No matter where the Republican Party goes, lesser-of-two-evils arguments will always be there to convince righties to accept the status quo. From now on it’s “Flight 93 elections” all the way down.
I’m treating his post as partial vindication for my theory that Trump could abandon the idea of building a border wall entirely, even publicly repudiate it as stupid in hindsight, and he’d lose Ann Coulter’s vote and virtually no one else’s. Erickson understands what motivates most voters: It’s not a matter of Trump keeping his promises, it’s a matter of keeping Democrats out of power and punishing their sycophants in the media. POTUS delivered on various things over the past two years, beginning with judicial nominees. If he doesn’t deliver on the wall, bummer. But what’s the alternative? President Kamala Harris?
We have a party that is increasingly hostile to religion and now applies religious tests to blocking judicial nominees. We have a party that believes children can be murdered at birth. We have a party that would set back the economic progress of this nation by generations through their environmental policies. We have a party that uses the issue of Russia opportunistically. We have a party that has weaponized race, gender, and other issues to divide us all while calling the President “divisive.” We have a party that is deeply, deeply hostile to large families, small businesses, strong work ethics, gun ownership, and traditional values. We have a party that is more and more openly anti-Semitic…
On top of that, we have an American media that increasingly views itself not as a neutral observer, but as an anti-Trump operation. The daily litany of misreported and badly reported stories designed to paint this Administration in a negative light continues to amaze me. Juxtapose the contrast in national reporting on the President and race or Brett Kavanaugh and old allegations with the media dancing around the issues in Virginia. Or compare and contrast the media’s coverage of the New York and Virginia abortion laws with their coverage of this President continuing the policies of the Obama Administration at the border, including the Obama policy of separating children from adults. Or look now at how the media is scrambling to cover for and make excuses for the Democrats’ “Green New Deal,” going so far as to suggest that maybe, just maybe, the outline of policy initiatives was an error or forged.
Change a few words there and you’d have a verbatim version of the case Trumpers made to Never Trumpers in 2016. Democrats are radical, the media is hopelessly biased against Trump and the right more broadly. Why this argument didn’t persuade Erickson in 2016, I don’t know.
He notes a key difference between now and then, namely that we have an actual Trump record to judge. Trump cut taxes, he deregulated, he withdrew from the Paris Accord and the Iran nuclear deal, and oh, those judges. All of that is true — “President Trump” is no longer a black box as he was three years ago — but it was a cinch even in 2016 that whatever he ended up doing as president would make conservatives happier than what President Hillary would deliver. Everything in the first paragraph quoted above applied to Clinton except for the last sentence, and there’s little Hillary could have done about Ilhan Omar getting elected. Clinton’s approach to immigration was quite radical too, promising to not just uphold DACA and DAPA but to extend them. By the end of the campaign it seemed like the only illegals she wanted to deport were violent criminals. It was clear in 2016 that Trump would be vastly better than her on immigration, if nothing else, and certainly at least somewhat better than her on judicial nominees even in a worst-case “President Trump turns centrist” scenario. Why wasn’t that enough to get Erickson to back POTUS back then?
A better argument for switching from anti-Trump to anti-anti-Trump in 2020 is that the Democratic Party has shifted left since Clinton. Ironically, though, that’s partly a product of her defeat: A party that’s frustrated at having lost power and repelled by the leader of the opposition tends to grow more militant in its ideological orthodoxy. (See, e.g., the tea-party era.) But even if you think the trend among Dems makes a vote for Trump more urgent, it’s weird to make that case this early in the 2020 race, before the Democratic nominee has been chosen. If Dem primary voters surprise everyone by looking past Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren and opting for someone more centrist and “electable,” like Biden or Amy Klobuchar, would that change the calculus any? If you’re worried about a socialist takeover of the Democratic Party, you should want to incentivize them to nominate a centrist by keeping your vote at least theoretically in play.
But no, of course nominating Biden or Klobuchar won’t change any right-wing minds. (It might change some center-right minds.) Either one of them would be more left-wing than Trump, if considerably less left-wing than Sanders. But that was true of Hillary in 2016 as well. So, again, why didn’t Erickson bite the bullet and vote for Trump at the time instead of going third-party?
I won’t belabor this post with a recitation of Trump’s many flaws, from policy (tariffs, for starters) to character. Virtually every day I run across something in the news or on his Twitter feed and think, “We would have gone apesh*t on Obama if he’d done/said that.” No one wants to hear it. I do agree with Erickson that Democrats are a nonstarter, as they’re already freakishly radical on immigration and abortion and even a centrist president will be inevitably pulled to the left by the Bernie/AOC cult. I don’t vote anymore, though, not because of Trump but because I no longer trust the supposedly good intentions of either party and don’t want to make common cause with either of them. They’re each getting stupider and nastier. They can fight it out without me.