Donald Trump is abrasive, inarticulate and is the proverbial bull in the china shop. Everyone knows this and virtually everyone acknowledges it. For some, this is a positive and is characteristic of someone dead set against business as usual in Washington. For the rest, those points are definite flaws in the president. Those who support him choose to overlook those flaws because of his greater merits as they will say. Indeed, overlooking certain flaws great and small in one’s candidate is something all must do if they participate in politics so Trump’s supporters doing the same should not be viewed as anomalous. Regardless of if the president’s flaws are troubling enough to drop one’s support, his flaws have become more glaring with the passage of time.
It is now 2020 and in a few months, America will go to the polls to re-elect Donald Trump or choose a new leader. The question before the 2016 Trump coalition is whether or not his flaws are enough to withhold their votes. The purpose of this article is by no means to vindicate the president by downplaying his negatives or to tear him down further by pouring gasoline on his trashcan fire. Instead, this is an exercise in exploring the political realities of the Trump coalition withholding their votes in November. What it comes down to is that few will call the president perfect, another Reagan or anything like that but staying home on Election Day will result in getting someone far worse than Trump ever thought of being.
Any choice besides voting for Trump will only aid the leftists –something that conservatives, libertarians and classical liberals cannot afford. Writing in other candidates isn’t a viable path to victory. In most places, write ins are restricted or banned. The states of New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Mississippi, Iowa, Wyoming, Oregon and DC allow voters to write in anyone at the top of the ticket. The states of Maine, Maryland, New York, Connecticut, Delaware, Massachusetts, Florida, Georgia, Virginia, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Kentucky, Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri, Texas, Kansas, Nebraska, North Dakota, Montana, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Idaho, Washington, California and Alaska allow only write candidates to receive ballots if they have registered as a write in. The states of South Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, South Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada and Hawaii do not allow write in candidates at all. In 10 states and DC, anything goes. In 32 states, only certain candidates can be written in. In the remaining 8 states, there aren’t write ins. There are plenty of better conservative leaders who could sit behind the Resolute Desk. While this is true, in most places the electorate won’t be able to vote for them. In the places where they can, it just splits the vote. History tells us when the vote is split, the election goes sideways at best. In the 1912 election for instance, a similar situation came about. Republican incumbent William Howard Taft was almost outshined by a resurgent and beloved Theodore Roosevelt at the convention. Almost is the key word. Taft got the GOP nomination so Roosevelt just ran on his own party’s ticket. The vote split and America got Woodrow Wilson and his accompanying vices. Republican voters were not content with “good enough” under Taft and had to go for “excellent” under Roosevelt. What they got instead was “worse” with Wilson. Today, the situation is much the same. Splitting the vote in places where one can between Trump and Ted Cruz or Rand Paul only courts the mess of 1912. The motives for voting for the alternative conservative are pure and admirable but their wages are defeat and Democrats.
It is unlikely that many members of the 2016 Trump coalition will switch sides and vote Democrat in the next election. Indeed, some Democrats -especially union workers, did defect to the right last time and may revert back to their old proclivities in 2020. Laying that exception demographic aside, how many committed rightists can be expected to jump ship? The point is made all the more true when one factors in the real chance of the Democrats nominating a radical like Bernie Sanders. When the chance of Bernie presidency stares down the Trump coalition, how many are likely to defect? There will be some but that number will be able to be counted on a man’s fingers. It goes without saying how detrimental this sort of abandonment is to conservatism. Rightists actually voting for that which makes material the worldview antithetical to conservatism because of factional squabbles on the right is the height of shortsightedness.
Of all of the ways in which the Trump coalition could drop the ball, staying home is the most pernicious. With writing in someone at the top of the ticket, presumably one will still make solid conservative judgements about down-ballot races. Voting for the Democratic choice for president out of spite or out of frustration for the dichotomous party system and lack of other choices will still allow someone to make conservative choice in down ballot races. There is only one thing that will prevent someone from making sensible choices in the lower races: staying home and sulking. If a man does not vote at all, he will not be able to vote for defenders of liberty in congress, the governorship etc. Here, the effect of one’s vote is magnified relative to the other two options explored. Staying home hurts the chances of conservatives running for president and numerous other positions. Animosity or disillusionment for Trump is understandable but for the conservative, is not giving him one’s vote really worth the damage done to a score of other races?
Trump has problems that are widely acknowledged. Some parts of the 2016 Trump coalition may just withhold their votes because of this. While the motivation behind that is perfectly rational, all it will do is aid the left. If the conservative, libertarian or classical liberal seeks real victories, he must settle for imperfect choices. Donald Trump may not be the lexical definition of imperfect, but he is a good example of it. If America’s friends of liberty wish to see their ideas triumph, they must accept that less than perfect men carry their standard. This is an axiom of politics that is too often forgotten by idealists. Whether or not one wears a red Make America Great Again hat or not, he is what the conservative, libertarian and classical liberal coalition has today. Rightists can take him or leave him but the alternative may well be Bernie Sanders and he in turn may well be worse than Woodrow Wilson.
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