Never Clinton, Never Trump: A Principled Position
Español“Never” is a dangerous word, like “secure.” When Bill Clinton was running for office, I remember my wife telling me, “someone like him can never be president of the United States.” Something similar happened when Obama was running. So I learned to rarely say “never.”
After a weekly dose of negative revelations about Donald Trump, it’s not hard to find reasons not to vote for him. Many of the people I most admire in the world of ideas jumped into the unofficial “Never Trump” camp early on.
I recently wrote a piece listing scholars and writers who, “given the current” realistic choices, have come out for Trump. Even though I disagree with some of the policies they champion, I completely respect them. My article also listed several individuals who share a similar vision of the free society but who have been actively anti-Trump —and anti-Clinton, as well.
Professor Robert P. George is perhaps the most active among them, especially in social media but also in his lectures and appearances.
George is a conservative icon in the United States. He is a Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University, and has also taught at Harvard University. He has won most, if not all, the awards that exist in the United States for champions of freedom, from the Bradley Prize to, most recently, the 2016 Kristol Award. The James Madison Program, which Professor George created (which is supported by the Witherspoon Institute at Princeton), has been labelled the “Cadillac” of university-based centers, even by his libertarian competitors.
Another luminary who can’t see himself voting for Trump is Father Robert Sirico, the Roman Catholic priest who co-founded of the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty. His teachings and writings have reached friends of freedom across the globe, especially those who value virtue as much (or more) than freedom and free markets.
The third one I will mention is the director of a similar, albeit smaller, organization: Paul Kengor of the Center for Vision and Values at Grove City College. He shares similar views as Sirico and George. Kengor is the author of several books on U.S. presidents and religion, including New York Times best sellers “God and Ronald Reagan” and “The Communist.”
I picked just three out of many, who were not among the conservative and libertarians who pledged to be “Never Trump” in National Review earlier this year. Many of the individuals mentioned in that list have since changed their minds.
I have known Sirico, Kengor, and George for many years. They teach respect, they practice respect, they know that every human being has special dignity—and they live each day by that principle. They are political, legal, and moral philosophers and they are transparent with their views.
In fact, many look at them as shining lights in today’s U.S. academic and think tank world. Paul Kengor wrote a piece last May with a very explicit title: “Trump is the Anti Reagan.” Sirico spends less time writing about politics, so his criticism of Trump and Clinton are done more in private. He did share his views on the vice presidential pick on a piece focusing on the religious paths of Gov. Michael Pence and Sen. Tim Kaine.
I could quote any of them, but given that he is the most famous and outspoken of the three, I will quote Robert George on why he can’t support either candidate:
“Hillary Clinton and her ne’er do well husband not only support many bad causes, they are stunningly corrupt and mendacious. I did not vote for him and could never vote for her. As I have said many times (to the consternation of a few of my friends), she is even worse than Donald Trump. So why (to the consternation of a much larger number of my friends) can I not endorse Mr. Trump? As I warned from the beginning, his deep moral and other character flaws, together with his narcissism and childishness, will cause him to say and do things that embarrass and stain those who associate themselves with him—and, importantly, the worthy organizations they represent and the noble causes they serve.”
Robert George penned this statement even before the recordings of Trump bragging about his method for sexual “conquests” aired. Trump’s vulgar language, including his use of the same words to describe female sexual organs, was well known in policy and media circles.
Tucker Carlson, a popular commentator, now at Fox News, published a letter in January 2016 describing his encounter with Trump. Carlson wrote that Trump spoke with the same arrogance and vulgarity as in the recently aired 2005 recording.
Many of the conservatives who nevertheless decided to support Trump came to this decision only after he defeated all of his Republican rivals. It is worth mentioning that Sen. Ted Cruz, Professor George’s favorite candidate, who came out second in the primaries, was even more loathed than Trump by the Republican elites.
In the Washington D.C. primaries, Cruz received only 10% of the Republican votes. They did not want a conservative who could defend his principles and with impeccable academic credentials and courage like Cruz.
Members of the establishment dislike Trump for different reasons, mainly because he unsettles the bi-partisan lobbying networks. This is not the reason that guides the votes of people like George, Sirico, or Kengor. They keep at a safe distance from Washington.
George works from Princeton, Sirico from Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Kengor from Grove City, Pennsylvania. I tend to agree with George, Sirico, and Kengor that in many topics, especially social values, Trump was the least conservative of the Republican contenders —an important reason to oppose him.
Robert George is already calling for post-election collaboration among “those of us who strongly believe in the sanctity of human life, marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife, religious freedom and the rights of conscience, limited government, thriving institutions of civil society, the rule of law, republican government (as opposed to rule by judicial decree or executive edict), a free and fair market system of production and exchange, and related principles and values.”
George tells all who share this short credo, that “we must respect each other’s intelligence and goodwill, even when we disagree about the prudence of, say, supporting Trump or refusing to support him.”
Even in a climate full of rancor, George seeks understanding. He knows that people with similar political and social views arrive at decisions in a different manner.
Some tend to put all their relevant choices in a comparable platform and choose which one is preferable or less bad. Some will rule out candidates with no chance of winning, and others will rather vote for the candidates with whom they have more views in common.
Voting for candidates who have no chance of winning, like Evan McMullin, if you are a conservative, or Gary Johnson, if you lean libertarian, is a legitimate choice. I have voted that way many times.
As I cherish my friendships with people who are in the “Never Trump” camp just as much I do my friendships with those who have come out as pro-Trump, I endorse George’s ending plea: “Let’s remember, those of us who share core values, that we are on the same team, seeking the same ends, striving to do what is right as God gives us to see what is right. As we move forward, let it be ‘with malice towards none, with charity for all’.”
I do not know if the United States is moving forward. Let’s not fool ourselves: leadership matters, but the candidates we have are an effect, not a cause. They reflect a public opinion that, at least in the Republican camp, thinks differently than what many ideas salesmen were telling their donors and supporters.
Understanding this, and avoiding past mistakes, will be essential after one of the “never” scenarios becomes a reality. Those in the “Never Clinton, Never Trump” camp will have a clear conscience that their vote did not contribute to the evils that might follow.
But if they want to see their views ever represented again by a president of a United States of America worthy of this nation’s glory, they will have to work better than ever before.