If the choice for president comes down to Hillary and whomever can supposedly beat Hillary, I’d rather not win. Perhaps that seems like a bizarre attitude to have in a contentious election year, but as a Millennial who has gone through two presidential election cycles with lackluster, progressive Republicans as the lesser of two evils, I’m tired of hearing about nominating who “can beat the Democrats.” For the last eight years, the Right has accepted the candidate it thinks will win over the Left and ignoring its own interests for the sake of sponsoring the winner. It is a childish, shortsighted way to elect a president and it is not just the party establishment that is guilty of it this time, if Trump’s meteoric rise is any indication. What does it matter if the president is Republican if he governs like a Democrat? What is the point of winning if we sacrifice every reason we want to win at all?
The last two election cycles put forth decidedly stodgy, stereotypical politician-types, adept at talking without really saying anything and making promises but no commitments, because they were supposedly “electable.” McCain was supposed to have bipartisan appeal, with Sarah Palin there to give him a “man of the people” edge. He lost and so we got Obama. Sure, maybe we can blame 2008 on Obama being slicker than a used car salesman, running a rock star campaign and using his relative anonymity to his advantage. We can say he hustled us. There is no such excuse for 2012. By that point, it was obvious we had a radical in office, one who has zero regard for the Constitution and cares not at all for the will and consent of the governed. He had done what he wished for four years, so by 2012 we should have had ample time to prepare. Obama is charismatic and committed to his leftist principles and in those he has not faltered. Instead of putting up an equally strong-principled contender, one equally charismatic and committed, we had Romney foisted on us, who was uninspiring at best. He had a democrat-esque administration behind him and while that worked well for Massachusetts, Massachusetts is also overwhelmingly democrat. Supposedly, that made Romney just moderate enough to lure some of Obama’s voters away from him. The GOP offered up a knockoff and expected it to win against the genuine article. The only slight good that perhaps came out of that is it began to wake the sleeping giant that is the conservative base. Twice we were told we had to go under the proverbial bus in order to win and twice we lost. The Silent Majority stopped being silent.
There was a glimmer of hope in the 2010 and 2014 midterm elections. Both looked like a return to core conservative principles, a heavy check and balance for Obama’s increasingly outrageous liberal agenda and governance. Important cases about key social and economic issues were slated for the Supreme Court. It looked like the government was listening again: stick to your principles, listen to your base and stand your ground against the would-be tyrant in the White House. Our hopes have been systematically dashed. Our conservative champions revealed their true colors, conceding to the Left on their false promises that they would make concessions as well, only have several disastrous budget deals- the latest as of October 2015 from former conservative darling Paul Ryan- and the Supreme Court betrayed us by allowing the Affordable Care Act to stand, tearing down DOMA and Prop 8, before finally stuffing gay marriage down our throats last June. The party establishment failed us.
The cycle has started again. The base is still angry that we have been used and abused by the GOP, but Trump is a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Nothing about him is conservative. He is, very simply put, an executive first and foremost. He is determined to get things done and on the surface, that is admirable, but the things he wants to get done are not generally in line with what the base wants to get done (he supports universal healthcare, has no problems with taxpayer funding for Planned Parenthood, supports and has benefited from eminent domain, to name a few) and perhaps more importantly, how he wants to get those things done sounds more and more like extreme executive orders. Hasn’t that been one of the biggest outrages of Obama’s administration, that he bypasses Congress and all constitutional checks and balances with executive orders to force his agenda through? Trump is no better. He is half a speech away from promising to make all the trains run on time. His definition of Making America Great Again is not necessarily conservatism’s definition of making America great. And the refrain through all of this? He can beat Hillary. He’s electable.
We are falling into the same trap we have fallen in the last two presidential elections: we value winning over succeeding. Our justified anger at the Washington Cartel (as Cruz aptly named it) has become senseless mob mentality, our reason overruled by the visceral emotionalism evoked by Trump’s firebrand campaign. There is no denying that there is something supremely satisfying about Trump’s unapologetic lack of political correctness. He says what a lot of us have been thinking and protesting for years to one degree or another. However, Trump uses his bluster and brazenness to disguise the key fact of his campaign: he is not a conservative. There is more to conservatism than being a loud mouth. His plans to use his potential executive powers in a manner very similar to Obama. It poses the question: did conservatives object to Obama’s executive overreach or just the reasons he was overreaching? If the answer is the latter, then do we truly value the Constitution? Or do conservatives just want to win, regardless the cost? It is the perpetual quandary of whether the ends justify the means- and the answer is clear to true conservatives.
The point of winning the presidential election is to succeed. It is not just picking the candidate who is going to win, it is picking the candidate who will lead America successfully. Supposedly, the conservative belief is that proper, constitutional leadership is success. Conservatism itself stems from an adherence to the Constitution, since everything we hold dear, such as limited republican government, free enterprise, individualism, states’ rights, civil society and national security flourish under the Constitution. Indeed, the Constitution was written with those things in mind by the Founding Fathers. If we are truly committed to those ideals, then we should be rallying behind the candidate who will best protect them, not one who will institute them by fiat, which is essentially what Trump intends to do in office.
It is not about winning; it is about succeeding. Trump talks a good game and he could possibly even win the general election on populist sentiment. That does not mean he will succeed. I would rather lose the election and let liberal policies fail in their own right than win and fail under false-conservatism. If Trump is elected and does all he says he will do, all the not-conservative things, in the name of conservatism, conservatism will not succeed, nor will it survive. And the great tragedy is it will not have even been given a real chance in the 21st century.