On May 8th, The Bull Elephant welcomed Steven Brodie Tucker’s contribution, “Why I am Voting for Donald Trump.”
I applaud Mr. Tucker’s generosity and civic mindset, as well as TBE’s role in promoting dialogue. But I believe he articulates widely-used logic and sentiment that will lead the GOP in the wrong direction.
Many frustrated voters feel voting for Trump is not an issue of moral or ethical significance, while arguing that the election of Hillary Clinton will have profound moral consequences for the country. If the consequences of Hillary Clinton’s election are of moral significance, the consequences of Trump’s election are also of moral significance.
The same voters assert that voting has no ethical impact. I disagree. Voting is an exercise of power, and power must be subject to ethical use. During WWII, General George Marshall was so committed to that truth that he famously abstained from voting while on active duty because he felt that participation by military personnel in civilian political processes was unethical. Marshall, unlike many today, understood that voting influences how we want to force others to live, and that is certainly an issue of ethics.
Many Trump voters claim this election is “The Pivotal Election of our Times,” a crisis of such proportions that anybody is better than the progressive candidate, who will unleash Hell and singlehandedly destroy the American Dream. I have trouble remembering an election in recent memory that was not described in similar Biblical proportions by the promoters of its candidates. Yet somehow, those elections failed to lead to the End Times, and certainly didn’t lead to heaven!
Instead, they yielded Democrats who pursued progressive agendas laced with moral relativism, while a Democrat in the White House ironically shrank the size of the federal government. The same elections yielded Republican legislators who tacitly endorsed the invasion of personal privacy and prioritized defense contractors over veterans, while increasing expenditures even as they cried out for fiscal restraint. In short, we didn’t get good vs. evil. We got hypocrisy, lack of accountability, and very muddled governance.
If we believe Trump’s proponents, a Hillary Clinton presidency will spell the end of the REINS Act and tax reform legislation. Those people seem unaware that all legislation not passed by noon of January 3, 2017 will die with the end of the current session of Congress. The inauguration of the next president will not occur until January 20, more than two weeks after the end of the 114th Congress. The next president will have zero impact on current legislation.
Trump’s proponents concede that his behavior during the campaign has been awful, but insist it is not entirely relevant to his potential performance as President. When I listen to Trump’s reluctant converts, I am reminded of my bachelor years, when I had a troubled relationship with a beautiful but controlling woman. After months of breakups and “one more try” reunions, I listened as a colleague observed that relationships only get harder with time, and asserted my hope for future smooth sailing was both wishful and flawed thinking. “Good from far, but far from good,” he used to say.
That quip comes to mind every time I see the presumptive GOP candidate. What if – doomsday imperatives aside – voters simply won’t endorse a failure? Hillary Clinton’s record as a federal official is checkered at best. Her penchant for military adventure and failure to create functional alliances are disqualifiers for a would-be president. Donald Trump’s record as a CEO is similar. As pointed out in countless periodicals, Donald Trump’s net worth would be higher today had he invested in the S&P 500 instead of his own corporations.
Both candidates have proven willing to walk back any statement in order to please the audience at hand, leaving voters uncertain of their real positions on issues. The results of this week’s Nebraska primaries indicate 40% of the Republican vote went to candidates who have suspended their campaigns. You read that correctly: 40% of Nebraska conservatives find Trump so unpalatable that they threw their votes away just to express their dissatisfaction. This flies in the face of political science, which asserts voters maximizes their power by voting for candidates who have a chance of winning.
Theodore Roosevelt claimed that a vote is like a rifle, whose usefulness depends on the character of the user. Nebraska voters have shown their character; GOP leadership should hear it clearly as the sound of incoming fire.
The defiance of political science seen in Nebraska was not a fluke. GOP officials have an ethical duty to use established procedure in selecting the Republican candidate for President of the United States, even if that candidate is Donald Trump. However, they have a moral duty to abstain from using fallacy to promote a failure whose moral and ethical codes are so convoluted that we can’t tell where he really stands on the issues.
If GOP leadership insists on actively supporting Trump, they risk the departure of a major chunk of their constituency. Instead, GOP leaders need to think strategically, by reuniting with conservative voters, providing platforms and congressional candidates who align with the desires of conservatives in 2016, and focusing on the presidency in 2020.