Politics & Policy

My Trouble with ‘Never Trump’

(Mike Blake/Reuters)

I don’t like Donald Trump for president, but I do like Trump voters. It is the job of the presumptive nominee to unite the party and I am pausing for a few breaths, at least before deciding to go third party.

The very thought, though, of uniting behind a independent candidate, as Ben Sasse is urging, exposes my trouble with the Never Trump movement. Any serious third-party effort requires uniting the Cruz and the Kasich factions, and I’m not sure that is either doable or desirable.

You see many stories floating around about how Trump’s rise proves that social conservatism is dead. This is absurd. Trump located himself as a social conservative. He opposes abortion and promised to pass a late-term abortion bill. Right now, the Human Rights Campaign is pounding him for agreeing, in response to a letter that the American Principles Project sent him, to sign the First Amendment Defense Act.

Some social conservatives are leading the Never Trump effort in part because they do not believe Trump will keep his promises and in part because of the man’s character flaws. But the candidate himself defined himself as at least as strong a social conservative as Romney or McCain were. Social conservatives would likely be disappointed by a President Trump but no more than they would have been by a President Romney or a President McCain.

RELATED: How Trump Happened

No, the really revolutionary change in policy that Trump represents is on foreign policy and — and this is key — on Republican economics, which has degenerated over the years into Chamber of Commerce economics: protect job creators and all will be well. This is a form of special-interest pleading and the antithesis of what Reagan and Kemp did. It is very similar in fact to the losing economic message of the Party of Ford: spend less and accelerate depreciation.

The Chamber of Commerce has declared war on the part of the old Reagan coalition that includes social conservatives.

And in addition to destroying Reagan’s populist conservative economics, the Chamber of Commerce has declared war on the part of the old Reagan coalition that includes social conservatives. The Chamber of Commerce is now the face of opposition to laws protecting women’s privacy in public-school showers and to laws offering modest conscience protections so Christian small-business owners can keep their livelihoods, government can’t fire dissenters from gay marriage, and religious schools can retain their integrity and identity, all of which the Human Right Campaign describes as vile hate.

It is one thing to privately urge caution and restraint. But when one member of a coalition adopts the Left’s framing and attacks another part of the coalition, there is no coalition any more. That’s not my decision, and I say this not out of anger or frustration. It’s just reality.

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Cruz ran a tough, smart, honorable campaign. In my view he made a few mistakes, including never pivoting to a core message (like “Make America great again”) that was about rebuilding America rather than internal to the Republican party or the conservative movement. But he ran as a principled conservative who means it, and in the process he enraged the GOP establishment. Cruz’s support for Chamber of Commerce economics — the basic Republican economic message (which he did not really change or improve) of helping people by helping job creators — was not enough to overcome the loathing that GOP elites have for the values of their base. I don’t blame him for losing. He faced an impossible task: be more of an outsider than Trump and/or unite his slice of the outsider vote with the Kasich-establishment-Huntsman vote.

The Wall Street Journal’s weird decision to publicly blame Cruz for creating Trump is an expression of the Chamber of Commerce war on the old Reagan conservative coalition. And make no mistake, it is the Chamber of Commerce, and not Reaganism or Kempism, that now totally dominates GOP elites, including, sadly, House speaker Paul Ryan. Let me offer a friendly warning: The Party of Gerald Ford, the last incarnation of the Chamber of Commerce GOP, was able to occasionally win the presidency, but it was a permanent minority party. GOP elites, including Ryan, have yet to digest how thoroughly Republican voters just rejected the Party of Job Creators. Trump is wrong on economics, but anyone who wants to build a winning GOP coalition had better come up with a better answer than corporate tax cuts. But that is a column for another day.

#share#Who are the Chamber of Commerce Republicans?

Let’s take a gut check: This week the Obama administration sent to Governor Pat McCrory and to North Carolina educational institutions a letter warning them that refusing to let people with penises shower with women and girls violates federal law and that they risk all their federal funding unless they dump their law.

Pause for a moment and consider how many tenets of conservatism the Democrats are violating with this move.

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First, of course, they are legislating a new morality that is opposed to traditional cultural and moral norms. They are wielding your tax dollars, and mine, as a club, threatening the education of millions of students unless the schools conform. They are violating the basic privacy rights of women and turning public schools and universities into hostile learning environments. If a condition of women’s using athletic facilities is that they must be willing to expose their naked bodies to biological males, it clearly violates Title IX’s ban on creating a hostile environment for women. If it doesn’t, I don’t know what would or does.

It violates federalism, of course and obviously. The idea that we are a diverse country and can work out different accommodations in different places is one of many ideas that must be sacrificed to the Left’s great and voracious god, Equality. Women must shower naked with people with penises, lest Equality’s wrath descend upon us.

The Chamber of Commerce GOP will cower as the Left aggressively remakes America.

But it gets worse than that, if that’s possible. The Left is violating democracy itself. Democracy and the rule of law require respect for the meaning of words. Laws are made of words. The end run (represented by gay marriage but not stopping there) around democracy consists in the Left’s confidence that it can ignore Congress and implement its own laws by creative interpretation that the courts will eventually back them up on. For years, the Left tried and failed to pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, the law’s religious-liberty protections being a major obstacle. So the Democrats decided to simply reinterpret existing law by executive action to include ENDA plus a great deal more — minus the religious liberty protection that would have been required to pass it democratically.

There isn’t much of conservatism left if we cannot fight what the Left is doing here.

But who on the Hill has the courage to face wrath of the Left’s great god of Equality? Certainly not Speaker Ryan. So far, Governor McCrory appears to stand alone.

#related#Donald Trump wants to avoid this controversy. But I’m pretty sure both he and Hillary will be asked quite soon where they stand. Here is the question I want to know: Do they believe that federal laws banning gender discrimination include LGBT rights? Will they use taxpayer dollars to punish states that pass conscience protections for gay-marriage dissenters or that pass privacy protections for women in places with expectations of bodily privacy? I can’t speak for others, but the courage to roll back the Left’s lawless institutional power grab is one thing that might sway me.

Because I know Chamber of Commerce Republicans will never do such a thing. Gentlemen cry “Peace, peace” when there is no peace. The Chamber of Commerce GOP will cower as the Left aggressively remakes America. And then it will wonder why it can’t win with its Job Creators message. And corporations will continue to learn that we are a crony-capitalist nation, not a free-enterprise nation. And America will no longer be either great or exceptional or even a democratic republic.

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