Donald Trump convincingly won the Republican primary but there are some on the Right who, to their credit, have not endorsed Trump. These people fit into three categories: neocons; libertarian leaning types; and social conservatives, most of whom are Evangelical Christians. Thankfully for neocons, as much as they may publicly criticise Clinton, they have a candidate in this election, it just so happens to be a Democrat. Similarly, for libertarians that cannot bring themselves to vote for Trump they have a candidate in the form of Gary Johnson. The people I feel sorry for are evangelicals and those traditional Republicans who are stuck in the middle.
If you are a socially conservative voter you have no horse in this race. In the 1980 Presidential election Ronald Reagan won by politicising huge numbers of Christians and bringing them into the Republican Party. There are still many evangelicals in the Republican Party, for example no one would doubt the ideological credentials of someone like Ted Cruz, but if you are a social conservative you’re in a Catch 22.
Take abortion as a litmus test. If you hate abortion with every fibre of your being you cannot vote for Gary Johnson or Hillary Clinton or Jill Stein. You’re only option is to vote for Trump, a thrice-divorced narcissist. I’m not a Christian but I’ve read enough of the Bible to know that Trump has hardly modeled his life on Jesus Christ.
The problem for these voters is that the Republican Party has courted their votes by weaponising social issues, but the problem is the Culture War is essentially over and these voters lost. More people are rejecting organised religion and belief in general than ever before, LGBT rights are now widely popular, divorce is legal, abortion is legal, and the discussion we are having on the Left about revoking the tax exemption for religious organisations.
The uncertainty among the religious Right has led to some real rifts opening up. TV host and Mitt Romney hair model Sean Hannity launched into an energetic tirade against a series of well-known conservatives including Bill Kristol and Glenn Beck because of their refusal to support Donald Trump. Kristol, blinded by his own partisanship, fails to recognise that his foreign policy is exactly the same as Clinton’s but Glenn Beck is the kind of conservative I feel sorry for. Donald Trump is hardly Thomas Jefferson and as someone who appears to value the Constitution above all things, I understand why he’s not going to endorse a candidate who has said he effectively wants to ban newspapers from criticising him.
Beck probably doesn’t need me to defend him, or even want me to given I’m so left-wing I make Bernie Sanders look like Ayn Rand, but I feel the need to do so. Sean Hannity’s argument, if you can call it that, was that Glenn Beck will be to blame for Hillary Clinton being elected president if he and other Christian-y, libertarian-y people didn’t vote for Trump. I have one question for Mr Hannity- what happened to personal responsibility? If Donald Trump fails to win a democratic election, how can a conservative claim that it wasn’t the candidate’s fault? Anyone with any shred of credibility cannot because people who are actual conservatives do believe in personal responsibility.
Furthermore, what happened to fiscal responsibility? Even if you incorrectly buy into the idea of trickle-down economics, the other half of this philosophy was to reduce the size of government by cutting spending. But Trump wants to increase military spending and boost spending on infrastructure by more than $500 billion. The increased infrastructure spending would explode the deficit to the level it was before Obama took office.
It’s worth pointing out that I actually would support such a stimulus into the US economy, but as a Reaganite Republican I was under the impression that Keynesian stimulus was a big no no. All the evidence shows that Hannity and his ilk are deriding conservatives like Beck because they are unwilling to jettison their principles. Although I don’t agree with Beck on any policy or ideological position, I can at least respect his opposition to Donald Trump.
The Right is having this political aneurysm at the moment because the GOP is bankrupt of ideas. In the aftermath of the 2012 election a report was commissioned to see what went wrong and what the party should do going forward. The findings were unsurprising: reach out to women and minorities. The response has been to nominate a misogynist who also happens to be a race-baiting nativist. If you designed a candidate who was the personified antithesis of what the report said they would sound like Donald Trump. Rather than appeal to people who have traditionally not supported the GOP, Trump’s campaign has doubled-down on a shrinking voting block of whites, rural people, Christians, and blue collar Republicans.
There are sections of the Right who believe that Donald Trump will do irrevocable damage to the Republican Party, and I believe they are correct, but thankfully for them Clinton is so unpopular that she probably won’t get much done as Congress is likely to be split. Those on the Right who are opposing Trump’s authoritarian fantasies are correct to do so, but those who have claimed to be in the Tea Party, for instance cannot support Trump. If these people cannot work out that you cannot support Trump whilst also claiming to support the Constitution then doublethink is alive and well in the United States.