“Would you rather have the mumps or the measles?”
That’s the question my husband posed to our 12-year-old son Tuesday night when he asked us whom we’d rather see elected in November, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. (We may or may not have also inquired as to his preference between two unpleasant gastrointestinal maladies.)
This will be a historic election if for no other reason than that it will give us a choice between two candidates with the highest unfavorable ratings of any major party nominees ever: It’s the opposite of the old paradox—this November, a stoppable object will meet a resistible force. Each is a uniquely detestable individual. Against someone even marginally likable, either would be toast. But, barring any magically unifying third-party run, one of them will be elected president.
While that makes it tempting to consider options for offshoring our savings or checking out the real-estate market in tropical climes—real Republicans would never move to Canada, of all places—the reality is that I love my country and I’m not willing to give up entirely on my party, even when it’s lost its way. That, and our home value has never really recovered from the housing crash. So come November, doing my civic duty will be a wholly unwelcome challenge.
“Are you voting for Hillary or abstaining or what?”
I’m a Republican who’s been vocal about not supporting Trump, so I was not surprised when that question came flying at me from several directions Tuesday night after Ted Cruz suspended his campaign and made Trump the presumptive nominee.
No, I won’t vote for Hillary. It might well be that she is the least-terrible option come November. Unlike the overly timid, reactive current occupant of the White House, she probably won’t shy away from conflicts that warrant America’s intervention. All talk of Bernie Sanders pushing Hillary leftward will end once his campaign does, and thus will end her pandering on the minimum wage and similar issues. If the Republicans can maintain even a tenuous grip on Congress, she’ll be limited in what she can do.
All the same, no. She’s underhanded. She engages in shameless propaganda about gender politics in the United States while her family’s foundation gins up donations from regimes that oppress women. She says that we should believe all accusers in sexual assault cases—except those who accused her husband of impropriety. The scandal around her home-based private email server revealed, at minimum, the degree to which she thinks she’s above the law. And her primary fashion influences seem to be Communist dictators.
While I hold out hope that Hillary would be a disappointing but not terrible one-term president, a lot of damage can be done to the Supreme Court in four years. Three of the eight justices are 77 or older. A decade or more of 6–3 lockstep liberal decisions is too frightening of a prospect.
“Could you ever vote for Trump?”
Nope. Never. I imagine at some point, maybe in October, maybe when Hillary is putting on that faux Southern accent to make nice in a red state, my resolve will be tested. Which is one reason I am writing this down in permanent ink, right here. Still no.
In the end, what rises above even those obvious reasons is that Donald Trump is not by any reasonable standards a conservative. It’s not clear that he has any consistent ideology, but whatever one he might have is not conservative. He’s against free trade. He’s an isolationist. He’s not repulsed by Planned Parenthood. He has supported single-payer health care, for crying out loud. His purported foreign policy is contradictory and incoherent and includes no actual policy. It’s frightening to think Hillary could end up with a few seats to fill on the Supreme Court. But who really wants Trump to have the seats and our nuclear codes?
My colleague Michelle Goldberg might be right that Republicans “were always going to fall in line” behind Trump. I can’t let myself be so cynical. Maybe it was inevitable that our politicians would. It will be painful for me to watch the GOP convention and see men and women whom I consider to be genuine conservatives and honorable Americans stand up and give speeches praising a crass, cynical narcissist as the champion of a once-proud party. But the GOP is more than its politicians. There are millions of rank-and-file voters who are dismayed by Trump’s hijacking of the party and many thousands, surely, who will not be able to bring themselves to check that box in November. Maybe we will stay home; maybe we will vote Libertarian; maybe someone will prevail upon Mitt Romney to ride in on his unicorn under a third party’s banner.
I abhor the idea of Hillary Clinton being our next president. But Donald Trump is bad not only for the Republican Party, but for America. The price of such a victory is too dear.