Still, Clinton would be better for conservatives than Trump. The difference is that conservatives wouldn’t have to defend Clinton’s positions—or justify her flip-flopping. In opposition, conservatives would have no obligation to party solidarity and would be free to support Clinton when her policies aligned with theirs, and free to oppose her when they don’t. Clinton says she now opposes the TPP, a trade pact she spent years touting as secretary of State. If, once in office, she decides she supports it again, fine. At least she’s not opposed to the idea of free trade deals.
A similar logic applies to foreign policy. Is Clinton’s foreign policy record horrible? Yes. Will she abandon our allies and dismantle NATO at the behest of Russia, as Trump has indicated he would do? No, she wouldn’t. For all her incompetence in foreign policy, at least Clinton doesn’t subscribe to the “America first” view that the United States is just one nation among many. At least she believes, unlike Trump, that the post-Cold War international order should be preserved and that America has a unique responsibility to preserve it.
Some conservatives will no doubt object: what about Republicans in down-ballot races? Won’t abandoning Trump in the general election hurt GOP candidates across the board?
Probably, but whether you vote for Clinton, Trump, or abstain, without a third-party candidate for down-ballot Republicans to coalesce around, they will likely be hurt by Trump’s nomination.