Via BuzzFeed, the fun begins at 6:48 of the clip below. It’s odd to me that, in the long list of grievances against Trump, Lee would start with his crankery about Ted Cruz’s father rather than a deeper criticism like his obvious strongman aspirations, but maybe Lee’s smarter about that than I am. Tell the average American that the Republican nominee thinks the military should obey his illegal orders and the response will probably be something depressing like, “Well, which orders?” Tell them that Trump spent the last few hours before — and after — the vote in Indiana suggesting that a mystery man in a photo with Lee Harvey Oswald taken a few months before JFK’s assassination just might be Rafael Cruz and they may recoil. That’s weird, man. We’ll take an authoritarian as president but a weird authoritarian might be a bridge too far.
Lee eventually circles around here to those deeper criticisms:
I hope I can get over this because I can’t vote for Hillary. I know there is no possibly of that. What I am saying is Donald Trump can still get a vote from a lot of conservatives like me, but I would like some assurances on where he stands. I would like some assurances that he is going to be a vigorous defender of the U.S. Constitution That he is not going to be an autocrat. That he is not going to be an authoritarian. That he is not somebody who is going to abuse a document that I have sworn an oath to uphold and protect and defend. I am sorry sir, but that is not an unreasonable demand.
It isn’t, but Malzberg palpably seems to believe that Republicans shouldn’t make demands of Trump at all. Do you want Hillary Clinton appointing Supreme Court justices? No? Then you’re all-in for Trump and anything he may want to do, no questions asked. An authoritarian couldn’t ask for a more compliant, obedient attitude; it’s a permission slip to misbehave. Watching this and absorbing Malzberg’s pissiness towards Lee for not endorsing yet — Lee doesn’t even flatly rule out an endorsement later — it’s hard to imagine any line President Trump could cross where Malzberg would pause and say, “Hey, wait a minute.” And the worst part is, he doesn’t appear to be a true believer. He’s not one of the cultists Trump himself mocked when he mused aloud a few months back that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and not lose votes, the sort of comment that would have given conservative media a months-long conniption if Obama had said it in the summer of 2008. His attitude is simply “no matter what Trump does, he’s not as bad as Clinton.” When you hand an incoming president a blank check like that, don’t be surprised when the sum ends up being bigger than you expected.
The punchline is that it’s gospel among Trump fans themselves that many millions of working-class voters would have no reason to turn out this year if not for Trump as nominee. They’ve been disenchanted by politics for decades and rightly so, the gospel says; now, finally, they have a candidate worth showing up and voting for. Implicit in that argument is the idea that it’d be perfectly defensible for them to stay home if the primaries had gone another way. That would be seen as a righteous boycott of a nominee who simply doesn’t make the grade, a la the millions of working-class whites who skipped the 2012 election rather than vote for Romney. If Rubio hadn’t blown it at the New Hampshire debate and had come back to beat Trump, millions of Trumpers would declare that they can’t in good conscience support an amnesty shill and a warmonger and would either write in Trump or stay home. Malzberg’s “B-b-but Hillary!” appeals to them would be a fart in the wind. Meanwhile, a conservative like Lee adopts the same attitude towards Trump — he doesn’t care about the Constitution, he doesn’t care about social conservatism, his economics are a Clinton/Sanders disaster — and he’s a traitor to the party who’s crapping away the Supreme Court. We need to pick an ethic here and stick with. Either the party’s nominee must always be supported, no questions asked, because the Democrat is necessarily worse or each voter should follow his own conscience on whether the nominee’s up to snuff in terms of ideology and character. If it was fair for some righties to extend a middle finger to McCain and Romney, it’s fair for Lee to extend it to Trump.