Dear Mr. Trump,
As a voter, a military retiree who served three tours in the Mideast, and a truck driver, I wonder if you and I might be able to reach an accord? Because I know you appreciate people who shoot straight, I’m going to respectfully do exactly that. To be quite candid with you, you were not my choice for the Republican nomination. I supported Ted Cruz, given that he has spent his entire adult life advancing conservatism and was as well versed in the philosophy of this nation’s founding as any presidential candidate since Ronald Reagan.
That this philosophy has been rejected by the voters is instructive, not only with regard to current the state of civic literacy, but with respect to the political class as well, for it is the political class that repeatedly equivocated and surrendered in the face of the progressive onslaught, choosing to fight against their own voters instead.
Mr. Trump, you appear to be a recent convert to some conservative causes — causes I’ve been advancing in word and deed for over 30 years — so you will understand if I seem a bit skeptical given that you and I have been on opposite sides of the ideological divide for most of our adult lives. It doesn’t mean that winning my vote is hopeless, but it does mean that my vote is not a given. Remember please, you are asking me to hire you, not the other way around.
Four years ago, in this space, I wrote a letter to Mitt Romney, reluctantly pledging my support. He wasn’t my first choice either, and he spoke conservatism as if it were a second language, but I reasoned that I had little choice but to pull the lever for the guy with an “R” next to his name. Come to think of it, John McCain wasn’t my first choice either. And I’m pretty sure George W. Bush wasn’t my initial favorite, but you get the idea.
Even though I registered as a libertarian sometime around George W.’s second term (when I realized that the party’s relationship with the idea of limited government was purely platonic), I’ve been a reliable Republican vote. That time has come to a close. If you want my vote, sir, you will need to earn it. You will need to state your prescriptions clearly, specifically, and definitively, though I’m afraid things are not off to a promising start.
A few days ago you equivocated on your minimum wage position, and less than 24 hours later, after the first whiff of resistance to your tax plan on CNBC, you began backtracking and negotiating with yourself, saying of your own plan, “I am not necessarily a huge fan of that.” That’s not conservatism as a second language. It’s not even conservatism on training wheels. It’s simply incoherent. Mr. Trump, if we wanted people who start giving ground before the fight even starts, John Boehner would still be Speaker of the House and their would have been no revolt against the Republican establishment.
I’m under no illusion that you are a conservative, at least as that term has been traditionally understood. But if I do vote for you, it will be because you convinced me that on at least a few key issues, you will proceed in a reliably conservative direction. I need to know, for example, that you will secure the border and enforce the immigration laws already on the books. Likewise, I need to know that your judicial appointments will be originalist in nature and that you intend fidelity to the constitution as it was written and understood by the framers rather than the latest intellectual fashions of liberal salons.
Now, I understand that you’re new to being a political candidate. I’ve never run for office myself, but I’ve studied politicians for several decades now, so perhaps I can offer some advice by way of contrasting examples. Here is Ronald Reagan’s closing case on his opponent, Jimmy Carter, in 1980:
I believe that there is a fundamental difference — and I think it has been evident in most of the answers that Mr. Carter has given tonight — that he seeks the solution to anything as another opportunity for a Federal Government program. I happen to believe that the Federal Government has usurped powers and autonomy and authority that belongs back at the State and local level — it has imposed on the individual freedoms of the people — and that there are more of these things that could be solved by the people themselves, if they were given a chance, or by the levels of government that were closer to them.
Here is your closing case on your opponent on the day of the Indiana Primary:
[Cruz’s] father was with Lee Harvey Oswald prior to Oswald being, you know, shot. I mean the whole thing is ridiculous. What is this, right, prior to his being shot? And nobody brings it up. …What was he doing — what was he doing with Lee Harvey Oswald shortly before his death? Before the shooting? It’s horrible.
Surely you see the difference, yes? It’s the difference between an informed contrast of candidates based on diametrically opposed philosophies of governance, and a shameful, uninformed, trashy tabloid attack on a family member that would be unbecoming from a candidate for dog catcher. I pray you are a better man than your small-minded attack on a candidate’s father suggests. In truth, even as a Cruz supporter, I was prepared to mount a vigorous defense of your candidacy as the Republican nominee up until that moment, but I cannot, and will not defend anyone who traffics in such third-rate garbage.
The good news is that you won’t have to resort to tabloid fiction to battle Hillary Clinton. The simple facts of her disastrous record, from the deaths of four brave Americans in Benghazi to her own war on the women who were victimized by her predatory husband, will provide plenty of ammo. Still, your habit of resorting to infantile name-calling and your malicious lies about your Republican opponents, should give anyone with even a semi-developed conscience reason to pause.
We live in dark times, Mr. Trump, and there are days when I agree with Mark Twain who observed that, “Often is does seem such a pity that Noah and his party did not miss the boat.” If Hillary is elected, she will fashion the majority on the Supreme Court in a way that will literally erase the Bill of Rights. Our right to free speech, to free exercise of our religious faith, and our right to self defense will be eviscerated. She will throw open the borders to illegal aliens and Islamic fanatics alike, resulting in a permanent Republican minority and a national security catastrophe. To use a current phrase, it will be, “game over.”
All the same, I’ve wasted too many votes on weak-kneed Republicans who brought us to this precipice in the first place, and I’ll be damned if I’ll waste another vote on a crude vulgarian who is a man of his most recent conviction and who has both philosophical feet planted in midair.
So with respect, put down the National Enquirer and pick up a copy of the Constitution. In an interview on CNN, you stated that the top three functions of the United States government are security, health care, and education. That’s the sort of answer one would expect from Nancy Pelosi, who is as comfortable with the Constitution as I am with playing a violin concerto. The Republican Presidential Nominee really ought to know that it is the Constitution which specifies the functions of the federal government, and health and education are nowhere to be found in that document.
Further, the 10th Amendment requires that those functions which are not specifically granted to the federal government in the Constitution remain the sole province of the states or the people. If you win, you’ll take an oath of fidelity to the Constitution and — I can’t believe this needs to be said — you might want to familiarize yourself with it.
Next, take a stroll through the Federalist Papers, starting with Federalist 10, written by James Madison, which explains that, contrary to your repeated assertions, the system isn’t rigged and that pure democracy, or majoritarianism, is something the Framers specifically warned against. For example:
From this view of the subject it may be concluded that a pure democracy, by which I mean a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person, can admit of no cure for the mischiefs of faction. … Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security, or the rights of property, and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would at the same time be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.
Crack open a history book and you will learn that the Republican delegate system which you so vociferously railed against, and which is based on the same principle as the electoral college, is precisely what allowed Abraham Lincoln, who came to the 1860 convention with only 22 percent of the delegates to William Seward’s 37 percent, to win the nomination after three convention ballots. Are you prepared to argue that the system which gave us Abraham Lincoln is “rigged,” and fatally flawed, and that Lincoln wrongly stole Seward’s delegates?
Once you put away the mental junk food and sit down to the rich feast of American history and the philosophies which undergird American exceptionalism, your newfound conservatism might take root and provide the intellectual foundation for those things you now seem to embrace intuitively without fully understanding why. While you’re at it, you can take the American people on the journey with you so that your supporters can respond to the issues with something other than the Pavlovian response, “Lyin’ Ted,” as one did when Senator Cruz made an effort to thoughtfully engage him.
We are about to test Milton Friedman’s thesis that:
I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or if they try, they all shortly be out of office.
And herein lies the genius of the American system. Your capacity to intuitively know where the American people are with respect to their concerns and aspirations is nothing short of amazing. As a leader, you have the opportunity to foster the sort of American renewal that the country has long needed. So with respect, I ask you to embrace the Constitution, understand the Founders and the Framers, and in so doing, you will tap into strength and vitality of the American character itself and unleash true American greatness. If you do at least that much, you will have my support.