By Bruce Abramson & Jeff Ballabon
We believe in the politics of principle. We value character, integrity, and politicians who ground principled philosophies in the Constitution. Yet we find ourselves staring across a divide at fellow conservatives with whom we’ve previously stood side by side and who—claiming principle—have declared themselves NeverTrumps. Not only do we find their arguments unavailing, we wonder what principle they think they’re upholding.
Politics is the art of the possible, and, barring unforeseen events, either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will become the next president. Because we believe that a Clinton presidency would be far more harmful to America and to the world than a Trump presidency, we view our anti-Hillary-driven support for Trump as highly principled. More importantly, we believe that any principled approach must compare the candidates to each other rather than to some unavailable ideal.
NeverTrumps cite numerous flaws in Trump’s character that, in theory or in other circumstances, we might consider problematic. In practice, however, Trump’s character concerns us less than does Clinton’s. She is demonstrably corrupt, unprincipled, and power-hungry. She has destroyed women who complained about her husband’s predations and has imperiled national security by mishandling classified materials and abandoning Benghazi. And even if Trump has inflated his business prowess, he is a far more successful developer than she was secretary of state.
NeverTrumps also worry about the debilitating effect of a Republican President Trump on the conservative movement. Again, we are sympathetic, but we cannot imagine how Trump might inflict more damage on the cause of constitutionalism than a Supreme Court majority untethered to textual language and hostile to original meaning—a Clinton goal. And we are encouraged both by the Trump camp’s list of potential judicial nominees as well as by a number of his policy advisers who are solidly conservative.
We’ve raised these points before, but we have not addressed a NeverTrump argument that hits close to home for us personally: revulsion at distasteful elements among Trump’s supporters—specifically white supremacists whose trendy “Alt-right” moniker does little to distract from the hoary ugliness of their coarse, unimaginative anti-Semitism. Trump took too long to repudiate David Duke. His wife Melania Trump, while disapproving of anti-Semitic threats hurled at journalist Julia Ioffe over her less-than-flattering profile of Mrs. Trump, suggested that Ioffe had “provoked” the hatred. And those stories are but the tip of the iceberg; we have seen and heard numerous reports—and have been direct recipients—of vile Jew-hatred spewing forth from those defending Trump’s honor.
Political leaders should indeed disassociate themselves from hatemongers seeking to speak on their behalf. But those who think that Trump is creating or promoting anti-Semitism are fooling themselves. America’s white supremacists have not grown more anti-Semitic over the past year. Social media, press attention, and a leader who rightly and refreshingly mocks political correctness have merely brought them out of the woodwork. Jew-hatred from this right-wing fringe has become open rather than closeted. In our view, this renders it less dangerous, not more; repressing its expression lulls the public into complacency and denial while aggravating inveterate anti-Semites’ unhinged sense of grievance. It is for the same reason that outlawing “hate speech” or Holocaust denial is so counterproductive; when stifled, anti-Semitism only festers and spreads.
We are heartened that most of the right has responded with revulsion. We also have some perspective on the insignificance of these crazies. While it is disconcerting to hear such voices surfacing, their relative silence until now shows how successfully the right has sidelined them. This is in sharp contrast to the way the political left has mainstreamed its own hatemongers. Barack Obama joined Louis Farrakhan’s Million Man March, and spent 20 years seeking spiritual guidance from Jeremiah Wright. Like Obama, Clinton has actively embraced Al Sharpton and Black Lives Matter, refusing to explain that all lives matter.
Max Blumenthal, the son of Clinton’s closest adviser, is America’s leading Jewish apologist for anti-Semitism and Israel’s destruction. As the first American politician to favor a state for the PLO and by her own account the initiator of the deal giving Iran nuclear weapons, Clinton insidiously mouths pro-Israel platitudes while embracing and empowering terrorists hell-bent on Jewish genocide.
It is hard to see a Clinton presidency as anything but an existential threat to the State of Israel. These affirmative choices concern us far more than Trump’s disappointing reluctance to distance himself from fringe voters whose views he shows no signs of endorsing but whose votes may help him win.
Finally, we have always been skeptical of the argument that Clinton inevitably will beat Trump in a landslide, bringing down the Republican congressional majority. Underestimating Trump has become something of a pattern for the political class. He has a long way to go, but Republicans are falling in line and large numbers of independent and even Democratic voters seem eager and excited to vote for Trump. Clinton is a passionless candidate with passionless supporters. We see Trump as positioned to win, and to run as enough of an outsider to allow those candidates seeking distance from him to claim it. Recent polls seem to support this view.
At the end of the day, we do not believe that it is unprincipled to express a preference between choices that we consider far from ideal. We hope that the NeverTrump holdouts will join us soon—both on the anti-Hillary train and in the ongoing work necessary for conservatives to recapture influence within the GOP. We hope the NeverTrumps come to embrace the erosion of the tyranny of political correctness. Together we will pay attention to the anti-Semites; thanks to Trump, it’s becoming easier. v
Jeff Ballabon is CEO of B2 Strategic (www.b2strategic.com) and a senior fellow at the Center for Statesmanship and Diplomacy. Bruce Abramson, a technology lawyer in private practice in NYC, is a senior fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.