Nevertheless, liberalism’s century-old effort to turn the president into a “leader” who can rise above constitutional constraints such as federalism and the separation of powers might, under certain circumstances, be music to Trump’s populist ears. But what he might be tempted into is what Clinton is committed to on principle, as a self-described progressive. How could a vote for Clinton be defended as a vote for greater constitutional safety, much less integrity?
Which brings me back to the critics’ first argument. Trump is worrisome not because he is an incipient Caesar but because he is an amateur, with no experience in elected or high civil or military office, and because he has played The Donald for so long that one wonders if he can be The President. His critics give these legitimate doubts an exaggerated spin, and if we were electing the first Sunday school teacher (a job for which Jimmy Carter would have been superbly qualified), their revulsion at Trump’s messy, vainglorious life might settle the matter.
But we’re electing the chief executive. It’s a political choice we’re making, which is necessarily comparative or prudential. Between two flawed candidates, who is better? Reasonable people can disagree, of course, but millions of Republican (and other) voters have already weighed Trump’s talents, virtues and vices against 16 other contenders and concluded that he is the best guardian of their interests in 2016. There should be a high burden of proof on the conservative critics who seek to set aside the common people’s judgment or override it at the GOP convention. So far, his critics have not met that burden.