On Thursday night, I posted an appeal to Never Trumpers, arguing that they should hold their noses and vote for the slimeball. The heart of my argument was the following claim — which I once again urge you to ponder:
The real issue is whether in the future we will have open discussion of political issues and free elections. Think about what we have now — a federal bureaucracy that is fiercely partisan. An IRS that tries to regulate speech by denying on a partisan basis tax-exempt status to conservative organizations. A Department of State that hides the fact that its head is not observing the rules to which everyone else is held concerning security of communications and that colludes with a Presidential campaign to prevent the release of embarrassing information. A Department of Justice that ought to be renamed as the Department of Injustice, which does its level best to suppress investigations that might embarrass the likely nominee of the Democratic Party. An assistant attorney general that gives a “heads up” to that lady’s campaign. An Attorney General who meets on the sly with her husband shortly before the decision is made whether she is to be indicted. A federal department that promotes racial strife and hostility to the police in the interests of solidifying for the Democrats the African-American vote.
Think about what else we have now — a press corps that colludes with a campaign, allowing figures in the Clinton campaign to edit what they publish. Television reporters who send the questions apt to be asked at the presidential debates to one campaign. A media that is totally in the tank for one party, downplaying or suppressing news that might make trouble for that party, inventing false stories about the candidates nominated by the other party, managing the news, manipulating the public, promoting in the party not favored the nomination of a clown, protecting the utterly corrupt nominee of the other party from scrutiny.
Let’s add to this the fact that the Democratic Party is intent on opening our borders and on signing up illegal aliens to vote. If you do not believe me, read what Wikileaks has revealed about the intentions of Tony Podesta. Barack Obama promised to “fundamentally change America.” He called his administration “The New Foundation.” Well, all that you have to do to achieve this is to alter the population.
To this, I can add something else. Freedom of speech is under attack. Forty-four Senators, all of them Democrats, voted not long ago for an amendment to the Constitution that would hem in the First Amendment. Ostensibly aimed at corporate speech, this would open the doors to the regulation of all speech. The Democratic members of the Federal Election Commission have pressed for regulating the internet — for treating blogposts as political contributions and restricting them. Members of the Civil Rights Commission have argued that freedom of speech and religious freedom must give way to social justice. There is an almost universal move on our college campuses to shut down dissent — among students, who must be afforded “safe spaces,” and, of course, in the classroom as well. There, academic freedom is a dead letter; and, in practice, despite the courts, in our public universities, the First Amendment does not apply.
We entered on a slippery slope some time ago when the legislatures passed and courts accepted laws against so-called “hate crimes” — that punished not only the deed but added further penalties for the thought. Now we are told that “hate speech” cannot be tolerated — which sounds fine until one realizes that what they have in mind rules out any discussion of subjects such as the propriety of same-sex marriage, sluttishness, and abortion; of the damage done African-American communities by irresponsible behavior on the part of fathers; and of the manner in which Islam, insofar as it is a religion of holy law, may be incompatible with liberal democracy. If you do not think that a discussion of these matters is off limits, you are, as the Democratic nominee put it not long ago, “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic.” You are “deplorable and irredeemable.” You are, as she said this week, “negative, dark, and divisive with a dangerous vision.” It is a short distance from demonization to suppression. And, let’s face it, the suppression has begun — in our newspapers, on television, on our campuses, on Facebook, on Reddit, in Google searches.
One more point. The courts are now partisan. Thanks to Barack Obama’s appointees, in many parts of the country, the circuit courts have ruled out expecting people to present picture IDs when they vote. Elsewhere — for example, in Michigan — the circuit courts have ruled out eliminating straight-line party voting. All of this is aimed at partisan advantage — at making voter fraud easy and at encouraging straight-line voting on the part of those not literate in English. Who knows what the courts will do if the Democrats can get a commanding majority on the Supreme Court? We have already had all sorts of madness shoved down our throats by those who legislate from the bench. If you think that it has gone about as far as it goes, you do not know today’s Democratic Party. I doubt very much whether the Democrats will really try to shove through a constitutional amendment in effect revoking the protections extended to speech and religion in the First Amendment. That would be too controversial. They will do it, as they have done many other things, through the courts. Can we tolerate “racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic” speech — speech that is “deplorable and irredeemable,” that is “negative, dark, and divisive with a dangerous vision?” Surely, surely not. And this would be easy. If we can punish the “hate” in “hate crimes,” why not punish it or outlaw it in speech? All that you have to do is to “reinterpret” the First Amendment.
To the best of my knowledge, no one who commented on the piece I wrote challenged this judgment — which seems to me to make it a moral imperative that we vote to prevent Hillary Clinton from becoming President. And much as I loathe Donald Trump, it seems to me that he is the only viable alternative.
There is, however, an argument on the other side that long gave me pause and still causes me to wonder whether my prudential calculations concerning the relative damage likely to be done by each of the only two viable candidates are correct. I regard trade policy, immigration, entitlement reform, abortion, kangaroo courts on campus, and a host of other matters of public policy as important. But we can go wrong on any of these matters and later correct course — as long as we can still have an open discussion of political issues and free elections. The reason I focused on the latter is that, if we go wrong on those matters, there is no road back short of revolution. If Hillary Clinton wins on Tuesday, the odds are good that she, her party, and their friends in the judiciary will shut the system down (as they already have in our universities). Whatever defects Donald Trump has (and they are legion), he will not do that; and, even if he wanted to, he would not be able to. Presidents, on their own, are not that powerful, and The Donald will be very much on his own.
But there is another matter of public policy where Trump might well go wrong and a correction of course might well prove impossible. I have in mind foreign policy. Just as I know and like a number of individuals who are over-the-top admirers of The Donald, so I know conservatives who are, I suspect, apt to vote for Hillary on Tuesday. Those within this cohort whom I most respect make the following argument:
Our nation confronts a revanchist Russia; a bellicose, expansionist China; terrorism in Europe; and civil war in the Middle East — in short, a world reeling at the edge of chaos. The president’s first responsibilities are to maintain national security, advance our national interests in foreign affairs and provide direction for the military. As Alexander Hamilton observed, the framers of the Constitution vested the executive power in one person, the president, to ensure that the United States could conduct its foreign relations with “decision, activity, secrecy, and dispatch.”
Faced with mounting international instability, Trump’s answer is to promise an unpredictable and unreliable America. He has proposed breaking U.S. commitments to NAFTA and the World Trade Organization, closing our military bases in Japan and South Korea, repudiating security guarantees to NATO allies, pulling out of the Middle East, and ceding Eastern Europe to Russia and East Asia to China. A Trump presidency invites a cascade of global crises. Constitutional order will not thrive at home in a world beset by threats and disorder.
I am quoting from an oped published in The Los Angeles Times on 16 August by Jeremy Rabkin and John Yoo. I would urge that you read the whole thing. It is cogent.
Over the last seventy-five years, the United States spent lives and treasure to construct a world order within which we could live and trade in relative safety. That order, which has contributed mightily to our prosperity, was built by men and women educated by the disaster to which our isolationist policies in the 1920s and 1930s gave rise. They understood what “a cascade of global crises” and “a world beset by threats and disorder” could produce. I grew up in the shadow of the Second World War, and I lived the first forty years of my life during the Cold War. The current generation — well represented by our current President — have forgotten just how fragile the international order is. In Europe right now and in the Pacific — thanks in large part to Barack Obama — that order is rapidly coming apart. The last time this happened it cost us hundreds of thousands of lives and treasure beyond imagination. This time, if this happens, it will be worse.
Donald Trump is not a man of ideas. He has impulses and attitudes — some of them sound, many of them foolish — and he is profoundly ignorant. Over the course of this campaign, he has said a great many things that are dangerous. Jeremy, John, and others fear that his foreign policy would make that of Barack Obama look good. I cannot tell you that I regard their assessment of this likelihood as absurd, but I can say this. If their fears are justified, then — despite everything else that I said in my post on Thursday evening — you would be right in voting for Hillary Clinton on Tuesday. For she is a known quantity. In its basic outlines, her foreign policy would be a continuation of the foreign policy we have followed since December, 1941.
I do not mean to say that she will not make mistakes. The lady has never done anything well in her life. Do I need to mention her service on the Watergate investigative staff, her handling of Hillarycare and the Russian reset, not to mention the Benghazi Bungle? I merely mean to say that she would not throw away everything that we have gained in the way of a framework guaranteeing our security and that of our commerce and that there are reasons to fear that he might do that very thing.
Why, then, do I still urge you to set aside the disgust that Donald Trump inspires and to vote for the creep?
One reason — and I very well might be wrong in my judgment. I discount the man’s wilder flailings. He is an entertainer — a reality show dramatist — and he is very good at venting the frustrations that have many of our fellow citizens in their grip. I doubt that he is serious in what he says in these offhand remarks. There are two signs. He has indicated an interest in making John Bolton Secretary of State, and he gave a speech on foreign affairs at Gettysburg not long ago that was positively sane. I have heard it praised to the skies by Trump partisans. That I think ridiculous. All that I am asserting is that it was not off the wall — and that is sufficient for me. But I will readily admit that Jeremy, John, and the others who share their opinion might be right. There is no safe choice this year. Whatever you do on Tuesday you will be rolling the dice.
One final point. On Tuesday, you will not be getting married; you will not be choosing a pastor; you will not be joining a church; and you will not be choosing a hero. You will not be doing anything that might leave you with morally dirty or morally clean hands. You will be doing something much more prosaic — something akin to hiring someone to mow your lawn. You will be hiring someone to do for you what you do not have the time or the other resources to do for yourself. And, just as you customarily do when you hire someone to mow the lawn, you should — in this situation also — prudently calculate which of the candidates for the job will do the least damage and the most good. That is the way Jeremy and John approach the question, and that is the way I approach the question. The fact that we disagree is a sign that this year there are powerful arguments on both sides. Thanks to Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, and the hapless Republicans in the Senate and House, we now live in very dangerous times — times dangerous for our republic, as I argue; and times dangerous for our nation, as Jeremy and John argue.
You can, of course, turn your back on the whole thing — you can stay home or line up with Jill Stein, Gary Johnson, or Evan McMullin. That would, however, be a cop-out. It might make you feel good about yourself, but this feeling of self-satisfaction would be false and unjustified. For to throw your vote away in a time of national crisis is to dodge your duty as a citizen — which is to do what you can to make the best of the situation you find yourself in. What that is . . . there lies the rub.