The whole thing is incredibly sad. This year's field of Republican primary runners, of course with the exception of the now-presumptive nominee, were so promising. There were so many for whom I could have happily voted in good conscience. Not all, but quite a few. Including, especially, Cruz the outsider who represented both the opposition to "business as usual" in the Republican party and principled, constitutional, knowledgeable conservatism. That this charlatan should have come along and poisoned and co-opted the process is sickening. That voters let him get away with it and even supported him enthusiastically is worse. That many of these voters think of themselves as conservative is the worst of all.
There is no way to make this out good. This is the death throes of the Republic, which I believed in and, in a real sense, still believe in. The destruction of a good thing is not a judgement on that good thing. Unlike some silly fools who think they are making a profound point against democracy by pointing out that democracy has been destroyed, I am (I trust) able to tell the difference between something that self-destructs because it is inherently wrong-headed and something that is destroyed by the malice and sin of man attacking it outright.
Yes, there are still good and beautiful things in the world, and we must now cling to those. But in the political world, the prospects are very bleak indeed.
There is one, and only one, gleam of silver lining in the dark, dark clouds that hover over us, and that is the NeverTrump movement itself. Matt Walsh has been a wonderfully articulate spokesman of it and remains defiant after last night, speaking for all of us. Last night on his public Facebook wall Walsh posted:
I will have more tomorrow, but let me assure you that when I said never Trump, I meant never Trump. That has not changed and never will. The disaster ahead will not be on my conscience. I wash my hands of it. I will not acquiesce to a tyrant. I do not care what letter he has beside his name. A lot of "Never Trump" people will surrender in the coming days, but I promise you I won't. I've chosen this path and I will stick to it.
Our country is headed to a dark place. Pray tonight, everyone.Exactly. The idea that one would say "never" and then, like D.T. himself, blandly turn around and say the opposite, is deeply insulting. Never always meant never and was always set up in explicit anticipation of the possibility that he might be the Republican nominee.
Why do I call the NeverTrump movement the one gleam of a silver lining? Because for all of my adult politics-watching life two errors of thought have dominated conservative thinking: Error 1: It is an a priori truth that there is always a "lesser evil" in American politics. Error 2: It is an a priori truth that it is morally required that one vote for the lesser evil once one figures out what it is to the best of one's ability.
In the last two presidential elections I didn't vote for the candidate of either major political party. I had reasons for this. I thought that both McCain and (though to a lesser extent) Romney were too compromised on pro-life issues, and I also sensed strongly that Romney was no culture warrior and that his commitment to social conservatism was weak. I was able to articulate these reasons and discuss them, but Error 1 and Error 2 made it impossible to reason with most people. I would say again and again, "Look, maybe this candidate hasn't crossed your line, and I get that, but surely you realize that there must be a line, right? You wouldn't vote for just anybody just because he happened to have the Republican label and you think that that is always less bad than the person with the Democrat label, right?"
And again and again, they answered, in essence, "Wrong. There shouldn't be a line. There is no line. There is always a lesser evil. You always have to find out what it is and vote for that. Voting for the President of the United States for one of the candidates of the two major parties is a moral imperative."
I couldn't understand it. I would try reductios, but they were impervious. And some still are.
Well, what I'm realizing in 2016 is that people talking politics don't do very well with abstract reductios. It works better when you have an actual, blatant, moral cretin, right in front of our eyes, who is the presumptive Republican nominee for the august office of the President of the United States of America. Then, thank God, at least some good people start to realize that Error 1 and Error 2 are errors. And thus the nevertrump movement was born.
To my mind, this is an important development. I have never considered the stranglehold of the two-party system in the United States to be a politically healthy thing. We need to mix it up a little. We need more options. And conscience can help a lot in that mixing up process. But not if conscience is misdirected by Error 1 and Error 2. Those errors co-opt conscience. They draft the power of conscience into perpetuating the two-party system and the Imperative To Vote as some kind of holy relics.
Now, I have no crystal ball about what is going to happen. It's not that I expect some viable third party to rise from the ashes of the Republican Party. I suspect we're not that lucky, and to be frank, third parties tend to be the breeding ground of precisely the kinds of kooks and conspiracy theorists who are now enthusiastically following D.T. over the edge of the abyss.
But for decades now I have realized that the final battle in this country is going to be the guerilla warfare for individual human minds, hearts, and ultimately, souls. And in that battle, the NeverTrump movement is an extremely positive and important development. Americans, conservatives, at least some of them, have at last found the place where they will stand, where they will say, "No, never, not gonna go there.That's a bridge too far."
If you don't have a "never" place, a place to stand, a place where you draw the line and will not move, you are constantly giving away pieces of yourself, and that's a dangerous thing to do. To quote Robert Bolt's Thomas More:
And what would you do with a water spaniel that was afraid of water? You'd hang it! Well, as a spaniel is to water, so is a man to his own self. I will not give in because I oppose it--I do--not my pride, not my spleen, nor any other of my appetites but I do--I....Is there no single sinew in the midst of this that serves no appetite of Norfolk's but is just Norfolk? There is! Give that some exercise, my lord...Because as you stand, you'll go before your Maker in a very ill condition! And he'll have to conclude that somewhere back along your pedigree--a bitch got over the wall!And now, with NeverTrump, maybe some people are discovering that they have something within themselves that is not just a voter, not just an agonized political pawn, but a man, a person, with real moral limits, and they are ready to say, "Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me." Now there will be, we may hope, some who will bow neither to the image of Baal nor to the Golden Calf.
For that, we may always hope. There are always these individual victories to be won, whatever happens to the nation. For the probing and testing of God does not cease until the end of time, when history is truly ended and the books are opened.
May He find us faithful.