What happens if Trump wins and — as I think would be likely — makes fabulous deals with incoming Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer on judges and immigration? I expect that Trump’s principled supporters will join us Never Trumpers to stand up against him (even though their leverage will be minimal to nonexistent and they will draw Trump’s hate). But the opportunists and the party apparatchiks will stick with President Mister Trump and tell us that we are traitors, and that we will get even worse judges, amnesties, and guest-worker programs with the Democrats. There are also the inevitable disasters that will arise from Trump’s erratic personality.
The result of all this will be civil war in which all sides will lose. As Ross Douthat wrote, in the event of a failed Trump presidency, the general public will not distinguish between conservative factions. They will not distinguish the false conservatism of a traitorous Trump from the hard-edged tea party-politics of Ted Cruz or the pro-middle-class constitutionalism of Mike Lee. In the short term, all will be smashed. By 2020, any voter under 40 will be able to remember only two Republican presidencies — both failures.
The downside risk of Trump is not just that we get the worst of Trump. It is that we get the worst of Trump followed by a president from a radicalizing Democratic party — and probably another overwhelmingly Democratic Congress. Then, you shall see national transformation…
That responsibility is what endures. Most conservatives will vote for Trump. Some will not. I will write in someone’s name. But if Trump wins, his principled critics and his principled supporters should work together to help him when he is right and oppose him when he is wrong. If Trump loses, those same groups should work together to build a post-Trump Right that addresses the concerns of Trump’s working-class supporters and earns the votes of persuadable Americans who could not be persuaded to vote for Trump. Whatever happens, we should recognize one another as friends divided by prudential differences in difficult circumstances. Whatever happens, we should reconcile on the basis of our shared principles — because whatever happens, we will share the same fate.