The Pretensions and Delusions of Trump's Republican Haters

Image: Donald Trump. Photo by Marc Nozell, CC BY 2.0.

Voting for a career liar like Hillary Clinton is not an exercise of conservatism.

Every week seems to bring a new set of Republican grandees announcing they won’t support Donald Trump for president. Inevitably, each announcement is accompanied with much hoopla about Trump’s failure to unify his own party. Almost never discussed, however, are the absurdities surrounding the defections, or the delusions and pretensions they reveal about the GOP’s Trump haters.

Let’s begin with the glaring absurdity that many of Trump’s most vocal Republican detractors—those who insist he is disastrous for the party—do not themselves have a whole lot of credibility with the GOP base. Most prominent among such detractors is Mitt Romney, the party’s 2012 presidential nominee, who waged a noisy but unsuccessful campaign to stop Trump in the primaries and continues to lambast him at every opportunity.

It was only four years ago that the Republican grassroots spent much of the 2012 GOP primary cycle seeking the non-Romney. They perceived Mr. Romney as insufficiently—or insincerely—conservative on major social issues such as abortion and gay marriage, and on the all-important election issue of Obamacare.

When the primaries ended, Mr. Romney benefited from the very party unification he now opposes, but he appears altogether oblivious to the hypocrisy of his current position.

Even stranger are Republicans who have endorsed Democratic presumptive nominee Hillary Clinton. Whatever Trump’s flaws (and he has many), openly supporting a woman with decades of crookedness and corruption is a far-fetched way of advancing America’s interests.

In case anti-Trump fever and Republican sanctimony have clouded Hillary’s distinguished record of dishonesty, here is a reminder of her latest scandals.

-The failure to protect Americans under terrorist attack in Benghazi on September 11, 2012, and apparent misrepresentations to the victims’ families afterwards about the cause of the attack.

-The pursuit of personal enrichment by peddling influence to foreigners through the Clinton Foundation during and after her time at the State Department.

-A criminal investigation by the FBI for the gross mishandling of classified information through the use of a private email server as Secretary of State. Though the FBI has recommended against prosecution, it has concluded that she was “extremely careless” in the handling of “very sensitive, highly classified information.” Furthermore, the FBI’s assessment contradicted her previous assertions that she had “never sent or received any classified material.”

Any of these controversies is reason enough to conclude that Hillary is unfit to serve. That Democrats have coalesced around a career liar is their choice to make, but Republicans are not obliged to join them. Those who have often justify their decisions by leveling criticisms at Trump’s style, rhetoric and policy proposals, but they should not be allowed to indulge in the delusion that a woman whose behavior has been deceitful and harmful to U.S. national security is somehow a superior choice.

Furthermore, how many former senior Republican officials really hold the keys to the hearts of today’s Republican voters? It is not even clear that many of them have any real affection for the GOP base or for modern conservatism’s core principles. Anyone hyping their defections to the Hillary camp overestimates the firmness of their original allegiance to the Republican Party—not to mention the impact that a handful of Beltway-insider defections might have on ordinary voters.

Yet the real absurdity actually surfaces among another group of Republicans who plan to vote for Hillary: various neoconservative foreign-policy thinkers. They justify their opposition to Trump by claiming that their preference for foreign interventionism is the true conservative way. It is decidedly not, and Republican primary voters have wisely rejected their approach in 2016.

Predictably, Iraq was the painful deciding factor. Like Trump and like most Americans, GOP voters view the Iraq War waged under President George W. Bush as a complete disaster. By contrast, neoconservative types see the real mistake as not being fully committed to the venture and fighting the war on the cheap.

Without wading into the intricacies of modern neoconservatism or even naming the school of thought, Trump has denounced its excess and ridiculed its failures. In his foreign-policy address, Trump made clear that he will not surround himself with “those who have…very little to brag about except responsibility for a long history of failed policies and continued losses at war.” A number of those at the receiving end of Trump’s comments have decided to support Hillary.

That is their prerogative, but others should not share the delusion that the excesses of neoconservatism—which eschews time-honored conservative principles such as prudence—are somehow a superior representation of conservatism.

Pages