Four years ago, after a bitter and bizarre Republican primary season, I grudgingly came to the conclusion that conservatives had a clear moral obligation to vote for Donald Trump in the general election against Hillary Clinton. I predicted he would be a lousy president, but vastly better for the country than the direct threat posed by any Democrat administration. I also advised readers not to expect Trump himself to save America, but rather to buy America time in hopes that a later president could truly step up to be who America needed.
Fast-forward to today, and… that’s pretty much exactly how things turned out.
First, the good. Trump’s biggest policy success is (or at least was, until the COVID-19 panic hit) the tremendous economic gains he oversaw, thanks in large part to his administration’s aggressive deregulatory efforts. He cut our taxes. He has delivered most of what the pro-life movement has asked of him. His administration has sided with religious liberty and against transgender lunacy. His judicial nominees have been a double-edged sword (more on that below), but are obviously a significant net positive compared to who Clinton would have appointed. He has, albeit imperfectly, modeled the proper level of contempt for the Democrats, the media, and their aims. His very existence as a GOP candidate and officeholder has exposed countless center-right figures and their conventional wisdom for the ineffectual, bad-faith swill of grift and foolishness they always were.
And, of course, Trump’s election spared the country from the countless assaults on life, freedom, prosperity, and the Constitution that a second Clinton administration would have brought. Fewer tax dollars put to abortion. Fewer controls imposed on Americans’ religious, economic, educational, and healthcare choices. Fewer jobless Americans and destroyed businesses. Fewer conservatives and Republicans targeted by their own government for persecution.
But Trump has also let us down on a scandalous number of fronts.
It was easy for Trump to satisfy national pro-life groups largely because those groups mostly just asked him for a range of executive actions that could be delivered with minimal difficulty, while politely overlooking far more consequential failures, like fact that his Justice Department did nothing to bring Planned Parenthood to justice after requesting documents about its baby-parts scandal all the way back in 2017.
Trump’s judicial nominees, while obviously preferable to Clinton’s or Joe Biden’s, have contained an alarming number of unreliable and even unfit jurists, a scandal that came to a head with Neil Gorsuch’s transgenderism opinion that can only be described as activism masquerading as textualism. This didn’t happen because Trump was a secret leftist all along, but because he outsourced the judicial selection process to a fundamentally broken “conservative” legal establishment — and because, again, almost nobody in the GOP, pro-life lobby, or professional conservative activism cared enough to look closely at who we were appointing to lifetime power.
Federal spending has skyrocketed, because while Trump proposed conservative budgets, in the end he signed whatever Congress sent him without a fight. He’s done little to clean leftist saboteurs out of the Justice Department, and his Pentagon is still infested with social-justice warriors. His biggest legislative “accomplishment” was in reality a horrendous dismantling of successful anti-crime policies. The White House imposed pandering gun restrictions worthy of the Obama administration, Mr. Art-of-the-Deal wound up giving away the store to the Taliban in the name of leaving Afghanistan, and Trump’s performance on his central campaign promise — immigration — fell far short of a “big beautiful wall.”
When compared to the last two Republican presidents, Trump looks pretty good. When compared to what Trump sold himself as and what the country needed him to be, he looks abysmal.
Even so, adults know that votes are not cast in a vacuum, and that general elections are binary choices. And with Joe Biden as the alternative, conservatives once again have a clear moral obligation to vote for Donald Trump, even if they have to outrun wild horses or crawl over broken glass to do so.
Biden is an abortion absolutist who wants to force taxpayers to fund babykilling and ban even the most mild state protections for children. He’s a staunch enemy of the Second Amendment. He would prioritize the LGBT agenda over religious liberty, conscience rights, individual liberty, and military readiness. During a global health crisis, he takes advice from a monster who says he would sacrifice the elderly to save the young. He endorses the “systemic racism” lie and anti-police bigotry. He’s as extreme as Bernie Sanders on healthcare, energy, climate, and minimum wage. He’s a standard-issue Democrat on taxes and judges, with all that entails. He speaks openly about COVID-19 as an “opportunity” for federal intervention, spending, and climate action on the level of the New Deal. His election would bring with it an army of bureaucrats and regulators who would set to work finding new ways to spend our money, control our lives, and persecute their political opponents.
Simply put: for every important issue on which Trump is good, Biden will be bad. For every important issue on which Trump is bad, Biden will be worse. This is not complicated, or even (on the Right) seriously disputed.
Nor does Biden beat Trump on character or competence grounds. For every defect of Trump’s (both the real ones and the fabricated or exaggerated), Biden is as bad or worse.
Trump is a dishonest braggart who never admits his failures? Biden is not just a liar, but a serial plagiarist who has repeatedly lied about the truck driver involved in the accident that killed his first wife and infant daughter being drunk.
Trump is unethical? Biden spent eight years near the top of one of the most corrupt administrations in US history, and has used his government connections to make no less than five members of his family very wealthy (including, infamously, scumbag son Hunter).
Trump bragged about groping women and had a handful of accusers (who showed up in the home stretch of 2016 then disappeared the moment they were no longer useful)? Biden has a well-documented habit of unwanted touching, and has been credibly accused of sexual assault.
Trump is too nice to dictators? Biden told China he “fully understands” and wouldn’t “second-guess” its policy of using forced abortion to control how many children their people have.
Trump is generally amoral? On top of all of the above, Biden is a card-carrying member of the party of abortion and infanticide, who happily goes along with all of it despite claiming to follow a faith that recognizes and reveres human life.
Under any properly-functioning policy calculus or conception of human decency, the verdict is clear: Joe Biden must be kept from taking the White House and staffing a new Democrat administration. And, once again, Donald Trump is the only means of doing so available to us.
I understand conservatives feeling demoralized. I get the impulse to stay home. I really do. But, just like the initial reluctance to support Trump in the 2016 general, those are emotional reactions, not rational choices. As tempting as it can be to want to punish the GOP for its general awfulness, the simple facts are that Republicans never learn the right lessons from defeat anyway, and the consequences of a Biden victory would simply be too great — and too long-lasting.
Nearly everyone on the Right understands that whenever Democrats take power, they manage to enact something that becomes, for all intents and purposes, permanent — a new entitlement that’s deemed politically untouchable, new spending heights that become tomorrow’s baseline, power grabs like DACA that get enshrined by courts, courts stacked with leftists who get to shape the country for decades to come. Positions that were fringe under the last Democrat president dominate the party under the next one. And reversing bad policies doesn’t reverse the harm they’ve done in the meantime — you can’t un-abort a baby whose execution was financed by restored federal funds, or enabled by the invalidation of state protections.
And then there’s Democrats’ and the Left’s steady efforts to reshape the electorate in its image. Every year, more young people shaped by increasingly-political entertainment, brands, corporations, and schools become voters. Immigration without assimilation is yielding future voters primed to become Democrat loyalists, and Democrats are salivating to finally get their opportunity to put millions of illegals on a path to citizenship.
At what point does the Left win enough of these permanent victories that the Founders’ America is beyond restoring? That conservative reform of more than a few programs around the edges becomes impossible? What do conservatives intend to do when Texas turns blue, and Democrats have imported, brainwashed, and/or addicted to the public dole enough voters to make it impossible for Republicans to win national elections anymore?
As a friend of mine laid it out recently:
The #NeverTrump crew, for all their screeching and scowling whenever the Flight 93 Election argument is invoked, never even try to answer these questions (if you can keep one of them from running away, try asking him or her to explain how Michael Anton’s point was fundamentally different from Ronald Reagan’s warning that “freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction,” that those who’ve “lost it have never known it again”).
So the conclusion in 2020 is ultimately the same as it was in 2016, except this time it’s even clearer: as badly as we wasted the opportunity of the last four years, this election is about conservatives buying as much time as we can to turn things around. If he wins, Donald Trump’s second term will be enough to save America, but it will keep the Oval Office from being occupied by those who want to finish America off.
For now, that will have to be enough. Every hope we have of protecting life, restoring liberty, and healing our nation depends on it.