The Conservative Case against Trump
[Last Saturday, May 7, Ross Douthat, writing for the New York Times, had some interesting things to say about Donald Trump. He cannot bring himself to believe, and neither can I, that any right-thinking conservative could support a man of Trump’s (lack of) character and temperament. Here is a portion of the editorial.] Continue reading . . .
[Last Saturday, May 7, Ross Douthat, writing for the New York Times, had some interesting things to say about Donald Trump. He cannot bring himself to believe, and neither can I, that any right-thinking conservative could support a man of Trump’s (lack of) character and temperament. Here is a portion of the editorial.]
Even if you find things to appreciate in Trumpism — as I have, and still do — the man who has raised those issues is still unfit for an office as awesomely powerful as the presidency of the United States.
His unfitness starts with basic issues of temperament. It encompasses the race-baiting, the conspiracy theorizing, the flirtations with violence, and the pathological lying that have been his campaign-trail stock in trade.
But above all it is Trump’s authoritarianism that makes him unfit for the presidency — his stated admiration for Putin and the Chinese Politburo, his promise to use the power of the presidency against private enterprises, the casual threats he and his surrogates toss off against party donors, military officers, the press, the speaker of the House, and more.
All presidents are tempted by the powers of the office, and congressional abdication has only increased that temptation’s pull. President Obama’s power grabs are part of a bipartisan pattern of Caesarism, one that will likely continue apace under Hillary Clinton.
But far more than Obama or Hillary or George W. Bush, Trump is actively campaigning as a Caesarist, making his contempt for constitutional norms and political niceties a selling point. And given his mix of proud ignorance and immense self-regard, there is no reason to believe that any of this is just an act.
Trump would not be an American Mussolini; even our sclerotic institutions would resist him more effectively than that. But he could test them as no modern president has tested them before — and with them, the health of our economy, the civil peace of our society and the stability of an increasingly perilous world.
In sum: It would be possible to justify support for Trump if he merely promised a period of chaos for conservatism. But to support Trump for the presidency is to invite chaos upon the republic and the world. No policy goal, no court appointment, can justify such recklessness.
To Trumpism’s appeal, to Trump’s constituents, conservatives should listen and answer “yes,” or “maybe,” or “not that, but how about…”
But to Trump himself, there is no patriotic answer except “no.”