Stop Telling Me The General Election Is a Binary Choice

I’ve had it with my conservative friends telling me that this election is a binary choice. 2016 is an election year unlike any election year before it; it’s divided people along very unusual lines. As a result of the peculiarities of this election, we aren’t faced with the typical “lesser of two evils” situation we normally find ourselves in every four years. We’re looking at something completely different.

Ever since I was eligible to vote, I’ve voted down-the-line Republican because the Republican candidates–regardless of their flaws–have always been better than the Democratic candidates. Without fail. John McCain sucked, but he was a trillion times better than Barack Obama. Mitt Romney was quite flawed–specifically when it came to socialized healthcare–but he was infinitely better than a second term of Barack Obama.

I always voted for Republicans because I believed conservatism was at least partially represented by the candidates on the Republican ballot. They were never perfect, but I always thought conservatism was stronger than the candidate we were supporting, and that it could weather the storm. This time is different.

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Some people really like Trump’s populism and shifting sands policies. Fox News’ Eric Bolling recently said that “we don’t know where Donald Trump is, and I think that’s a positive…”

Approximately four in ten Republicans have voted for Trump in the first 39 states plus D.C., despite the fact that he’s not a constitutional conservative. Everyone knows Trump isn’t a conservative, and apparently, that’s appealing to many voters in the Republican Party. It doesn’t appeal to me.

I’m a conservative. For a long time, the Republican Party represented conservatism. We were the party of limited government–at least we pretended to be. With Trump, there’s been a paradigm shift. We are no longer the party of limited government, we are no longer the party of constitutional constraints, we are the party of brute strength, and populism.

Given this massive shift, I, as a conservative, have to ask myself: What is my best option? Do I follow the party line and vote for Donald Trump, even though his policies and principles are anathema to mine, or do I seek another candidate?

For a lot of my conservative friends, the choice appears easy. Vote Trump to stop Hillary. But in many ways, I agree with Jonathan Hoenig, who said:

“Looking long-term, I think Hillary is a lot less dangerous to this country because when Hillary’s policies fail, they’re gonna blame socialism, they’re gonna blame the mixed economy. But when Trump’s fail, they’re gonna blame…the businessmen, the capitalists, and then it’s totally discredited, and there’s nothing standing in the way of dictatorial rule in this country.”

It pains me to write this, but he’s correct. If Hillary wins in November, it will be a third term of Obama’s failed policies. Those failures can be rightly blamed on the ideals of the left. However, if Trump wins, and his policies fail, conservatives will be blamed.

The public isn’t very politically savvy, so they see the leaders of each party representing the philosophies allegedly advocated by those parties. For years, the philosophy advocated by the Republican Party has been conservatism. With Trump at the top of the ticket, low-information Americans (see: most Americans) will wrongly believe Trump is the standard-bearer of conservatism, when he’s not a conservative at all. That would act as a knife in the side of any conservative running for president in the future.

Renowned economist Thomas Sowell writes:

“For decades after Republican President Herbert Hoover was demonized because the Great Depression of the 1930s began on his watch, Democrats warned repeatedly, in a series of later presidential elections, that a vote for the Republican candidate was a vote to return to the days of Hoover.

It was 20 years before another Republican was elected president. As late as the 1980s, President Ronald Reagan was called by the Democrats’ Speaker of the House, ‘Hoover with a smile.’

The point is that Hoover was still being used as a bogeyman, more than 40 years after he left office, and nearly two decades after he was dead. Trump’s image could easily play a very similar role.”

Regardless of this argument, many of my conservative friends cannot see past their “Stop Hillary” mentality. They have tunnel vision.

Yes, Hillary Clinton is a sociopath. Yes, her foreign policy decisions were atrocious. Yes, she would be an awful president. However, I believe the United States can withstand four years of Hillary Clinton. I do not believe conservatism can withstand the damage of a Donald Trump presidency. It would take decades to rebuild. And because I believe constitutional conservatism is what’s best for the country, I’m willing to take a short-term hit to have a chance at long-term success.

Hillary Clinton isn’t a wizard; she’s not Sauron. We’ve held the line for eight years under the disaster that is the Obama presidency, we can hold it for another four years. We need to think beyond what’s right in front of us, and not be so reactionary. We need to peel the scales from our eyes, and dedicate ourselves to seeking out conservative solutions for long-term survival.

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