I’m a libertarian with a lower-case “L” – I’ll probably never vote libertarian unless it becomes a major party. I don’t see the point of voting for people who never win, even if they share my principles.
Many Republicans secretly concur. I can’t count how many of them have told me, “I’m basically a libertarian.” They don’t want to impose biblical teachings on gay people, but they’ve cast votes for religious zealots who promise to cut taxes and government spending. They overlook rhetoric that is unlikely to translate into law because they have faith in our system of checks and balances, and because the alternative is usually a delusional progressive.
Even when the progressive beats the zealot and wins the presidency, the damage is cultural and economic – which is to say, our political system does not crumble. Obama exacerbated racial tensions at home, severely damaged our cultural brand abroad, and prolonged economic stagnation that began a decade ago. This is disastrous, but it does not amount to a fundamental alteration of our system of government.
So why is it that people expect Trump to outsmart the Founders and become a dictator? These are often conservatives who regard him as an incompetent, bankruptcy-prone, intellectually unsophisticated con man. Unlike other countries, America impeaches lawbreaking presidents. Coups are nearly impossible, since martial law requires Congress’s approval and the military swears an oath to uphold the Constitution.
Perhaps these people fear instead that Trump will mindlessly drop bombs somewhere, or that he will impose tariffs that could cripple the economy. However, Trump is less interventionist than any of the GOP candidates he defeated – and a man whose slogan is “Make America Great Again” would have to figure out how to become a pro-growth president if he wants to get reelected. His rhetoric sounds much more like a negotiating strategy than a rigid manifesto. His website has replaced any mention of tariffs with corporate tax cuts.
None of this is meant to convince anyone that Trump is the perfect candidate. My point is that ever since we’ve known that the only alternative is Progressive Robot Hillary, the #NeverTrump arguments fall apart. Nearly all of them require one to accept that Trump is either incapable of assessing his long term self-interest, or worthy only of a straitjacket. Given his record – in accumulating wealth, and in the election cycle thus far – both of these arguments seem implausible.
Hillary is most certainly a cold, calculating Machiavellian. If she beats Trump, we will have bloggers superimposing her into Mao’s uniforms (luckily, she already wears them). She would similarly be unable to seize dictatorial power. But her legacy would be the irreversible continuation of American decline, with “fairness” and “diversity” eventually offered as weak excuses.
For a moment, imagine America under President Hillary. The new era of Big Government, with all of its red tape and progressive thought policing, will become irrevocably entrenched. Social justice warriors will run the Justice Department and the IRS. The economy will stagnate under mountains of regulations, taxes, incentive-killing redistribution, and wasteful spending. Cops will fear criminals, whose automatic moral high ground will be assigned on the basis of race alone. Mentioning radical Islam will be taboo, and the diplomacy of American guilt will embolden our adversaries. Foreign aggression and American weakness will create instability, inviting new interventions.
If any of this sounds familiar, remember that progressives are never finished. Because utopia never comes, things always get much worse.
Is it too much to consider that Hillary could become America’s Angela Merkel – with new interventions leading to a flood of “peaceful” refugees, whose radical Islamic values are evidently irreconcilable with existence in a free society? Hello, Sweden and Germany; so much for women’s rights. In Europe, progressivism is the vehicle through which radical Islam imposes Sharia and sends settlers, rather than assimilators.
Making America Whole will not involve progress, but conformity, a false unity under the banner of a moribund ideology that substitutes moral degeneracy and government dependence for virtue. Western values will be subjugated to forced egalitarianism and the moral conflation of incompatible values. For you sophisticated intellectuals, our cultural values – secular self-ownership, among others – are a priori to a free society; they are at unprecedented risk of extinction because progressivism and radical Islam both reject them at their root.
In 2008, some people told us that we needed to suffer under Obama so that people could get a taste of progressivism and, inevitably, become enlightened and reject it. Clearly, the same argument cannot be made in 2016.
For all of his departures from free market ideology, we have no reason to believe that Trump will make it more difficult to open and operate a business. For all of the talk about his ignorance of conservative principles, the essence of his message is a reaffirmation of Western values over multiculturalism and managerial competence over weak, boring wonkishness. For all of his ridiculous utterances, we have no indication that he intends to overthrow our constitutional republic – nor that he could if he wanted to.
We’ve watched Obama bow to monarchs and push his Ivy League narrative of American guilt for eight years. Is it crazy to speculate that some of Trump’s supporters are not forfeiting their principles, but seeking a dramatic overcorrection to progressive chaos?
I would be more enthusiastic if Trump explicitly championed freedom, but I gather that he’s no enemy to either entrepreneurs or free spirits. He strikes me as a genuinely pro-American showman; a doer, not a philosopher. In contrast to Hillary, his worst ideas are either rhetorical shock and awe campaigns or negotiating strategies. His hilarious outburst about “opening up” libel laws was clearly aimed at exploding the small minds of journalists, who do willingly lie to us every day – and who proceeded to write about Trumpian Censorship without noting that there are no federal libel laws.
Intellectually, the #NeverTrump movement is a product of a particular double standard, to which conservatives adhere at their own expense. In contrast to progressivism, which is an entirely unprincipled exercise in pressure group warfare, the American philosophy of liberty rests on elegant structures of thought. One departure from principle on a particular issue (such as trade) can threaten a conservative’s entire worldview. He therefore regards intellectual honesty as a moral duty that supersedes defeating the left. Intellectual honesty is a good thing, but the imperfect is not the enemy of the good. Most conservatives understand this – which is why I expect most of them to vote for Trump and, unless he screws up royally, propel him to victory.
My hunch is that it’s actually Trump’s boisterous style that turns off polite members of the elite. They won’t admit it, but they can’t stand edgy humor. Trump conducts a series of inside jokes with his supporters at rallies; his most infamous statements are almost always funnier than they are offensive. Old-school Republicans do not see the jokes. He insulted a disabled reporter! Screw this guy, I’ll endure four more years of social justice and national decline.
With Trump at the helm of the GOP, we are witnessing a form of creative destruction that is cultural, rather than economic. On the right, diplomatic stiffs are losing influence to a younger crowd with a darker sense of humor and a strong aversion to appeasing the left. These people embrace the epithets hurled by progressives, pretending to own them instead of supplicating. The result, which they discovered not from textbooks but through psychological tinkering on social media, is all but the spontaneous combustion of progressive brains. As the political powers that be decline in brand value, the path is paved for more modern proponents of freedom. A victory for Trump will guarantee that their own internal debates gain traction – at the total expense of false left-wing narratives.
If Trump destroys the GOP, he will shatter the Democrats as well – and, ironically, force people to think seriously about politics again. Even if he achieves nothing at all, he will prevent further progressive decay. As a cultural figure, he will symbolize America’s rejection of national self-loathing and social justice hysteria.
This election has nothing to do with resolving conservative contradictions – that vast sea of instances in which a fundamental belief in liberty conflicts with official Republican platforms. It has everything to do with choosing the basic cultural fabric upon which our principles depend, and of course, rejecting the real authoritarians who have wielded power for a decade.
Cast this libertarian’s vote for #Trump2016. I’m looking forward to the debates.
“I believe that ‘social justice’ will ultimately be recognized as a will-o’-the-wisp which has lured men to abandon many of the values which in the past have inspired the development of civilization – an attempt to satisfy a craving inherited from the traditions of the small group but which is meaningless in the Great Society of free men…Like most attempts to pursue an unattainable goal, the striving for it will also produce highly undesirable consequences, and in particular lead to the destruction of the indispensable environment in which the traditional moral values alone can flourish, namely personal freedom.” – F.A. Hayek, Law, Legislation and Liberty, p. 231 (Emphasis added.)