I have never declared myself #NeverTrump. My reasons are two-fold. One, in a binary race, a conservative’s non-vote for Trump really is a vote for Hillary. This equation is brutal and ugly — especially when hurled at you by some ill-mannered lout on the #altright — but essentially correct for all that. That means it would be absolutely moral not to vote for Trump only if you believed Hillary and Trump were equally bad or that Trump was worse.
Second, I can’t quite convince myself that Trump is worse. While I agree with every single insult the #NeverTrumpers heap on this bizarre and awful man, I’m not sure I can go along with P.J. O’Rourke who says of Hillary, “She’s wrong about absolutely everything, but she’s wrong within normal parameters.” It seems to me that the “normalcy” of Hillary’s wrongness is an illusion. It’s the same illusion that allows someone to wear a t-shirt (or make a movie) featuring a flattering depiction of the brutal Communist murderer Che Guevara when they would never do the same with Nazi Heinrich Himmler. Che was a brutal murderer “within normal parameters” only because western culture has granted socialism a respectability it in no way deserves. Bad is bad and Hillary is really, really bad — corrupt, inept and mentally and morally unbalanced — and there’s not one damn normal thing about her.
So for me this is a hard decision. And the thing about hard decisions is: they’re hard. They do not allow for stridency. They are not conducive to smashing your fist into your palm and slinging names at people who disagree with you. They force you to respect the other good men and women who are wrestling with their consciences in a difficult moment.
Because of this, even in this emotional election, I’ve happily managed to retain my friendships with both #NeverTrumpers and Yes-Trumpers. This has brought something to my attention.
The #NeverTrumpers are younger. People on both sides have pointed this out to me. Without naming names, I find a quick mental survey of the most prominent people in both movements shows that the Yes-Trumpers have about twenty to twenty-five years on the Nevers. Not all of them, to be sure, but a considerable number. It’s a fair generalization.
Why is this? Well, the older Pro-Trumpers say the #NeverTrumpers are ignorant whipper-snappers still wet behind the ears and they ought to get off our lawns and do what their elders tell them to do. The younger #NeverTrumpers say the Pro-Trumpers are old fogies who aren’t hep to the jive and they ought to hit the road, Daddy-O, and let the young generation take over. (Or words to that effect. I’m never quite sure what young people are saying.)
But I think the truth is, at least in part, a little bit more complex. It lies in a remark Ben Shapiro — a young and very vocal opponent of Trump — made right after Trump was nominated. He said (I’m quoting from memory here, but this is the gist of it): If you think this is the last election ever, vote for Trump; if you think there’s a future in which the conservative movement can rebuild itself, then don’t.
Of course, for the young, there very much does seem to be a future in which the conservative movement can rebuild no matter what damage Hillary wreaks on the nation. For those of us who have graduated into the Sage class, this may not be the last election… but we can see the last election from here. For us, it will be harder to keep hope alive during a Hillary presidency.
I make this point only to remind those on both sides that, no matter what happens — whether current trends continue and Trump is buried beneath a flaming landslide or whether an election year of anomalous surprises delivers yet one more — conservatism will certainly be finished forever if we on the right remain at daggers drawn in the aftermath. Angry charges that our fellow conservatives “sold out,” or “stabbed us in the back,” are nearly always absurd. Most of us are just trying to figure out what’s right for the right. When the choices are impossible, reasonable people may disagree.
Again, the thing about hard decisions is: They’re hard. A little respect for differing opinions among conservatives young and old may help us rebuild from whichever no doubt ruinous disaster is about to come crashing down on top of us.
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