I watched more of the Republican convention than I had intended to, and this much seems undeniable: The Republican party either has transformed itself into a nationalist-mercantilist party opposed to free markets and a remarkably blasé attitude toward what we used to call the “social issues,” or it is simply willing to impersonate one until the political tides shift. Either way, it was a dispiriting spectacle.
There is no place for economic conservatives in the Trump party, which envisions federal micromanagement of every aspect of the economy from trade to investment to such social-justice-warrior concerns as the so-called gender gap and family-leave mandates. There is no place for social conservatives in the Trump party, either, unless they are very naive or very, very cynical. It is difficult to believe that as movement to reclaim the seriousness and sacredness of marriage and family is going to be led by Donald Trump.
Trumpkins sometimes settle on a word such as “globalist,” and the current one is “binary,” by which they mean that the election is a choice between A and B — or at least between A and Not-A. That’s true, but there are other binaries, too, such as the question of whether Trump is fit for office or unfit for office. I believe him to be unfit — and obviously so — and the rottenness of Hillary Rodham Clinton does not change that. With his remarks on NATO, Trump already is making the world a less stable and more dangerous place. His threats to pull the United States out of NAFTA already are having a disruptive effect on private investments.
Some of my more libertarian-leaning friends, having watched the same Cleveland circus I did, are demanding: “Well, what about Gary Johnson?” I would not go so far as to call Johnson unfit for office, but I do not think he would be a very good president, either. I will concur with those who note that the odd fact is that the Libertarian party ticket this year has more extensive governing experience and better executive credentials than either of the major-party tickets so far. Assuming that Mrs. Clinton does not persuade Rick Perry to be her running mate, that won’t change.
So, what to do? I suppose the thing to do on Election Day is to follow Ted Cruz’s advice and pull the lever as your conscience dictates, if you’re into that sort of thing. But there are 364 other days in a year, during which we have an obligations as citizens to understand and speak the truth about what is happening in our politics, and to oppose it. John Lukacs, the great historian, has written that the United States (and much of the rest of the world) really has two national-socialist parties, one a little more nationalist and the other a little bit more socialist. That certainly is the case so far as the 2016 presidential elections are concerned. You can pick your poison, but it’s still poison.