Tens of millions of Americans have mailed in their ballots already. Tomorrow, tens of millions more will go to the polls. I’m not confident how they’ll vote, but I am absolutely certain of one thing: Not one of them will see the name “Donald Trump” on the ballot.
Instead, they will see different individuals with characters very different from Trump’s. They will see Republicans and Democrats with their own policy positions and their own rhetorical styles.
Yet now voices from the left, the center, and what can only be called the “former right” are calling on Republicans and conservatives to abandon any kind of individualized determination for the sake of opposing a man who isn’t on the ballot. They’re making that demand even as leading Democrats prove time and again that they will not moderate for the benefit of Republicans who change parties, will not compromise, and — crucially — will not even behave better than Trump himself.
In other words, they are asking for your political capitulation without earning your support.
Democrats claim that now is a critical time for public hygiene. It’s time to hold corrupt, self-aggrandizing politicians accountable. I agree.
Ask your Democratic candidate if he or she is willing to publicly condemn New Jersey senator Robert Menendez — tried for public corruption and admonished by the Senate Ethics Committee for doing favors for a wealthy contributor in exchange for lavish gifts — the way that so many conservatives condemned (and ultimately rejected) Roy Moore.
Democrats claim that now is the time to reject the politics of personal destruction. They look at a president who calls people names, who spins out wild conspiracy theories (Ted Cruz’s father participated in the Kennedy assassination? Really?), and they demand better. I agree.
Look at your Democratic candidate’s actions regarding Brett Kavanaugh. Did they credit facially implausible gang-rape allegations? Did they presume his guilt and declare they “believed survivors” even without substantiation and in the face of contradictory evidence? Did they participate in a campaign to destroy a man’s life and career, only to drop the whole matter the instant he was confirmed?
Democrats decry Republican extremism and alarmism. They look at wild claims about the border caravan, wasteful troop deployments, and alarmist rhetoric about criminals and Middle Easterners. They condemn family separation. They decry Trump’s “enemy of the people” rhetoric. They believe that Trump and his allies are dangerously raising tensions in the American body politic. I agree.
Ask where your Democratic candidate stands on Hillary Clinton’s rejection of civility, Cory Booker’s call for protesters to “get up in the face of some congresspeople,” Eric Holder’s declaration that “when they go low, we kick them,” or Maxine Waters’s ominous demand that “if you see anybody from that cabinet in a restaurant, in a department store, at a gasoline station, you get out and you create a crowd and you push back on them, and you tell them they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere.”
And while you’re at it, ask your Democratic candidates if the challenge of Donald Trump is so grave that they’re willing to moderate their positions on abortion, immigration, health care, gun rights, or religious liberty even in the slightest to win your support.
There are those who will read this piece and decry the “whataboutism” or the “both sides-ism,” but isn’t every single election an evaluation of both sides? Don’t we have to compare and contrast candidates?
I have a simple test for voting: I will vote for individuals of good character who share my political values. If both candidates meet that test (and they rarely do), then of course I vote for the person closest to my views. That means I evaluate the individual whose name is on the ballot, not the president who isn’t yet up for reelection.
Nor does the rejection of one candidate lead automatically to a vote for his opponent. Each candidate has to earn your vote, and if no one has, it is entirely acceptable to write in a name or go on strike — to stay home until the political parties can produce a candidate worth your support.
And I refuse to recommend that anyone vote against a good conservative, including good conservatives who could remain in office long after Trump is gone from politics, to “punish” the GOP. I especially cannot recommend punishing the GOP by voting for an unworthy opposition.
The best form of accountability is candidate-by-candidate, not party-by-party. Make each person own his or her choices and actions. To sweep out a good man or woman — and replace him or her with someone who doesn’t share your values, or who doesn’t have the character you seek in a politician — isn’t an act of moral reform but yet another sign of political decay.
I don’t claim that every Democrat fails the test of character and policy, but I do know that the Democrats in general have. They demand public hygiene even as they’re responsible for much of our political filth. They decry extremism even as they stampede to the left. And there are voices — even on the right — who would help this deeply flawed party even as it demonstrates its own profound moral bankruptcy.
Ignore those voices. Focus on the actual people on your ballot. There is absolutely no reason, including to “send a message,” for any American to vote for a candidate of low character or who does not share his values. Not ever. If you like your Republican, you should keep your Republican. The Democrats have not earned your vote.