There are two basic kinds of voters: those who vote their conscience and those who vote strategically. For conservatives, herein lies the general difference between the #NeverTrump-ers and those who, however reluctantly, support Donald Trump. The first group generally says that they cannot, in good conscience, support a candidate for president who does not stand for their conservative principles, while the second group generally says that they must vote for Trump because the alternative, Hillary Clinton, is worse for the future of conservatism.
However, I think the second group of voters is making a grave mistake if they think Trump is the best strategic choice for conservatives in this election.
Trump is not a conservative. Sure, his tough-on-ISIS, law-and-order message makes him better than Clinton, but he is still the same person who has said there is an “Article XII” in the Constitution and that two of the top three responsibilities of the federal government are education and health care. He is the same person who promises that he “alone can fix” all of your problems through the power of government. The government is not getting any smaller under a Trump presidency.
Therefore, this election is a choice between a Democrat candidate and a Democrat-lite candidate, both promising that the government is here to help you. Most “vote your conscience” voters will not vote for either because the candidates do not represent conservative principles or values. However, the “strategic” voters still have to decide which candidate is better for the future of conservatism.
I look at it this way: how soon can we get a conservative in the White House?
If Trump wins this election, that precludes a conservative from becoming president for at least the next eight years, assuming Trump doesn’t get primaried in 2020, which even if successful would be a disaster because true Trump supporters would revolt. Worse yet, Trump will have tainted conservatism in the eyes of the public by leading the party that his been the historical home of conservatives, making it harder for conservatives to convince the general electorate to vote for them in the future.
If Clinton wins, then a conservative Republican nominee can defeat her just four years from now, and with ease. America would be coming off of 12 years of failed Obama-Clinton leadership, and the public would be desperate for real change. Going up against a terrible candidate like Clinton, a conservative would easily be able to make that case for effective change to the American people.
Admittedly, this is a long-term view of politics, and many Americans and conservatives are desperate for real change right now. But any change Trump will provide will not be positive. If anything, he will further undermine the Constitution by ruling by executive order (as a Republican), he will abandon our allies abroad (especially our eastern European allies), and he will damage our economy through protectionist trade policies. And all of this change would be made more difficult to correct by the delaying of a conservative presidency.
The real strategic decision for conservatives in this election is to not vote for Trump, suck it up for four years, and come back at full strength in 2020. Otherwise, I am not sure conservatism will ever be able to recover.