The Corner

Calling All Acela Corridor Conservatives

In these states, Clinton will win anyway.

I don’t think anything I’ve ever written, on any subject, has been read by as many people as the Public Discourse essay I published in late July, explaining why I cannot vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.  I haven’t turned a hairsbreadth from that determination, and none of the contrary responses to the essay has been persuasive to me for a moment.

I still have conservative friends diverging from my position in both directions.  Some are so fearful of Hillary that they are determined to vote for Trump even though they find him a repellent human being who is unqualified for any office, high or petty.  Others are so appalled by Trump that they’ve decided to vote for Hillary, even knowing full well that she is both deeply corrupt and an implacable enemy of the common good as they understand it.

But lately it occurs to me that these friends and I have one thing in common.  Nearly all of us live in states that Hillary Clinton is going to win no matter what we do.  Practically every one of us lives in the “Acela corridor” traversed by Amtrak’s commuter rail line from Washington to Boston.  This comprises the states of Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, plus Washington, D.C. itself.  You can even throw in Virginia for good measure, since lots of folks working in D.C. live in the Old Dominion, and many of them travel Amtrak’s northeast corridor.

From Virginia to Massachusetts, these nine states plus D.C. deliver 114 electoral votes to the presidential tally.  Eighty-one of those votes are rock-solid for Hillary—subtracting Pennsylvania and Virginia, her weakest states.  My own sense of these things is that she will win there as well.  (RCP’s polling average has her up 4.4 in Pennsylvania, calling it a toss-up at present, and up 7.2 in Virginia, which is said to “lean” her way.) 

My counsel to conservatives in the “reluctantly for Hillary to stop Trump” camp, if they live in these states, is that she doesn’t need your help.  To those in the “reluctantly for Trump to stop Hillary” camp: your help is useless to him.  At least if you live in D.C., Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Rhode Island, or Massachusetts, this is a plain fact: Clinton will win there no matter what you do, my conservative friends.  Would your votes put him over the top even in Pennsylvania or Virginia?  Not without a lot more moving with you from the ranks of the undecided.

So why put yourself through the agonies of an afflicted conscience, feeling responsible for a Clinton presidency we know will be horrifying?  As for The Donald, his chances look grim nationally, so why go down in ignominious defeat with him, having treated him as the standard-bearer for a party you once respected and called your own?  And even if he ekes out a victory, it won’t come from Acela Corridor states.  So vote for Evan McMullin if you can.  Write in Dolly Parton!  But don’t give either of these malodorous candidates the honor of your vote.

Free yourselves, my friends.  Answer the call of conscience.  Your actions will be of no account anyway.  All you Acela Corridor Conservatives have to lose is your guilt.  It feels fine, I promise.


Matthew J. Franck is retired from Princeton University, where he was a lecturer in Politics and associate director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions. He is also a senior fellow of the Witherspoon Institute, a contributing editor of Public Discourse, and professor emeritus of political science at Radford University.