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For about six months now, I’ve been a determined MaybeTrumper. I’ve been very unhappy with the choice forced upon me by my fellow Republican primary voters who selected this candidate. I am still unhappy with it.
But I assiduously avoided jumping on the NeverTrump train. I decided that the best course was to wait and see how the campaign developed, without committing myself either way. There was no hurry to decide.
I have now made my decision to vote for Trump. For whatever it is worth to my Ricochet fellows, I offer my rationale.
I. Trump is a deeply flawed candidate
I recognize that Trump is a deeply flawed candidate. I will not belabor the point. He has serious issues of personal character. He departs from my preferences on some important issues, most notably trade. He often comes across as a boorish bully, and seems to confirm some of the worst stereotypes that the Left applies to Republicans and Conservatives. I don’t really trust him, and he still, sometimes, gives me the feeling that he is a conman.
On the bright side, he presented a pretty good platform in his Gettysburg speech, and he’s said some excellent things on issues ranging from immigration to tax policy to regulation to abortion.
II. Hillary is Horrible
There was never any chance that I would vote for Hillary Clinton. The campaign has, if anything, strengthened my opposition to her. I find her to be personally corrupt and mendacious. I am opposed to her policies virtually across-the-board, from taxes to regulation to trade to foreign policy to immigration to gay marriage to taxpayer-funded abortion-on-demand. Not to mention the Supreme Court.
I have always recognized that the best argument for Trump is the argument against Clinton.
III. My Vote Doesn’t Matter
I haven’t run the numbers, but I suspect that it is more likely that I will die before election day than that my vote will decide the outcome of the election. I live in Arizona. If Arizona is as close as my one vote, then Clinton almost certainly would already have won. And the chance of the Arizona result being tipped by my one little vote is negligible anyway.
So as a matter of winning and losing, my vote is inconsequential. What about using my vote to send a message?
I don’t see how my little vote would send any message that anyone could decipher.
Would my vote for Trump send the message that I enthusiastically support him? That I give him my lukewarm support, as I gave to Romney and McCain? That I greatly disapprove of him but find Clinton to be even worse?
On the other hand, if I did not vote for Trump, what message would that send? That I just couldn’t bring myself to support this candidate, despite my vehement opposition to Clinton? That I want to teach my fellow Republicans a lesson, so that they never again present me with such an unpalatable choice? That I’m a big fan of Gary Johnson, or Evan McMullin, or whoever I were to (pointlessly) write in?
No, I don’t think that my vote will send any message, even if it could be separated from the noise of millions of other votes.
IV. Will I Regret It?
For months now, I have been concerned that I would, someday, deeply regret it if I voted for Trump. That I would feel soiled by a compromise of this magnitude.
Hey, it’s just an election. I don’t think that I’ll feel any shame, in future years, admitting that I voted for Trump with great reluctance, because I thought that Clinton would be worse.
I’ll simply say, in my best impression of Jack Aubrey, that I sensibly chose the lesser of two weevils. Which is a good idea even if one is not in the Navy.
V. Unity Going Forward
The main reason for my decision is aimed at the future of the Republican Party and the Conservative movement.
I do worry that Trump, if he wins, will harm the Conservative cause. A Trump victory looks pretty unlikely now. I’ve decided to hope for the best in this regard.
In the likely event of a Trump loss, however, we’re going to have to put the Republican Party and the Conservative movement back together again. It will be hard work. I hear much talk of consequences, even purges, from both the avidly pro-Trump folks and the more vehement NeverTrumpers.
I don’t support Conservatism out of some religious conviction or tribal mentality. At least I hope not. I am a Conservative because I have concluded, based on reason and experience, that Conservative policies are far, far better for our country as a whole, and for the vast majority of our people. I agree with Lady Thatcher that the facts of life are Conservative.
So, for the good of myself, my family, and my fellows, I want the Conservative cause to prevail. This means that we need to keep together an effective electoral coalition. To be effective, that coalition has to include both the enthusiastic Trumpers and the NeverTrumpers. We simply must bridge this gap.
As I see it, the most effective way that I can bridge that gap is if I can say, to our pro-Trump friends, that despite major reservations and disagreements, I ultimately decided to vote for the guy. They gave me a choice that I found very unpleasant, and I went along for the sake of team unity. I will then be able to legitimately ask them to do the same in the future.
Going forward, we need to consider compromises with pro-Trump folks on issues like trade, immigration, and more help for the working class. Personally, I won’t need to compromise much on immigration, but I’m fairly stubborn on free trade and opposition to welfare. Nevertheless, I recognize that working class folks have been having a really tough time, and we need to be willing to bend a bit to bring them some relief.
So I’ll be voting for Trump.
And praying. A lot.