Since Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his retirement, I have repeatedly heard some version of the following from conservatives who declined to back the Republican presidential nominee in 2016: If I had known that Donald Trump would keep his promises on judges, I would have voted for him.
The conservative case against Trump was always two-fold: His personal flaws would cripple his presidency and discredit conservatism, and he was more of a liberal Trojan horse than a true conservative anyway.
… Trump has been better for conservatives on judicial and social issues than we had reason to expect, and he has aggressively cut taxes and regulations. Overall, the personal criticisms of Trump have held up while the ideological objections so far have not.
Maybe the long-term damage Trump does to conservatism’s brand outweighs his contributions on judges. But that is a tougher case to make than simultaneously arguing Trump is too liberal and too flawed ….
Comments from a conservative who, ahem!, “declined to back” the candidate of my former party:
- Trump’s promise on judges was so clear and specific that I trusted it more than any other of his promises that I can recall. His promise-keeping on this is a silver lining in a dark cloud.
- My concern was not that Trump would have a crippled presidency but that he would have a consequential presidency though his narcissistic and possibly sociopathic impetuousness and love of chaos. That concern remains, though I’m less concerned now about him pushing nuclear launch buttons (or trying to do so, leading to a de facto coup by a military countermand).
- That Trump was no conservative was manifest from his personal life and populist rabble-rousing. But that did not mark him as a “liberal.” Political reality simply is not well-portrayed by a one-dimensional line running from conservative to liberal.
- The damage Trump does to the culture — no, make that “the utter inability of Donald Trump to improve our God-forgetting and increasingly toxic culture” — makes even the judicial “win” feel Pyrrhic.
My vote if I had it to do over? My state was a safe state for Trump (though his whole candidacy boggled my mind), so I was spared a terrible decision. I still would have written in the American Solidarity Party candidate.
UPDATE: #4 is added.
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The waters are out and no human force can turn them back, but I do not see why as we go with the stream we need sing Hallelujah to the river god.
(Sir James Fitzjames Stephen)
Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
(Philip K. Dick)