We may be forced to face this question soon. Given the current delegate count, Donald Trump’s impenetrable fortress of 35% of base voters, and the insistence of Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio and John Kasich to split the remainder 30/20/15, Trump has great odds to win the republican nomination. This outcome could either be solidified or further challenged today: The Ides of March, 2016.
I have been open about my opposition to Trump, from the very beginning. After instinctively opposing him shortly after his announcement, and later realizing he wasn’t going away, I honestly considered whether I could get behind him. I listened to him. After one debate I almost caught myself appreciating his style. I kept coming back to the same issues however, and as the campaign went on, more troubling, non-political red flags started popping up.
I have political concerns about Donald Trump. I don’t believe he is a conservative. It is important to know at this point though, that I am not going to expect ideological purity out of any candidate. I haven’t felt 100% behind a candidate since Rand Paul dropped out in early February. John Kasich is too soft on issues of limited government. He is sanctimonious and stubborn. Ted Cruz is in perpetual lawyer mode and often strikes an unnecessarily adversarial tone. He panders shamelessly to evangelicals (whatever the heck those are) and has a reptilian quality I can’t quite put my finger on. Marco Rubio is a slick packaged platitude-machine with massive debt-expanding ideas to solve all the world’s problems, who also dove headfirst into the gutter to trade schoolyard insults with Trump.
With Rubio and Kasich, much like with John McCain in 2008, I have a basic idea of what I would get. Although it is watered down, it is at least in the ballpark of what I’m looking for. I know that there are some core conservative principles within them I can count on. I can watch them speak, and even if I think they are soft or wrong on an issue, I believe they are respectable servant leaders that fit into my picture of what I hope America is. With Ted Cruz, I get even closer to my ideal candidate, notwithstanding some troubling issues with warmth and authenticity.
My primary objections to Donald Trump are not political matters of degree. They are personal. They come from my gut. In the end, I have to at least KINDA like the guy. Before I answer the title question of this blog post, I’ll document just a few of my non-policy related observations of Trump that set him apart from the other candidates, making me less willing to compromise my support.
1. Trump stole the media with shock humor.
Simple strategy. Drop a bomb. If people laugh, pretend it was a joke. If people cheer, pretend you meant it. If people are shocked and outraged, back off the statement quietly on morning show interviews, but double down and play the victim in front of your supporters and blame ‘political correctness’ and social justice warriors.
Rand Paul and Mike Huckabee had to raise five dollars at a time and shell out a million dollars for a 30 second commercial in Iowa. Trump only needed to say “Ban Muslims” and he ran away with 60 minutes of free live television coverage on multiple networks.
Many of his opponents were flabbergasted. How to respond! All they could manage was to essentially shout “He’s cheating! You Can’t just SAY STUFF!”
To illustrate this point, I am reminded of one of my favorite lines from the movie Napoleon Dynamite. Pedro is running for student body president against much a much more popular and polished Summer Wheatley. He is nervous about his upcoming election speech and he confides in Napoleon: “I don’t know what to say.” Napoleon responds: “Just tell them… if they vote for you, you’ll make all of their wildest dreams come true.” Pedro got in front of the school and promised just that. How could Summer Wheatley’s promise to “get a glitter Bonne Bell dispenser for all the girls’ bathrooms” possibly compete with that!
Sure enough, Pedro won the election despite Wheatley’s promise that ” with me, it will be summer all year long.”
And so has gone the primary. A detailed flat tax and a complex plan to send federal government functions back to the states simply cannot compete against a promise to “treat veterans better than they have ever been treated before, believe me!”
2. Trump cast doubt on conservatism. While attempting to destroy the establishment, Trump has weakened the conservative movement in a year in which it had unbelievable potential to make a comeback. He has given momentum to this idea that conservatism has somehow failed, asking “What has conservatism done for you lately?”
When Trump plants a seed, he has millions of followers and an army of personal media willing to give it water and sunlight. This idea has now taken full bloom. Consistent conservatives are in danger of losing a voice that they barely had in the republican party to begin with. Trump has convinced many that conservatism is not a worthy aim. The fact is that we have had no legitimate conservative movement candidates for years, but that trend has reversed in the past six years with people like Mike Lee, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Justin Amash, Thomas Massie and more. The Trump phenomenon has overshadowed the significant gains in this movement of principles.
3. He has ruined the war on political correctness. Trump blames the ‘PC culture’ at every instance of revulsion to his outrageous behavior. Lifelong conservatives don’t even know what the term means anymore. If it means being generally respectful and polite to people, then most of us want more of it. The real threat of political correctness was the cowardly avoidance of important topics, usually by making up cute new invented terms.
Instead of focusing on the PC epidemic being thrust upon college students (ideas of cultural appropriation, genderless pronouns and mandatory ‘fairness’), Trump wants us to believe we are being wimpy and PC because we want some basic civility from our public figures; say, for instance, to refrain from repeated references to physical appearance in a presidential campaign, or to scale back the alienation of an entire religion.
If our leaders must humiliate their critics with vulgar personal attacks in order to defeat political correctness, many of us are willing to bring PC back.
4. He will betray even his supporters.
Trump has taken to repeating the line: “Politicians: All talk, no action.” Meanwhile, he has privately backed off every single stance he has taken to date, while publicly adopting the anti-principle that everything is negotiable. If elected, he could never be held to any campaign promise, because he has not made any measurable promises, with the exception of building a wall. Somehow he has been given a complete pass on 180 degree policy reversals, including astonishing denouncements (or ‘softenings’) of his signature issue: Immigration.
Many of us fear what will happen if Trump were somehow elected and keeps his promises. Supporters will feel betrayed when he does not. No one wins.
5. Dangerous Red Flags.
The hysterical reaction to Trump is overblown by some. He is not a Nazi or a Fascist, but he is willing to allow people to think he is if it keeps him on camera during primetime.
And while Trump himself is not directly as dangerous as some make him out to be, he has exploited raw anger, and stoked the fires of hatred in a significant chunk of his following. Trump is a rich kid from New York. It is hard to imagine how he could personally understand or relate to the partially legitimate anger of his followers. If elected, he would discover that he cannot control it.
Leaders that I admire diffuse explosive situations. They calm the angry and point them in a productive direction. Perhaps the most frightening aspect of this Trump phenomenon to me has been the instigation and provocation of anger. Trump’s schtick does not work with a calm and happy audience. He needs them fired up and whipped into a frenzy. They return the favor with the most shocking display of idol worship of a public figure that I have ever witnessed in my lifetime.
Combine zealous supporters willing to physically fight for their leader with an authoritarian leaning Trump who promises to protect them when they do, and we have a real problem.
6. My aversion to aggressively Type A Leaders.
I have had the opportunity over the years to work with and observe many different types of leaders. I have witnessed a very familiar pattern in Type-A, ass-kickin’, blustery, head honcho-type leaders. Those who use fear and disorientation (shock and awe) to motivate people often achieve impressive short term results, at a recognizable human cost. This is fine when you are running a business, especially if the business is in trouble and tough decisions must be made to turn it around, because you can just keep cycling through humans. You are accountable only to your shareholders who are concerned solely with the bottom line. This type of leadership is also effective in a military battlefield environment, because every order could be the difference between life and death. There is no room for collaboration or servant leadership.
The federal government is not compatible with a business or a military combat unit. The liberty of individuals is THE objective of our government. US citizens are not employees accountable to achieve the aims of the nation. Our leaders serve us, and those most effective are able to do this while also inspiring us and making us proud. There are many leadership styles which are strong, effective and dignified without belligerence.
So I’m on record. This post is not designed to persuade anyone. This is basically my last gasp before this thing is essentially over and I have to find a new hobby. I oppose the nomination of Donald Trump for the presidency of the United States, without equivocation, because I don’t share any identifiable principles with him and he is not the type of leader I admire.
Vote for Trump?
Prepare yourselves. If you have made your opposition to Trump public, you could soon be bombarded with “It’s either him or Hillary!” and “Time to unite for the good of the country!”
To acquiesce and cast a “Beat Hillary” vote for Donald Trump in the general election is to submit to the very principle Donald Trump’s candidacy has so effectively overcome, that one must simply accept the inevitability of the candidate the party produces, no matter how offensive and contradictory to one’s own principles.
This is an establishment idea. The republican ‘establishment’ has been deposed. Why then, should we be expected to rally to the call of this collective? What ‘party’ are we rallying around?
Despite its awful reputation, the establishment legitimately served one purpose. It dominated the media and talked down to us, all in the effort of convincing us that we needed to stand behind the leading candidate for the sake of THE PARTY.
The establishment was a flag that we all begrudgingly waved when our ideal candidates had been rejected. Donald Trump deserves credit for marginalizing, if not obliterating this venerable institution. Now though, having torched the flag, Trump cannot reasonably expect conservatives to coalesce around the charred remains based solely on the age-old establishment rationale of UNITY.
Mr. Trump has aptly pointed out that I am part of a statistically irrelevant minority of the republican party. I suppose he won’t need me in his coalition. I won’t stay home on election day though. I will vote for limited government principles, wherever they may be found.