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?

The Unbearable Shallowness of #NeverTrump Arguments, Part 2: Kevin Williamson

We continue our tour of #NeverTrump’s dangerous shallowness with National Review’s Kevin Williamson, whose work on the subject is particularly insufferable thanks to his wrapping profoundly stupid arguments in arrogant contempt for all who disagree.

Cruz and the rest should not be bullied into accepting the nonsense that refusing to go in for Trump is a vote for Mrs. Clinton. It isn’t. Declining to support Trump is an act of integrity and good taste. It isn’t anything Cruz or Bush has done that makes Trump unsupportable — that is Trump’s doing, and no one else’s.

I don’t know what’s lamer: the suggestion that “Trump’s doing” somehow negates NeverTrumpers’ free will in choosing not to vote for him, or the two-word denial that not voting Trump amounts to supporting Clinton. Presidential elections only have two viable candidates. The only way to make one lose is to get the other more votes. Of course deliberately withholding votes from the alternative to Hillary benefits Hillary. This is not complicated.

And “act of integrity and good taste”? To give Hillary Clinton the opportunity to effectively end the Constitution and the conservative movement via a one-two punch of establishing a 6-3 leftist Supreme Court (at best) and amnestying enough future Democrat voters to ensure we never win another national election in our lifetimes?
Another 9/11? Fifty million more abortions? More persecution of Christian employers and conservative activists? More liberties and checks on government power erased? More disenfranchisement of the states and the people? Possibly sacrificing our opportunity to ever fix any of the crises facing America?

“Meh,” says Kevin to all of that. “Hating Trump is more important to me than the suffering of millions of Americans.”

Kevin did, however, elaborate on “it isn’t” in an earlier article, and good Lord is it worse than you’re expecting: Continue reading

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.

Why is Truth Obvious to Conservative Readers but Not Conservative Pundits?

It’s really remarkable, in a depressing sort of way, how many of the comments on articles at leading conservative websites are consistently more insightful than the articles themselves. Today’s example comes from Dan McLaughlin’s recent National Review piece on how #NeverTrump needn’t have been inevitable — not because the people who knew better had numerous opportunities to prevent Trump’s rise, mind you, but because Trump could have been someone he’s not.

Thank God commenter Patrick could see the obvious:

Flip it around: NeverTrump needn’t have been inevitable if mainstream Republicanism, including other major presidential candidates, had recognized the same important issues that Trump and Santorum realized and championed them in a more mainstream way than Trump is capable of doing.

In retrospect (except that retrospect was actually spect to millions of us a year ago) NeverTrump could have been avoided and Trump could have been stopped just by, as Ann Coulter forcefully prescribed last summer, “Taking his issues away from him and beating him with them.” But 14 Trump rivals ignored or mostly protested his policies. Cruz followed along timidly in his wake, doing nothing to make Trump voters prefer his half measures to Trump’s full ones. Santorum himself had always been leading the way on working class conservatism, but he was damaged goods having been caricatured as a religious obsessive with no other interests, and few Republcians were even aware of what he stood for.

As for Ryan, McConnell, the RW pundits, think tanks and donors, they were Trump’s best allies in assuring voters that they wouldn’t dream of adopting any of Trump’s policies. They went on record as giving him a monopoly on populist conservatism. And the voters believed them.

In putting the onus on Trump, you’re assuming this 70 year-old dog is capable of learning new tricks. That’s not realistic. He’s been an erratic, bombastic blowhard and gadfly his entire life. The solution never was for Donald Trump to become someone he’s not. It was for someone who’s not Donald Trump to start standing up for ordinary Americans instead of Wall Street and other special interests. That didn’t happen, so Trump won by default, the two sweetest words in the English language.

I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say that comment is the single best thing I’ve read on the Internet in a month.

Sadly, instead of starting the Right’s long-overdue housecleaning to make sure we never wind up in a mess like this again, so many of the people whose shortsightedness forced us into this ugly choice are instead devoting all their energy to increasingly-implausible fantasies about convention revolts and third candidates that will correct none of our root problems and instead give Hillary the opportunity she needs to make us all irrelevant by turning the Supreme Court solidly against our freedoms and amnestying enough new Democrat voters to keep control for generations.

Sigh.

New at American Clarion – Trump Won Because Conservatives Let Him

Now that we’re stuck with the ugly choice of Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, we’re long overdue for a chat about just how easily this mess could have been avoided. Shocking though it may be that such a cartoonishly unqualified and un-conservative figure could sweep the Republican nomination, it was inevitable that the mistakes and blind spots that establishmentarians and conservatives allowed to fester for years would eventually blow up in our faces.

Most agree on the first cause: feckless Republican leaders, whose record of surrender has made their base desperate for someone to take a wrecking ball to Capitol Hill, and doubtful that anyone from within the party could suffice. So when Trump swept in sounding like that someone—and making immigration, the issue on which party and base are most divided, his centerpiece—of course he forged an emotional bond impervious to subsequent reviews of his record.

It’s not Trump’s fault nobody stepped in to fill that demand first—even Ted Cruz, who fought the establishment from day one, underestimated the stridency he needed to project, or how moves like his poison pill amendments to the Gang of 8 bill would backfire.

Read the rest at American Clarion.

Bill Kristol Is Even More Delusional Than I Thought

I wasn’t expecting any good to come out of Kristol’s desperate search for an independent presidential candidate….but this is so, so much dumber than even I was expecting.

I like David French a lot — he’s a smart, serious conservative, a combat vet, a religious liberty lawyer, and one of National Review’s better analysts. But if an actual officeholder or past candidate’s chances of winning the election were already extremely remote, how is somebody with no name recognition outside of right-wing wonk circles going to make a dent?

Don’t tell me about pie-in-the-sky scenarios about the Electoral College turning the decision over to the House (which not only would require an absurdly specific win/loss ratio to happen, but would probably result in Trump anyway). Tell me how this makes President Hillary Clinton less likely. Tell me how conservatives recover from a leftist 6-3 (or worse) Supreme Court majority and enough illegals-made-voters to give Democrats a permanent national majority.

I get it. I hate Trump too. I stayed on board with ‪#‎NeverTrump‬ for as long as I could. I’ve gone through all the anger, confusion, depression, and desperation over how horribly wrong this election has gone. But after gaming out how all the scenarios play out, I simply can’t conclude that staying home or voting independent/3rd-party/write-in would end in anything but a net disaster for the country’s future.

All we can do now is bite the bullet. It pains me to say it, but right now the cretinous orange buffoon is the only weapon at our disposal with which to stop Hillary Clinton from giving the Left a lifetime stranglehold on the federal government. So vote for him, hope that his selfish political interest (NOT nonexistent personal principles) force him to follow through on his biggest promises, prepare to go back to #NeverTrump in 2020 if he betrays us (hell, let’s plan on primarying his second term anyway), and spend the next several years fixing our mistakes as a movement that got us into this mess in the first place, so we’ll never squander an opportunity like a Ted Cruz again.