As the presidential campaign hurtles towards Election Day, a popular argument must be weighing on the minds of a lot of wavering conservatives: While Hillary Clinton is flawed, she does not pose a danger to the republic in the same way Trump does.
Actually, she does.
This isn't about drawing a false "equivalency" between the two candidates. It's about assessing each candidate as a person, independently of any "lesser of two evils" calculations. The dangers of Trump are as obvious as his Twitter grandstanding. The dangers of Clinton are more subtle, and therefore more insidious. Let's take them one by one:
Subversion of the judiciary
The progressive movement wants to use the judicial branch to advance the left's political agenda. It's a neat trick: Not only do you get the policy outcome you prefer, but you get it whether the voters like it or not, and it takes decades of sustained political effort to overturn it through appointments, if at all.
You might accuse conservatives of doing the same thing — but really, what we promote is the originalist philosophy of interpretation, which sometimes produces outcomes conservatives like, and sometimes does not.
It's not just that a Supreme Court with a solid five-vote progressive majority would enact policies that would be bad for conservatives. It's that they would invite a disastrous political backlash. Historians and reporters say the 7-2 Roe v. Wade majority really, genuinely believed their decision would make the issue of abortion less divisive, and less of a political flashpoint, by "taking it off the table." Instead, the exact opposite happened. The usurping of democracy caused millions upon millions of (especially, but not only) evangelical Christians to return from their self-imposed withdrawal from politics. The two parties' political coalitions haven't looked the same since, and abortion is pretty much the main issue that divides them.
Legislating from the bench is intrinsically distasteful. Now add this to a climate of unprecedented lack of trust in governing institutions and elites, and what is the outcome? If you think politics is already too divided, if you think that the people's defiance of elites has been too strong, you have no idea what's in store when Hillary Clinton installs several lackeys on the Supreme Court.
There's no polite way to say this: Hillary Clinton is corrupt. There's no other way to describe her speech-making and foundation fundraising from major corporations and foreign governments. In goes the cash. Out go the favors.
Like all corrupt politicians, Clinton has surrounded herself with a clique of cronies who also benefit from the influence-peddling, whether it's Sidney Blumenthal doing business deals in post-war Libya, Doug Band cashing in on his "Clinton, Inc." connections, or Huma Abedin triple-dipping to fatten her government paycheck.
These are all actions that Clinton authorized, if not encouraged, in the face of legality and common decency.
Do we think this clique will suddenly turn over a new leaf once in the White House? Or is it more likely that, with all the patronage that the executive branch can offer, they would be even worse? Get ready for the most lawless executive branch since the Nixon era. If that's not a significant danger to our political norms and order well beyond the normal bounds of politics, I don't know what is.
The alt-right has a proverb: "Cthulhu swims slowly, but he always swims left." The idea is that the progressive movement always wins in the long run, and conservative victories are only rear-guard and temporary. Whether or not that is true, it has certainly been the case that the Cthulhu of executive branch authoritarianism has been swimming relentlessly in one direction since the 1990s.
Remember when all the great and good went bonkers when George W. Bush asserted executive privilege, issued signing statements, and sort-of okayed torture? Today that looks as quaint as the powdered wigs of the Founding Fathers. Each new administration pushes the envelope, enabling the next administration to push it even further. And there are very good reasons to believe that Clinton would push executive branch authoritarianism to unprecedented lengths.
First, there is her demonstrated contempt for the rule of law. The reason her email scandal is so damning isn't that "she used the wrong email" or even that she endangered national security information (although that's disqualifying enough). It's that the Clintons only reaction to every rule is: How can I get around this? Hillary Clinton is temperamentally suited to use every tool at her disposal to get what she wants.
Then there is polarization. You can blame Republican extremism or Democratic extremism — or both — but it looks likely that we'll still have a GOP House, which means Hillary Clinton won't be able to pass major legislation. She will seek to expand even further the powers of the executive branch to accomplish her political objectives.
Look, Trump would make a horrid president. But so would Clinton. The truth is, either a Clinton or a Trump administration would be a decisive and consequential move away from the political and constitutional order of the republic as we've traditionally understood it. Neither of them should get your vote.