The Corner

Politics & Policy

What If Trump Wins?

In response to Angel Reax

Mark, I appreciate the kind words – I can go for a long time on getting mentioned in the same breath as Ed Meese and Thomas Sowell. I’m even prouder of National Review because the symposium is what National Review is for: striving for the clear articulation of conservative principles and the application of them to the great questions of the day because we believe they are what’s best for our country. I salute Rich for his leadership and I’m honored to have joined in the symposium with so many people I admire.

I support Ted Cruz and I hope to be voting for him on November 8. As you point out, though, it is certainly possible that Donald Trump could be the nominee. So I guess it’s no surprise that, like others in the symposium, I was asked a couple of times yesterday whether I’d ultimately vote for The Donald. There are three things to say about that.

First, Jonah makes a number of great points in this week’s Goldberg File, but my favorite one is that the pledge the candidates have been asked to take to support the party’s nominee has no bearing on us. I’m a registered Republican, but I grew up as a conservative in the Bronx where – for a variety of reasons, most of them not ideological – it seemed everyone was a registered Democrat and it was pretty common for right-of-center Democrats to vote for Republicans (at least in elections for federal office). Politically, I always think of myself as a conservative first, and I’ve never been what you’d call a party activist anyway. I almost always vote Republican, but I don’t feel obliged to vote Republican.

Second, there is a lot of time between now and November and a lot will happen. I’m not inclined to say now what I’ll do then because I don’t know what the choice(s) will be and I want to see things play out. I want to see how other candidates rise to the challenge of Trump and what (if anything) Trump does to persuade people like me that his conversion from progressivism is real. I like the idea that candidates have to earn my vote, not that they have me in the bag.

Finally, I don’t think the question you pose is really that hard. Primaries with a big field of candidates are about whom we prefer. While we’d like general elections to be that way, too, they often come down instead to whom we must choose out of the available options – i.e., to the lesser of two evils (obviously, I am using a common expression; I don’t mean to imply that there are evil candidates in every election).

It is no secret around here that I am no fan of John McCain, but I voted for him in 2008 because I assessed that, while he would do net harm, the alternative was Barack Obama, a radical leftist who would do lasting damage to the nation. Readers also know I am not favorably disposed toward Chris Christie (in fact, some of the positions he’s taken regarding radical Islam make me very angry). But in gubernatorial races, I have voted for Christie twice (the first time, after voting against him in the primary), and in the unlikely event he is the GOP presidential nominee pitted against Hillary, Sanders, Biden or Kerry, I would crawl over a mile of broken glass to vote for him.

The most important issue in the election is going to be the Supreme Court. The next president is almost certain to have more than one slot to fill, and his or her choices may determine the direction of the Court for the next generation – i.e., for long after the next president is gone. Besides that, a president is apt to get somewhere between 150 and 400 lifetime appointments on the federal bench, depending on how long the president is in office. I know the kind of judges the likely Democratic nominees would appoint; and, sadly, I know congressional Republicans are utterly feckless when it comes to keeping bad appointees off the courts.

So if we are going to prevent the shape of the country from being dramatically changed for the worse for the foreseeable future, it is imperative to elect the candidate who is most likely to nominate good justices and judges (or, at least, the nominee least likely to nominate bad ones). If Trump was the only game in town, and he satisfied us that he’d pick better judges than the Democrat (not exactly a high bar), how could I not vote for him?

I don’t believe in sitting out elections. To be born in this country is to have hit life’s lottery. How many people in the world would love to have the privilege of voting in a free and fair election for a candidate they are not crazy about but find preferable to the other candidate(s)? I feel blessed to have the privilege, and I will exercise it in favor of whomever I judge the best – or least bad – candidate on the ballot.

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