Class, I have some mandatory reading for you today — especially if you do not plan to vote for Donald Trump. No, it’s not yet another effort to make you change your mind. It is, instead, an eloquent defense of the reasonableness of voting for Trump — written by a Trump opponent: our old friend Dan McLaughlin aka the Baseball Crank. It’s a piece that deserves a standing ovation.
Like me, Dan plans to vote for Evan McMullin. He could never bring himself to vote for Hillary or Trump. However, he shows a deep understanding of the reasons that someone might choose to vote Trump in this election. I agree with almost every word of this piece. It says what I think, but says it better than I ever could. Please: if you read nothing else today, read the entire piece, titled In Defense of Trump Voters. I hope Dan doesn’t mind if I borrow some longish quotes for the purpose of whetting your appetite:
I have many grave concerns about Trump, both as a potential president and as leader of the Republican party, and intend to cast a protest vote for Evan McMullin for those reasons. And I have my own bones to pick with voters who chose Trump over better Republican candidates in the primaries, when we had a choice. But in the context of an American general election, the rancor and scorn directed at his voters is unreasonable and uncharitable, in ways the critics would never direct at themselves or (in the case of liberal criticisms) at their own allies.
There are rational arguments for supporting Trump in the general election against Hillary Clinton, even if I regard those arguments as naive or blind to the realities of Trump. And there are other legitimate reasons that don’t fit neatly into polite, rational, educated debate. Let’s look first at the sophisticated, reasoned justifications offered for voting to Make America Great Again, and then at why the lower-information Trump voters might reasonably decide to support him. We will find that both are rooted, however misguidedly, firmly in defense of the American system.
Dan offers three rational reasons (all of which he ultimately rejects) for voting Trump, and they are all rooted in the binary nature of the election: one of the two bad candidates will win. The reasons are instrumental (Trump will be better on policy), structural (the structure of the D.C. apparatus will resist Trump), and the “drain the swamp” argument. Let me give you the beginning of Dan’s analysis of the “instrumental” argument, as a way to encourage you to read his analysis of the other two:
The first of the three rational arguments for Trump is the instrumental argument. This is the argument that Trump may not mean anything he says or even know what he’s talking about half the time but that electing him would still cause better public-policy results, from a conservative perspective, than electing Hillary. Maybe Trump wouldn’t keep all his promises to appoint conservative judges, but he’d appoint some, and Hillary would appoint none. Maybe Trump would do more to sign parts of Paul Ryan’s legislative and budget agenda than Hillary would. Maybe Trump would hire a lot of Steve Bannon types to work in his White House, but eventually he’d run out of those and have to staff the rest of the executive branch with normal, essentially sober Republicans. Maybe Trump’s basic laziness and lack of understanding of the workings of the system would cede power to Mike Pence, his basically conservative and fundamentally responsible vice president. Maybe, as I’ve speculated before, the Democrats would refuse to do business with Trump, leaving him no real choice but to work with the people who elected him.
That’s a lot of maybes, and a lot of faith placed in a guy who is so renowned for being beyond anyone’s control or influence that the RNC is reduced to arguing in court filings that it literally can’t control Trump when he ignores a consent decree placed on the party years ago. It’s a lot of hope for conservative outcomes from a 70-year-old con man whose instincts have always been those of a big-government statist and social libertine, and who seems to delight in humiliating those who support him. And it underestimates the extent to which weighty foreign-policy decisions are often made by the president almost alone, with little input from Congress and less from the courts.
But for more than a few conservatives, the risks of Trump outweigh the certainties of Hillary. That’s not irrational. Neither is the decision of some conservatives to support Hillary, having made the assessment that the risks of Trump to national security are just too high — although given how terrible Hillary’s foreign-policy record is, I can’t agree with them either.
McLaughlin also explores the attitudes of the more low-information Trump-supporters — and the reasons, rooted in public choice theory, that they do not pay sufficient attention to the candidates and their positions.
There is something here for everyone. If you’re a Trump voter, you’ll certainly recognize the reasons you have decided to vote Trump, expressed in a fair way that shows Dan understands your concerns, and is not belittling them, or you. If you’re a Trump opponent, you get to see Dan bat down those arguments, even as he shows respect for them.
Again: I agree with virtually every word. It’s a tour de force and you have no excuse not to read it, right now. Go.
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