Is it immoral to vote for someone who not only says but boasts that he’ll issue illegal orders to the military and that they’ll obey? Is it immoral to make a guy who might not be able to pass a fourth-grade civics class leader of the free world? We can play this game all day. Of all the arguments that can be made for turning out for a louche authoritarian who, when asked for his favorite Bible verse, says “an eye for an eye,” an appeal to morality has to be the lamest.
You are willing to vote for a longtime Hillary Clinton donor and supporter, but with an R by his name. That’s the new standard for conservatism and Republicanism and morality. So long as a candidate is “not a Democrat,” that’s enough. It doesn’t matter if he’s embraced the vast majority of the Democratic platform at one point or another. It doesn’t matter if he’s personally disreputable, a moral junkyard, a congenital liar and unstable narcissist. All that matters is beating Hillary, and that only matters because anything is better than Hillary.
Okay, if that’s your standard of morality, so be it. But there is another moral calculation that says that it’s better not to grant your endorsement to such a person. This is why those conservatives who oppose Trump don’t support Hillary, either: she doesn’t meet any moral or political standard.
I have never made and will never make the argument that it is immoral for people to vote for Trump to stop Hillary. I understand that argument completely, and sympathize with it. But lying for Trump is immoral. Pretending his boo-boos aren’t boo-boos is immoral. Pretending he’s something he’s not, and lying to your audience about it – that’s immoral. And most of all, pretending that those who make a different risk-reward calculation from yours are immoral – even while those people hold supposedly similar principles – is immoral.
Trumpism corrupts, and absolute Trumpism corrupts absolutely. The funny part is that Ingraham and Hannity sound more invested in the election than Trump himself does. A core argument made to #NeverTrumpers against staying home is that America’s future hangs by a thread. There’s already a vacancy on the Supreme Court that Hillary Clinton will fill if Trump loses; odds are good that there will be at least one more before her term is up. Not voting for Trump may very well mean a leftward shift in the judicial branch that’ll last decades. That’s the specific context for Ingraham’s point about immorality — you’re rolling the dice on the Supreme Court by not supporting him, and it’s a fair point. Now here’s Trump, surveying the alleged flaming wreckage of America’s constitutional order if things turn out badly three months from now:
“I’m a truth teller. All I do is tell the truth. And if at the end of 90 days, I’ve fallen short because I’m somewhat politically correct even though I’m supposed to be the smart one and even though I’m supposed to have a lot of good ideas, it’s OK. I go back to a very good way of life.”…
“I think we’re going to have victory, but we’ll see,” Trump said. “At the end it’s either going to work or I’m going to have a very, very nice long vacation.”
As long as the leader continues to have a very good way of life and a very, very nice long vacation, how angry can any true Trump fan be?
I’ll add two points to my post last night about whether Hannity or the people he’s lambasting here deserve the ultimate responsibility for a Trump defeat this fall. (Like Sean himself, Ingraham’s been a big Trump booster since the primaries. The “we have no choice now” argument would work better coming from people who didn’t play a big part to begin with in making sure that Trump was our choice.) One: Is there any line a Republican candidate could cross that would justify a Republican voter withholding his or her vote? If you want to say “a Republican should never vote Democratic,” okay. But there must be circumstances where a Republican voter would be morally justified in protesting by staying home. Where’s that line? There’s always going to be a counterargument in presidential elections that the Supreme Court is too important to risk letting a leftist fill vacancies. If Trump or some nominee of the future were to start preaching ethnic cleansing, say, would it be immoral not to vote for him for fear of liberal justices? I’m giving a deliberately extreme example (although not so extreme that some of Trump’s alt-right fans wouldn’t approve of it) to make the point that everyone has some moral line. Where is it? If David Duke finishes in the top two of Louisiana’s jungle primary along with a Democrat, where’s the moral line on that race? It’s fine to argue that Trump hasn’t crossed any line of fitness for the presidency, but some of these attacks on #NeverTrumpers reek of the idea that it’s silly to worry about the line when there are Court appointments at stake. It’s never silly to worry about the line. That’s Shapiro’s point too.
Two: How much responsibility does Trump bear for his current electoral problems? The blame game we’re playing between Trump fans and #NeverTrumpers is fun but it conveniently obscures the question of how much blame the man himself should be charged with. Even Hannity scolded him recently for attacking Republicans on the stump instead of focusing on Clinton, and most Trumpers, I’m sure, would stipulate as an abstract matter that there are things he could be doing better. But that’s a boilerplate admission. Every candidate can always be doing things better. What I’m interested in is why the tone from fans like Hannity is so much sharper when criticizing anti-Trumpers than it is when criticizing the man himself. Trump is, after all, in the process of blowing a once-in-a-lifetime chance for a populist “outsider” to swoop in and win the presidency. He’s facing a wildly unpopular nominee who’s stuck trying to win a third straight term for her party, one of the heaviest lifts in American politics. He has an economic message tailor-made to win over working-class voters frustrated by years of sluggish wages and, until lately, a difficult job market. He came into the election with universal name recognition and has created an insatiable media appetite for him. And he has, allegedly, billions of dollars of wealth he could have used to build the best ground game and the best data analytics money can buy. He had every advantage. And he cannot, stop, stepping. on. his. own. d*ck. He’s getting blown out by a corrupt, charmless dynast widely perceived as a pathological liar, mainly because he can’t resist being a bomb-throwing blowhard even when he and his fans have everything to gain by him doing so. Where’s the outrage about that? Instead of attacking Trump, all Hannity wants to talk about is how people like Ted Cruz has “sabotaged” this loser because he wouldn’t endorse a guy who casually accused Cruz’s wife of being ugly and his father of maybe having helped murder Kennedy. I’m willing to listen to how immoral #NeverTrumpers are for not backing Trump if it’s one part of a 50-part argument where the other 49 parts are complaints about Trump having squandered his many, many chances. When do we reach that part of this debate?
Probably around the same time Hannity starts blaming the working-class voters who didn’t turn out for Romney in 2012 for Obama’s policies the way he’s preemptively blaming Republicans who don’t want to vote for Trump for Hillary’s. A week from never.