A Dumpster Fire or Something Else?
Prior to the Republican National Convention, Republican Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska, a prominent opponent of his party's then presumptive nominee, was asked whether he would attend the Convention. His spokesperson issued the following answer:
“Sen. Sasse will not be attending the convention and will instead take his kids to watch some dumpster fires across the state, all of which enjoy more popularity than the current front-runners.”1
We know not if the good Senator from Nebraska went on his dumpster fire appreciation tour during the Convention, but if he did, he surely got a warmer response than Senator Ted Cruz did when he told the assembled delegates to “vote your conscience.”
As I will explain, I concur with Senator Sasse's assessment of the 2016 election in part and dissent in part. To start us off, I must disagree that this election is a dumpster fire, as Senator Sasse and others have asserted.
Due to the extraordinary ineptitude of the two major party nominees and their campaigns, I cannot escape the conclusion that we must upgrade this election from dumpster fire status. The idea came to me when I came across an article about 100 porta-potties in San Francisco being set ablaze.2
The 2016 election is a porta-potty fire.
Everything is Terrible
I have covered my disagreements with Trump extensively over the past year. We have discussed Trump's ironic support for touchback amnesty [see blog], highlighted similarities in how Trump has exploited voter ignorance to how candidates on the other side such as President Obama and Bernie Sanders have done so [see blog], and even discussed how Trump's rise has brought some of the rotten and anti-Semitic elements of the Republican Party to prominence [see blog]. There can be little doubt that Trump is the worst Republican nominee of my lifetime, and it will forever perplex me that my fellow Republican primary voters chose the least qualified of seventeen candidates to represent the Party in such an important election.
However, I would not want anyone to think that my focus on in any way means that I consider Hillary Clinton acceptable. Clinton is running with the promise to continue the policies of the last eight years of the Obama Administration, which include the increasingly ill-fated effort to socialize medicine, moves toward amnesty and away from any semblance of immigration enforcement, and warming up to Iran while moving away from Israel and our other allies. This would all be bad enough if Clinton herself did not have extraordinary ethical questions for a major party Presidential nominee. It appears quite likely that she used her post as Secretary of State to curry influence for the Clinton Foundation while she now encourages the reversal of the Citizen's United Supreme Court decision, which was originally about a government policy banning a critical film about her. Then there is Clinton's email scandal, which can only be explained by willful negligence or gross misconduct.
No Good Options on Immigration
Because this is part of my series of blog posts on immigration and the election, I must highlight that both candidates are awful on immigration. For his part, Trump is a supporter of touchback amnesty [see blog] after originally attacking Mitt Romney in 2012 for not supporting the more garden-variety amnesty. Trump supported drastically increasing H1B visas in one of the Republican debates before again calling for a suspension of H1B visas hours later.3 Trump recognizes that the current administration's refugee policies and unwillingness to vet applicants for immigration status for dangerous and un-American beliefs is a threat to national security, but has focused on making sensationalistic statements in lieu of actually articulating policies to help ensure that our immigration policies do not compromise American security. Our only hope with Trump would seem to be that, if elected, he would surround himself with competent conservative thinkers on immigration policy and be amenable to accepting their guidance on these important issues.
For her part, Clinton supports the President's illegal executive actions on immigration, most notably DAPA [see blog], and even pledges to expand them. She pledges to drastically curtail immigration enforcement by further limiting President Obama's already generous deportation priorities [see blog]. Clinton proposes admitting 60,000 refugees from the Syrian conflict without explaining how exactly she would do this in a safe way and why exactly these refugee admissions are in the national interest [see blog] rather than adjusting our policy overseas to help alleviate the chaos in the region. It is not at all reassuring when one's best hope is that a candidate will only be bad rather than catastrophic because the shift toward catastrophe can be accounted for by political expedience concerns.
It can be said that the best thing about Donald Trump is that he is not Hillary Clinton, and the best thing about Clinton is that she is not Trump. This leaves voters, and especially Republican voters not partial to the nominee, in a difficult spot.
A Democrat who is opposed to Clinton can at least take solace in the fact that the policies she would pursue as President will be liberal. Perhaps a disgruntled Bernie Sanders supporter will wish Clinton was even more radical while someone who is more concerned with Clinton's personal integrity issues would wish that she did not violate federal law in her handling of classified information, but both can be content with the conclusion that Clinton will not transmogrify into Senator Ted Cruz or Mike Lee upon taking the oath of office.
Conservative Republicans are in a more difficult situation with Trump. Trump's political identity has been, to put it mildly, turbulent. It is hard to find a single issue that Trump has been consistent on for the duration of his campaign, much less over the last forty years he has spent in the public spotlight. Just eight years ago, Trump's public statements were extremely supportive of Obama and Clinton, whereas now we are supposed to expect that he has suddenly found conservatism.4 It is hard for a conservative to have great confidence that a President Trump would govern as a conservative given his inconsistent public statements and the fact that he has made at least as many overtures to Bernie Sanders supporters as he has to disaffected Republicans. The ideological concerns do not even reach his breathtaking ignorance on domestic and foreign affairs; although he is the foremost scholar on the so-called Article XII of the U.S. Constitution (there is none, to be clear).5
I am left with a difficult decision in this election: to vote for Trump or to abstain from the two major party candidates entirely. In his controversial speech to the Convention, Senator Ted Cruz, who was not my first choice but was my last choice in the Primaries, told conservatives to “vote your conscience, vote for the candidates up and down the ticket who you trust to defend our freedom and to be faithful to the Constitution.”6 I do not have great trust in Trump to do either of those things, but I trust with absolute certainty that Hillary Clinton will not.
Clinton promises to continue the dreadful policies of the last eight years, appoint left-wing judges to the Supreme Court to transform it for a generation, and to continue our feckless appeasement abroad. The best Clinton promises is that she may be marginally less bad than Obama.
Trump may well live down to my worst expectations if elected. However, I believe that it is more likely than not that a President Trump will be better, or at least less bad, than a President Clinton. Trump will have access to the majority of the best conservative thinkers if he becomes President, and we can hope that holding the highest office in the land would humble him such that he recognizes what he does not know and accepts the counsel of those who do. Furthermore, it would be in a President Trump's best interest to stay on good terms with a Republican Congress, for it seems unlikely that Democrats would readily assist in anything that would make Trump more popular. Finally, if Trump were to stick to his proposed list of Supreme Court prospects, he would at least reestablish a conservative majority on the Court even if he disappoints in his other duties as President.
I concur with the noted libertarian law professor Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy blog that voting for the “lesser of two evils” is perfectly justifiable.7 There are no easy answers when the election is a porta-potty fire, but it is too important for us to sit on the sidelines and watch the porta-potties burn. Unlike Somin, however, I believe that the lesser of two evils in this case is the Republican nominee, and not the nominee of the Democrats. My conscience tells me to be confident in neither, but it tells me that Trump offers the prospect, however slight, for something more. In a choice between too awful candidates, my choice is for the one who has the potential to improve the situation of my country. The ceiling for Clinton is so low that a President Trump does not need a high floor to be a better President than her. Therefore, with extreme reservations, I intend to vote for Donald Trump to be the next President of the United States.
To read more of my posts about immigration and the election, please see my blog post.
- Ernst, Douglas, “Sasse would rather 'watch some dumpster fires' than attend Trump nomination: Spokesman,” washingtontimes.com, (Jul. 7, 2016)
- CBS SF Bay Area, “100 Porta-Potties Go Up In Flames At Hayward Storage Facility,” sanfransico.cbslocal.com, (Feb. 28, 2015)
- Dinan, Stephen, “Trump quickly recants new stance on immigrant guest-workers,” washingtontimes.com, (Mar. 4, 2016)
- Savransky, Rebecca, “Clinton launches ad using quotes of Trump praising her,” thehill.com, (Jul. 21, 2016)
- Hughes, Siobhan, “Donald Trump's Pledge to Defend Article XII of Constitution Raises Eyebrows,” blogs.wsj.com, (Jul. 7, 2016)
- Schroeder, Peter, “No Trump endorsement from Cruz: 'Vote your conscience',” thehill.com, (Jul. 21, 2016)
- Somin, Ilya, “The logic of voting for a lesser evil,” washingtonpost.com/news/volokh-conspiracy, (Jul. 27, 2016)