A hypothetical situation has been coming up in conversations lately—a hypothetical I hope never happens, but that media keeps telling us is inevitable. That is, a boorish egomaniac with lots of money is lying, deceiving, and bovine-excrementing his way to the nomination of a party that used to stand for freedom through small government and strong defense, prosperity through free markets, and civilization through decent people living good lives. So the hypothetical situation is, “If the election comes down to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, who will you vote for?”
The answer is neither. I’ve said this before. I’ve had conversations with people who, while they support Ted Cruz and hope for a miracle, are aware Trump might be shoved down our throats. But they would vote for him to prevent Hillary Clinton from becoming president. And they are shocked that I would not. I do not think Trump is the lesser of two evils in that case; I can’t be sure he is not a worse evil. Either one would mean ignoring our Constitution and our rights, and damage our great nation for at least a generation and possibly beyond repair. I will not vote to condone either choice that leads to that same end.
I was encouraged when I had this conversation with son Political Sphere, who agrees with me, and has a good way of putting it:
Say someone’s pointing a gun at my head, and they say, “You have to choose, Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, or I’ll shoot you.” I’d say, “Then shoot me now.”
Yeah. That’s how I feel.
Over the weekend, I was surprised to learn we are far from alone. Apparently there were protesters at the Houston debate last Thursday, with signs representing their campaign: “I don’t know, not Trump, though.” (You can buy yard signs and T=shirts.) And over the weekend, a top trending hashtag on Twitter was #NeverTrump. It means people are refusing to vote for this man, no matter what.
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I’ve read a couple of good explanations of this viewpoint. One is from a blog called RhymesWithRight, which appears to be written by a social studies teacher in Seabrook (between Houston and Galveston). He titles his piece “Why #NeverTrump Is the Only Moral Position.” He starts out acknowledging that Republicans are having this conversation: “What do we do if Donald Trump is the Republican nominee in November?”
This question probably comes up in some form every election cycle, but the overwhelming answer in the past has always been to go ahead and support the nominee, however imperfect. That even included John McCain in 2008, and Bob Dole back in the 90s. But this time it is coming at us as a moral dilemma.
It is a fundamental tenet of traditional Christian moral teaching that one may not choose to commit an objectively immoral (malum in se) act. If an act is gravely and objectively morally evil, one cannot do it, even if the result of doing it might be good or better than the alternative.
He gives an example of what that means. Then he applies it to the election:
When approaching the ballot box, one has the obligation to vote in a manner that is objectively moral. In most elections, this is an easy task, for there is usually at least one non-corrupt candidate whose positions and promises are, if not perfect, within the realm of moral acceptability. If there is more than one acceptable candidate, it is acceptable to vote for any one of them—though the more virtuous act is to vote for the greater good. If there is not such a candidate, it is the obligation of a moral person to abstain from voting for any candidate—a vote for the lesser evil is still a choice to do evil, and the choice to do evil is always objectively wrong. The utilitarian argument that one should choose the lesser evil must be rejected.
And he explains why Trump is an unacceptable evil:
Why can't a Christian—or any individual with a functioning moral compass—vote for Donald Trump? That's easy—Trump combines the hostility to freedom displayed by both Democrats with Hillary's personal corruption and Bernie's totalitarian tendencies. Add to that a thin-skin and personal vindictiveness that rivals the character flaws of Barack Obama and you have a perfect storm of political evil. Many commentators—not just on the Left, but also on the Right—have called Trump a fascist…. At a bare minimum, it is fair to label Trump a proto-fascist. On that basis alone, it is morally unacceptable to vote for him, because the racism, support for violence against opponents, and efforts to intimidate and control the press are objective evils which we cannot legitimately support.
What is the voter to do? The options are, leave that race blank on the ballot, or vote third-party or write-in. Hopefully, good options will occur before we’re faced with such an eventuality.
If you want someone more well-known, let’s turn to Senator Ben Sasse of Nebraska. I’m really beginning to like this guy. He was having this very discussion on Facebook and Twitter over the weekend. Yesterday he did a long Facebook post explaining his position. He acknowledges the frustration of the voters. He then makes sure they know how he got to the Senate, and why no one should say he is “establishment.” Then he says,
My current answer for who I would support in a hypothetical matchup between Mr. Trump and Mrs. Clinton is: Neither of them. I sincerely hope we select one of the other GOP candidates, but if Donald Trump ends up as the GOP nominee, conservatives will need to find a third option.
And he explains why. Here’s the introductory essence:
Mr. Trump’s relentless focus is on dividing Americans, and on tearing down rather than building back up this glorious nation. Much like President Obama, he displays essentially no understanding of the fact that, in the American system, we have a constitutional system of checks and balances, with three separate but co-equal branches of government. And the task of public officials is to be public “servants.” The law is king, and the people are boss. But have you noticed how Mr. Trump uses the word “Reign”—like he thinks he’s running for King? It’s creepy, actually. Nebraskans are not looking for a king. We yearn instead for the recovery of a Constitutional Republic.
He gives some good teaching about parties, about the Constitution, and about the president’s job to “Preserve, Protect, and Defend the Constitution.” About the meaning of America, in words Christians and other religious people understand, he says,
Government exists only because the world is fallen, and some people want to take your property, your liberty, and your life. Government is tasked with securing a framework for ordered liberty where “we the people” can in our communities voluntarily build something great together for our kids and grandkids. That’s America. Freedom of religion, freedom of the press, freedom of association, freedom of speech—the First Amendment is the heartbeat of the American Constitution, of the American idea itself.
Then he asks, “Do you believe the beating heart of Mr. Trump’s candidacy has been a defense of the Constitution? Do you believe it’s been an impassioned defense of the First Amendment—or an attack on it?” which he follows with numerous examples of Donald Trump’s public statements that show he’s in attack mode on our rights.
What will Senator Sasse do in this hypothetical? “If Donald Trump becomes the Republican nominee, my expectation is that I will look for some third candidate—a conservative option, a Constitutionalist.”
I’m with him on that.
There are more #NeverTrumpers. Hobby Lobby founder David Green, whose company is under duress by the Obama administration to go against religious beliefs, says he will never vote for Trump. And Senator Marco Rubio began using the hashtag. Poor Donald had to face this while the news that he wouldn’t denounce David Duke and the KKK went viral, and suspicions about his fraud case, his refusal to reveal his taxes, and some unsavory, possibly mafia business connections have been bubbling up. Not a good weekend for him.
There are also comic sources of #NeverTrump. One is comedian John Oliver, on Last Week Tonight. In his 21-minute monologue, Oliver expresses what many of us feel:
At this point, Donald Trump is America’s back mole. It may have seemed harmless a year ago, but now that it’s gotten frighteningly bigger, it is no longer wise to ignore it.
Yes. Why didn’t we do something long before the weekend before Super Tuesday? (Oliver adds information about the Trump name, being changed at some point from Drumpf--which he thinks we should return to, just for the sound and look of it, in case you're interested.)
Most of us (the roughly 70-75% of Republican voters who vote against Trump in primaries) are stunned that there is support—in the party supposedly of good guys who love freedom, prosperity, and civilization—for this corrupt crony capitalist with a potty mouth and nonexistent moral compass. We’re in shock that he’s not just laughed off the political stage. Especially when we have had an array of not only acceptable but even exemplary candidates. Especially Ted Cruz, who was born and raised for such a time as this.
How can we even be in a position where we have to worry about this dilemma?
Angry, unthinking, uneducated voters who watch too much reality TV, is the answer.
But since it’s close enough to cause grave concern, it’s a good time to go through the thinking—before we feel like a gun is pointed at our heads. What will we do? What line will we not cross? How firm are we in our principles?
I pray this hypothetical never materializes. But it’s good, right now, to think things through. Party loyalty is only valuable if it gets us to our goal—back to the Constitution. But we will not sacrifice our beloved, inspired Constitution for someone who recently, temporarily, claimed to belong to our party while mocking who we are and what we stand for. I won't be "guilted" into party loyalty under these circumstances.
So, in short, #NeverTrump!