Lies, Damned Lies, and NeverTrump: A Defense of Dennis Prager

Note: an abridged version of this column appears at The Federalist Papers Project.

Dennis Prager set the conservative blogosphere ablaze last week with a column asking why there are conservatives “who still snipe (or worse) at President Trump,” who “remain anti-Trump today” despite the fact that for the next three and a half years, he’s our only means of getting national conservative policies across the finish line.

Prager’s first suspected reason:

While they strongly differ with the Left, they do not regard the left–right battle as an existential battle for preserving our nation. On the other hand, I, and other conservative Trump supporters, do […] To my amazement, no anti-Trump conservative writer sees it that way. They all thought during the election, and still think, that while it would not have been a good thing if Hillary Clinton had won, it wouldn’t have been a catastrophe either.

Exactly right, and a crucial point that NeverTrumpers, for all their self-righteousness, never seriously addressed.

Prager’s conclusion:

They can accept an imperfect reality and acknowledge that we are in a civil war, and that Trump, with all his flaws, is our general. If this general is going to win, he needs the best fighters. But too many of them, some of the best minds of the conservative movement, are AWOL.

I beg them: Please report for duty.

Amen! This column was a much-needed reminder of the big picture, which NeverTrumpers tend to sorely lack. And sure enough, a string of pundits jumped at the opportunity to demonstrate that they’ve done no introspection whatsoever since the election. Continue reading

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The Unbearable Shallowness of #NeverTrump Arguments, Part 3: Jonah Goldberg

Once upon a time, Jonah Goldberg was one of my favorite conservative writers. Then Donald Trump happened (noticing a pattern here?). Sadly, so much sophistry leaps off the page of one of his most recent pieces — yet another #NeverTrump diatribe, naturally — that it’s inspired me to revive a series I started in response to Steve Deace and Kevin Williamson.

I find the constant resort to what I’ll call argumentum ad masculinum tedious. Every day, I hear people telling me that I need to “man up” and support Trump as if this is some kind of dick-measuring exercise.

I’m sure there are others who resort to that, but in the piece Goldberg is referring to, Ace isn’t talking about “dick-measuring.” He’s simply saying people need to be intellectually honest to warrant respect. To maintain that withholding support for electing Trump somehow doesn’t benefit Hillary is intellectually dishonest, for the reasons I’ll explain below.

I don’t feel obligated to support Hillary […] Ace is locked into this binary argument that one must be for one candidate if one is against the other.

Conservatives of all people should appreciate that what one “feels” about one’s actions does not change the effect of those actions. Whatever you intend, the fact remains you’re ultimately choosing not to encourage people to cast the only vote that can do anything to keep Hillary out of the White House.

If during the Iran-Iraq War, I criticized Iraq, there is no objective reason why that should require the conclusion that I supported Iran.

Because we’re not talking about “criticizing” the candidates. Heck, those of us voting for Trump still complain about him all the time. It’s completely possible to state upfront Trump’s many faults, continue to constructively critique him, and still keep them in the broader context that they pale in comparison to the suffering you know Hillary Clinton would inflict on millions of Americans.

Frankly, Jonah, to pretend it’s a question of simply criticizing Trump reeks of goalpost-moving.

Again, in 1960, National Review refused to endorse Kennedy or Nixon because neither measured up.

A precedent that would only be applicable here if the issues at stake in 2016 were the same as the ones at stake in 1960 (hardly), if Trump was equivalent to Nixon (debatable), and most importantly if Hillary wasn’t light years worse than JFK (come on). So try again.

What if the race this year was between Jill Stein and Bernie Sanders, or to better illustrate the point, between Hannibal Lecter and Freddy Krueger. Am I really obligated to figure out which is the lesser of two evils, or am I actually obligated to say they’re both evil? Would Ace argue that it’s outrageous and cowardly for me to criticize them both, just because he’s concluded that Lecter is preferable to Krueger? “C’mon some of us are trying to win an election here! Stop bashing Dr. Lecter. Sure he eats people, but he’s so much better than Krueger. Just look at the Krueger Foundation!”

I’m sorry Jonah, but you have to know how disingenuous this paragraph is. If Trump and Hillary really were equally likely to be as equally bad as Krueger and Lecter (which they aren’t), you wouldn’t need to resort to such an outlandish analogy in the first place. You could make the point with comparisons to the actual candidates, not horror-movie substitutes. And again, nobody (except the most die-hard Trumpkins, not people like Ace or Bill Bennett) suggested you can’t criticize both; that’s a straw man.

I go back and forth over the question of whether Hillary or Trump would be worse for America — and/or conservatism.

Yeah, it’s a real stumper how to figure out whether Trump embarrassing Republicans with his antics and possibly reneging some of his conservative campaign promises might be worse for the country than Hillary working every day to kill babies, endanger American lives, systematically dismantle the rule of law, erase even more personal, economic, and religious freedoms, disenfranchise future conservative generations through judicial and bureaucratic appointments, ramp up IRS discrimination against conservatives, and amnesty enough future Democrat voters to prevent conservatives from ever again restoring the Constitution, limited government, the right to life, free-market economics, etc.

I fall back to the safe harbor of saying what I believe about both of them and the issues at play, for the simple reason that this seems like the right thing to do and because I want to be consistent about what I believe in — no matter who is president.

How are “saying what I believe about both of them and the issues at play” and “being consistent about what I believe in” incompatible with coming to a conclusion about which vote is the right one to cast?

New at American Clarion: Disappointment in Paul Ryan Provides Clue to America’s Current Mess

Wilfred McClay of the University of Oklahoma best summarized the root cause of conservatives’ unpleasant choice for president this fall: “when a political culture forbids respectable politicians from raising essential topics, the electorate will soon turn to ‘unrespectable’ ones” like Donald Trump.

Unfortunately, the punditry remains slow to recognize this, and nothing symbolizes its cognitive dissonance more than the reactions to House Speaker Paul Ryan supporting Trump despite Trump’s attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel. The past few weeks have been filled with fears and lamentations over the threat to Ryan’s standing as, Wisconsin radio host Charlie Sykes puts it, “the intellectual leader of the conservative movement in the GOP.”

National Review’s Jonah Goldberg sums up the sentiment in writing that it’s “more difficult for me to write than it should be” that Ryan’s “a disappointment”:

[P]hilosophically and temperamentally, I’ve long felt that Ryan is my kind of politician, and that judgment didn’t change after getting to know him (which is rare, given how most politicians are all too human). His vision for government’s role and the kind of party the GOP should be has always resonated with me, even if I didn’t agree with him on every policy or vote.

It should tell you all you need to know about the sorry state of the Right that disappointment in Ryan took this long for so many.

Read the rest at American Clarion.