Note: Since I originally posted, this commentary has been published on The Daily Caller. See http://dailycaller.com/2016/05/30/youve-got-to-pick-a-side/
As I’ve told my son’s little league squad, you win as a team and you lose as a team. If your pitcher is missing the strike zone, you don’t take your bat and ball and go home. That will not get you to the championship.
And yet that is what a lot of conservatives are trying to do these days.
Donald Trump is now the Republican pitcher. He is the GOP standard bearer. Whether or not, in Paul Ryan’s words, he lives up to our standards.
It is true that Trump breaks with conservative orthodoxy on a number of issues. He embraces protectionism on trade. He refuses to address entitlement reform. He does not say mean things about Planned Parenthood.
He also rejects traditional GOP foreign policy tenets even as he advocates for renewed strength abroad. He disavows the war in Iraq and other neoconservative projects to implant Western democracy in places that have never known it. He questions the relevance and viability of NATO. He second-guesses strategic aid to countries that refuse to foot the bill.
Maybe some of Trump’s loose policy pronouncements are ill informed or shortsighted. If so, and if he makes it to the White House, maybe he will change course. It would not be the first time he has abandoned positions. In fact, it is Trump’s lack of adherence to principle (not to mention a mixed history of supporting Democrats and their agenda) that has driven so many of the GOP establishment and pundit class to pledge allegiance to #NeverTrump.
Unwavering conservative principle girded the Ted Cruz campaign. Consider where that got him.
Some of the fiercest rivals and critics of Donald Trump have been quickest to reverse course. Last year they took turns deriding Trump as a “narcissist egomaniac” (Bobby Jindal), “like being shot” (Lindsay Graham), and as a “barking carnival act” and “cancer” (Rick Perry). Now each has climbed aboard the Trump train.
For this, some members of the conservative punditocracy label them pathetic traitors.
What is their alternative plan? William Kristol pines on about drafting a true conservative third party candidate. Peter Wehner blithely promises to vote for someone else or abstain.
Mitt Romney and the Bush brothers literally commit to stay home, refusing to pay tribute to the presumptive nominee by attending the nominating convention in Cleveland.
This crowd needs to wise up. Isn’t anything other than an embrace of Trump de facto a vote for Clinton?
Exactly. And some implacable critics like Robert Kagan are openly planning to join the other team.
Seriously? How can anyone who opposes the heavy-handed, growth-depressing, world-destabilizing policies of the Obama era do anything other than work to block a third Obama term with Clinton at the helm?
Many Republicans have personal animus for Clinton. They detest the way she holds herself above the law and makes blatantly false statements to avoid accountability. They resent the way her ruthless quest for power and wealth has trampled on helpless civilians, from the women her husband abused to the families of the Benghazi terror victims. They cringe at the sound of her voice.
But Clinton could be the most honest, gracious, and likeable public figure, and she would still usher in another span of liberal governance that undermines liberty, squelches growth, and damages American global interests.
At the end of the day, I think that conservative hold-outs simply cannot countenance the idea of a crass person like Donald Trump headlining the party of the conservatives. He does not fit their ideals. He does not fit the model. They do not want to settle until they meet Mr. Right.
George Will counsels conservatives to fight Trump in the general election. Then, after a single Clinton term, the voters will see the error of their ways and come around to a principled conservative that meets Will’s standards.
How bad do things need to get before Will and others recognize that change is needed now?
Trump wasn’t my first choice either. I got over it. The benefits of a Trump presidency far outweigh the potential flaws. On the critical issues of Supreme Court nominations, tax and regulatory policy, healthcare reform, and homeland security, Trump is squarely better for conservatives than Clinton could ever be.
Points where I strongly disagree with Trump – trade policy and entitlement reform come to mind – are tough pills to swallow. But again, I can’t see a Clinton White House doing any better.
Electing Trump will undoubtedly ruffle feathers in the office of diplomatic protocol. We will see behavior and comments that we would never expect from a commander-in-chief.
Well okay. But like I said, Trump’s on the mound now. And I want to go to the World Series.