Now that Donald Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee for president, every officeholder and opinion maker associated with the American right is expected to announce whether they support him. Everyone is anxious to put their cards on the table.
Here are mine: I am both #NeverTrump and #NeverHillary, because I know how I will feel on election day.
When I was younger, I made a habit of voting for hopeless third party candidacies, hoping to send a message of disgust with the two parties as they were. Now I think that message is better sent by simply not voting at all. And I will send it again this November.
If Clinton wins the presidency, I'll feel a little bit relieved and sad. And if Trump wins the presidency, I might crack a smile. But I'll wake up every morning afterward and immediately make sure my family's passports are in order.
A Hillary Clinton presidency certainly means the end of a divided era on the Supreme Court and the consolidation of liberal gains in the judiciary. In turn that means the reversal of incremental pro-life gains on the state level. It will mean more and more pitched battles over religious liberty that will gradually hamper the ability of my co-religionists to run their colleges, schools, and other businesses according to their consciences.
Since Clinton was shaped by the fear that Democrats lose elections for not being "tough" enough on foreign policy, she is likely to blunder with American air power. The model for these disasters is her Libyan intervention or the intervention in Kosovo. Both were launched in the name of human rights and empowered Islamist extremists in the end.
However, all the imaginable demerits of a Clinton presidency are known to me. I can anticipate them. They are just intensifications of the sort of political frustrations I already have.
Trump's victory would be something else altogether. In part because a Trump victory would, by definition, involve the defeat of nearly every certainty in America's political culture. That, I might enjoy. The status quo deserves a major upset. But I would be very nervous.
Theoretically, I should be cheered that someone running against Washington's stupid wars and against an out-of-control immigration system won. But Trump is mostly lying about his foreign policy judgment. When wars are on the horizon, he generally supports them. And his nationalist views on immigration and trade are practically labeled "for the rubes."
He openly mocks his own supporters when he says that he could shoot someone and not lose a vote. He admits, "If it gets a little boring... I just say, 'We will build the wall!'" When his campaign says that Trump "doesn't want to waste time on policy and thinks it would make him less effective on the stump," he is intermittently breaking the fourth wall and letting everyone know just how stupid he thinks his supporters are. The truth is that if Trump cared about American workers, he would invest in them. He wouldn't get on a debate stage and claim that America is too hot for American workers.
Trump's great political advantages are his shamelessness, his ignorance, his touchy ego, and his complete freedom from the norms of our political culture. These traits made him dangerous to other Republicans when Trump was just one candidate among many. And they would make him dangerous to his countrymen if he were invested with the awesome powers of the presidency. Without the constraints of party orthodoxy, without the restraint of personal shame, we would be electing a man with a hyper-sensitive personality and little working knowledge of government to lead the most important nation on Earth.
I'm still the sort of conservative who thinks it wrong to knowingly elect people of low and base character to high offices. But the most important reason I'll be nervous if Trump wins is this: His victory will invite foreign rivals to challenge the United States, and I simply don't want the man who goes to DEFCON 1 on TV rivals like Rosie O'Donnell to be the person who actually gets to command our armed forces to go to DEFCON 1.