concepts. The entire world would be less secure with his finger on the button.
On trade, Clinton will almost certainly be superior to Trump. Trump pledges to “win” through punitive tariffs that would increase the price of consumer goods and trigger trade wars, but he gives little indication that he understands the economics of trade, the reality of the American economy, or even the truth about American manufacturing. (It is not, in fact, disappearing.) Clinton, by contrast, would probably maintain the trade-policy status quo, and while that status quo creates winners and losers — as any status quo would — free trade has long been an overall positive for American families.
The Clinton and Trump tax plans are both miserable. Clinton offers the standard Democratic package of tax increases for the rich and vastly increased spending, while Trump’s tax cuts would blast a hole in the budget, adding as much debt as Obama did — without the burden of a historic recession. Clinton’s plan would probably slow economic growth, but would be closer to revenue-neutral. Trump’s plan would spur more growth but would also increase the national debt by up to $10 trillion. Pick your poison.
#share#But what about the areas where Trump fans argue that he’d clearly be better than Clinton? On abortion, immigration, and judges, we know what she’d do — protect Planned Parenthood, try to enact a path to citizenship, and appoint the standard-issue leftist legal technocrats to the bench.
How much better would Trump be? It’s impossible to know if his recent pro-life conversion is genuine, but it can’t be a good sign that he still refuses to denounce Planned Parenthood, consistently using Democratic talking points to praise the nation’s largest abortion provider. On immigration — aside from that big, beautiful wall, which is a pipe dream at best — he’s all over the place. And his corporate record indicates that he’s exactly the kind of “jobs Americans won’t do” legal-immigration and touchback-amnesty advocate who would be all too willing to open the door so wide that no one would have to scale the wall.
As for judges, the indications are similarly ominous. He praises his far-left sister and promises to nominate men and women whom everyone will like. But not everyone likes true conservatives. In reality, he’ll probably nominate friends and cronies — people who’ve said nice things about him. The best-case scenario is that he’ll delegate lower-court judicial nominations to home-state senators, simply adopting their recommendations. He’d probably be better than Hillary, but not by much.
He’d also probably be better than Hillary on the Second Amendment. There is at least a chance that he’d nominate a Supreme Court justice who wouldn’t vote for the repeal of the individual right to keep and bear arms, and it’s doubtful that he’d initiate any meaningful gun-control measures. But who knows what he might negotiate in the heat of the moment? Any position he takes — most definitely including all of the “conservative” stances he’s adopted since launching his campaign — could be discarded at a moment’s notice if it became politically inconvenient. It’s impossible to know what he actually believes, if he actually believes anything.
#related#But virtually everything we do know about Trump is negative. He lies. He traffics in far-left conspiracy theories. He incites violence. He surrounds himself with thugs, cronies, and fools. He’s ignorant of the most basic realities of national security, foreign policy, and global economics. He has a decades-long record of corruption and a decades-long record of liberalism. In arguing that he’s better than Clinton, his supporters now ask us to trust his current “conservative” incarnation and disregard that record. We don’t really know how he’ll handle immigration, trade, ISIS, abortion, or judges. But trust him. He’ll do better.
Yes, Trump has praised single-payer health care during this election, but trust him. He’ll do better than Obamacare. Yes, Trump has advocated touchback amnesty and increased legal immigration, but trust him. He’ll protect American workers. Yes, Trump has supported abortion-on-demand and gun control, but trust him. He’s changed. Yes, Trump has written large checks to leftist politicians, but trust him. He’ll fight them as president. Yes, his campaign team lives in the gutter, but trust him. He’ll appoint good people.
Hillary Clinton is the most beatable likely Democratic nominee since John Kerry, and the GOP is poised to nominate the one man least likely to beat her, and the one man who would be just as bad in the White House. I don’t vote for despicable people. I don’t vote for leftists. And I will never, ever, vote for Donald Trump. He’s no better than she is.
— David French is an attorney, and a staff writer at National Review.