by Crouchback (@Crouchback_Bant)
There is no need for a lengthy preface on how crazy, stupid, and unjust this election is. The feeling is widespread that this must all be a bad dream, from which we must at any moment wake. But we aren’t going to wake up. These are the candidates we’ve got. And facing that fact has provoked… well, let’s just call it a variety of responses. The most obvious madness is on the Right (broadly speaking). Former friends have become bitter enemies and people who used to stand side-by-side are now engaged in a bitter civil war over whether to back the candidate or not. And yet, though the powers-that-be in the Democratic Party would have you believe that all is well, the Left is also deeply troubled. I live in Massachusetts and I know a number of people who have decided that they would rather risk a Donald Trump presidency than vote for Hillary Clinton (not, of course, by voting for Trump—they intend to vote for Jill Stein). And even leaving aside those on the Left who refuse to support HRC, the Democrats are struggling to whip up their base. Voter apathy is and should be a serious concern for Democrats. People were excited about Feeling the Bern. They are not excited anymore.
But before we get started, let me explain the restricted audience indicated in the title (aside from the fact that I myself am a Distraught Crazy Conservative Leftist, at least on Tuesdays). We’ll start with the more obvious of the two: the Distraught Conservatives. These poor souls are wandering in the desert, a desert made more unbearable by the oasis mirage of what this election should have been—a landslide victory for almost any other Republican nominee. The Distraught Conservatives think of losing the Supreme Court and shudder… but then they look at Donald Trump and gag. What should they do? Some reasonable conservatives (and many unreasonable ones) have made the argument that Trump is the lesser of two evils. Others have said that a line must be drawn in the sand. On the other hand, we have the Crazy Lefties. These are the people who look at Hillary Clinton and see a Republican in sheep’s clothing… and to a certain extent I agree with them. HRC is, as far as I can tell, a socially-liberal Republican. She is certainly to the right of Donald Trump on a number of economic and foreign policy issues. Despite her utterly unbelievable claims to the contrary, she is pro-free-trade, pro-TPP, pro-NAFTA, and generally speaking pro-business. She is much more hawkish than Trump and more reliably convinced of the goodness of traditional American alliances, like NATO. In a sense, the Crazy Lefties look at Hillary Clinton the way the Distraught Conservatives look at Donald Trump: this person should be running for the other party!
So what are we to do in this madhouse election? I’ll begin with Distraught Conservatives and with the arguments for voting for Trump, as I understand them. We can dismiss out of hand anybody who thinks that the man himself is good idea—those people have already decided who they’re going to vote for and this piece won’t change their minds (not least because I suspect nothing will at this point). We’ll take it for granted, then, that the man is an utter cad, a classless huckster, and a living embodiment of all the excesses and immoralities of a modern liberal commercial society—his tasteless ostentation, his remorseless self-promotion, his shallow vanity, and his overwhelming superficiality speak for themselves (Trump possesses a limp-wristed, porn-addicted, suburban teenage boy’s understanding of manliness and nothing more; he has never sacrificed a single thing for his country, or for anyone as far as I can tell). But don’t just take my word for it.
Sorry, I let that get away from me. But the point remains. The man himself is not only an immoral disaster; he’s an incompetent fraud. But at least he’s more conservative than Hillary, right? On what? This is a man who supports European-style single payer healthcare, continued funding for Planned Parenthood, and appeasement. Of course, a Trump-supporter could provide evidence of him arguing for the contrary of all of these positions (well, except for the last one: he’s pretty consistent about licking Putin’s boots), but that’s because the man is an inveterate liar without a single consistent principle beyond serving what whim currently seizes him (and being a supercilious cur before Czar Vladimir). But he cares about the little guys! But he’s gonna build the wall! And the guy who said that avoiding STDs was his “own personal Vietnam,” who had to be hounded for months to give promised money to veterans’ groups, who mocks prisoners of war—he’s a nationalist! He cares about the country and the military! Give me a break. Trump’s right that too many politicians, especially on the right, have been selling a bill of goods to the public while all too often selling-out to big business—but Trump is big business. Maybe conservative voters have been getting conned—but Trump is the biggest con-man of the bunch! This is a man who applied to have more immigrant work visas while at the very same time mouthing pieties about immigration restriction! And as for “he’ll hire the best people,” Trump’s wanton mismanagement of his campaign and the debased, despot-advising Court eunuchs that have run his campaign show that apparently the best people are either thugs or else what the French call les incompetents (slow your roll, nationalists, that was a reference to an American movie classic, not an act of frog-loving Europhilia). And if anyone thinks that Trump will prove pliable to GOP control once he’s in the White House, I have several bridges, town-homes, islands, and sandboxes to sell you, as well as the fortune of Nigerian Prince to transfer to your account. Please forward me your banking information.
But maybe he’ll appoint conservative judges! This is, I admit, the strongest argument for Trump. So let’s think about it for a minute. Trump promised to appoint conservative judges and we all know that he has repeatedly displayed a commitment to keeping his promises. But, the retort goes, Trump has no principles and therefore there’s no reason he wouldn’t appoint a conservative judge. Let me set aside the fact that this argument already admits as a necessary premise that the man has no principles. Let’s think about whether he has any reason to follow through on this promise. This is a man whose support for Planned Parenthood extended even into the GOP Primary debate and presumably to this very day, a man whose companies profit off of cheap immigrant labor, and a man who isn’t all that married to the First Amendment. Better still, there are unweaned bouncing babies still in diapers who are older than Trump’s switch from Clinton-donor to Clinton-opponent (okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, but saying that there are glue-eating kindergarteners older than Trump’s switch didn’t have quite the same ring). Why on Earth should a conservative trust a man whose political opinions were, until yesterday, aligned not just with the Democratic Party, but with Hillary Rodham Clinton in particular, when he says “Sure, I’ll appoint conservative judges” *snicker*? What motive could he possibly have for following through when he benefits from precisely the pathologies he claims to oppose? And doesn’t it seem more likely, especially given his bitter public feud with GOP leadership, that at this point he’d rather get them back for turning on him than give them what they want? And why shouldn’t he?
There is no twist ending to my little rant today. There is no “but Hillary is worse” coming—even though I think that she is a deeply flawed candidate who will be terrible for the country. And, for what it’s worth, I’m not even going to rely on the “nuclear codes” argument, not least because I don’t think it’s a terribly strong argument: Trump himself may be a petty tyrant wannabe, but I have enough faith in the military that I don’t think they would comply with an insane order to launch the Big One (of course, that means we’d have a Constitutional crisis on our hands, but at this point who’s counting?). No, I think the Distraught Conservative has to see that Donald Trump is unacceptable standard-bearer who will do more damage to conservative political goals by being associated with them than Hillary could possibly do by opposing them. Think back to the Bush years: misrule and unpopularity can ruin otherwise good political causes. Yes, we need to think seriously about immigration restrictions. Yes, we need to pay attention to the white-working class, and to the working-class in general, and “paying attention” must mean more than blithely marching into greater and greater free trade on the false assumption that a rising tide lifts all boats (not least because—and you’ll have to forgive my timing—people who can’t afford boats tend to lose everything when the tide rises). Yes to a host of other possibilities for the future of a rejuvenated, reformed Grand New Party. But no to Trump, precisely because he discredits everything he touches. If you’d like these issues to go the way of faith-based initiatives and compassionate conservatism (both dragged down by Bush’s name), if you’d like to forever associate immigration restriction with racism (instead of the more thoughtful case that can be made) and conservative populism with racial identity politics, then vote for Trump. But if you’d like to see those issues reach a broader base (before his party forced him to conform, Bernie was open to immigration restriction—the social and economic reasoning behind immigration restriction means that it can be a broad-based issue that unites cultural conservatives with pro-worker liberals), then Trump must be repudiated. We might even say that Trump must lose for Trumpism to win.
So what do you do? How do you vote? Consult your conscience, but my inclination is to say third party, and make sure you vote down ticket. If you stay home, they’ll chalk it up to apathy and you risk losing the Congress as well as the Presidency. If you vote for HRC directly, that support might be understood as more of a mandate than she really has. A vote for a conservative third party shows that conservatism is not the problem—Trump is. If you live in a swing state, you might have a tougher call to make and I sympathize with you.
As for my Lefties, read the damn article again and tell me that Hillary is worse. If you live in Massachusetts, fine, protest vote. But if you live in a swing state, you better get your priorities straight. The almost certain damage to conservatism that a Trump presidency will wreak is not worth the four years of misrule and constitutional uncertainty a Trump presidency represents. To argue otherwise is to place your partisan passions ahead of the good of the country.
[Editorial Note: I may have to reconsider my concluding admonitions. I have not changed my mind about either candidate, but I have read Emmett Rensin's latest jeremiad and I highly recommend that you read it too. You'll understand my new reservations after you've read it. Cheers.]
 It is also important to note that, once you get outside of Boston, Trump signs are ubiquitous and Hillary signs non-existent. I’ve seen more signs and bumper stickers for “Giant Meteor 2016” than for Clinton/Kaine. We live in strange times.
 While it would take another piece of at least equal length to argue this point, for the moment, I’ll just say this: is it conceivable that the vast majority of Trump support is anything other than Hillary hatred? In fact, just about the only thing “Establishment” Republicans will say in Trump’s defense is “he’s not Hillary.” The GOP can’t even bring itself to run pro-Trump ads—they say only “We must defeat Hillary.” The fact that Trump has been anything like competitive can only be due to how massively unpopular she is.