In “How Conservatives Begat Trump,” I argue that the essential long-term solution to the problem represented by the political ascent of Donald Trump is new intellectuals and a new movement—specifically, Objectivist intellectuals and an Objectivist movement—to displace the dishonest conservatives and the disastrous conservative movement as the voice of the right. But the question remains: Which candidate, if any, should advocates of liberty support or vote for in the coming presidential election?
Before addressing that question, I want to emphasize this: Far more important than whom one votes for in this (or any) presidential election is how one thinks and speaks about the source and nature of rights, the moral purpose of government, and the fundamental causes of the political problems we face. An individual’s vote has somewhere between zero and scant significance in the outcome of a presidential election. An individual’s voice, however, if it is a voice of reason, can have huge positive effect on the future of freedom. So, first and foremost, anyone who cares about freedom should aim to understand, embrace, and advocate the moral and philosophic truths on which freedom depends.
As for whom to support in the coming presidential election, consider the short list of alternatives:
- Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee
- Hillary Clinton, the presumptive Democrat nominee
- Bernie Sanders, a likely independent or third-party candidate (I think his desire for attention will push him to stay in the race one way or another)
- Gary Johnson, the Libertarian nominee
- Some other third-party candidate
- A write-in or protest vote of some kind
(There is also the remote possibility of a revolt on the part of Republican delegates, resulting in a different GOP nominee, possibly even someone palatable. But this would require substantial courage, and I doubt they have the mettle. So I’ll set that possibility aside and hope I’m wrong in doing so.)
Let’s address the actual options in turn.
The myriad and profound problems with Donald Trump—such as his intentions to quash freedom of speech (e.g., by somehow changing libel laws so he can sue media outlets for saying things he dislikes); his intentions to push for protectionist laws (e.g., imposing tariffs on imported goods, and forcing U.S. companies to manufacture in America); his incitements to violence (e.g., calling for his supporters to attack dissenters); his insane aims regarding immigration (e.g., rounding up and deporting eleven million illegal immigrants); his profound ignorance of and/or disrespect for the separation of powers; his obscene mistreatment of women; his racism; his cronyism, which people have mistaken and will continue mistaking for capitalism; his admiration for tyrants (e.g., Putin and Kim Jong-un) and for governments that use force to crush peaceful protesters (e.g., the Chinese regime’s massacre of protesters in Tiananmen Square); and his jaw-dropping dishonesty about practically every subject he addresses—have been spelled out by many reporters, pundits, and writers. These facts about Trump are known to everyone who is paying attention, so I won’t recount the details here.
I’ll say only this about Trump: He is not merely irrational. He is anti-reason. He flouts reality, flouts his flouting of reality, tells lies, tells lies about his lies, contradicts himself, contradicts his contradictions—and does all of this openly, as a matter of course, and without blushing or being slightly flustered by his patent disregard for facts and logic. Traditionally, power lusters have at least attempted to make it look as though their ideas have some basis in reality and as though they have some concern for truth and consistency. They’ve done this because they recognize, on some level, that reality and logic matter to the people they seek to manipulate and rule. Trump does not. He embraces dishonesty and inconsistency as his basic means of “thinking,” communicating, campaigning, and governing. For such a man to be elected president of the United States would set the precedent that such a modus operandi is acceptable for a U.S. president. This precedent would be far more destructive to America than any specific decisions or actions a President Trump might make or take in office (as would the fact that whatever havoc he were to wreak in office would be blamed on “capitalism” because he’s a wealthy businessman and a Republican). If Trump is elected president, America might never recover.
The problems with Hillary Clinton are equally glaring and almost as horrifying. Hillary is a tried-and-true statist, a serial liar, an opponent of free speech, an appeaser of regimes that support jihad, and a criminal who is responsible for untold destruction to America and to U.S. security, and possibly for the deaths of several Americans.
That said, given the nightmare that is the presumptive Republican nominee and the probability that either he or she will be the next president, it’s understandable that some advocates of freedom are tempted to support Hillary. I will not. Hillary is pure evil. Supporting or voting for her would condone her evil, advance her causes, and damage my soul to an extent that I’m not willing to accept.
Sanders is pure evil too. And, if he runs as an independent, he is as out of the question as are Trump and Hillary. All one needs to know about this vile politician is that after a century of evidence constantly streaming from all corners of the world showing that socialism leads to nothing but human sacrifice, mass suffering, and rivers of blood—and during a brand new wave of such evidence in the form of the current nightmare unfolding in Venezuela—Sanders stands here, in America, surrounded by wealth, prosperity, and safety caused by free minds, free markets, and a constitutional republic—and he calls for what? For socialism in America. He deserves to burn in hell.
How about Gary Johnson? Given the alternatives of Trump and Hillary, Johnson appears to be a godsend—particularly regarding his aims to deregulate the marketplace, free up international trade, and cut government spending—so I certainly understand why some advocates of liberty are tempted to support him. But unless Johnson has a chance of winning the election and thus averting the disaster, which I don’t think he does, supporting him amounts merely to supporting the notion that libertarianism is the way forward. And I’m wary of doing anything to support that falsehood.
As I’ve shown at length, libertarians’ disregard for the need of moral and philosophic principles to support individual rights and to guide their thinking about political matters is a massive problem. We can see indications of this problem not only in absurdities such as Johnson’s support for a policy that would force Jews to bake cakes for Nazis, but also in more consequential areas, such as Johnson’s foreign policy, which, while apparently improving, nevertheless fails to recognize the obvious fact that the regimes in Saudi Arabia and Iran have attacked America by means of proxy jihadist groups, that we are in a de facto war with these (and other) Islamic regimes and jihadist groups, and that we have a moral and constitutional responsibility to end these regimes.
Johnson appears unwilling to call a spade a spade on this matter. And given that I regard foreign policy—especially pertaining to the jihadist threat—as the second most important political matter today (behind freedom of speech), I have grave concerns about a President Johnson. What, if anything, would he do about the constantly expanding threats posed by Islamic State, al-Qaeda, and the regimes that support them? How would he respond if there were another 9-11 or the equivalent or worse? Would he unleash the U.S. military and destroy the known enemies that have murdered many Americans and that aim to murder many more? I doubt it. I suspect he would more likely say, in effect, “Well, the people in the Middle East and the Islamic world are legitimately angry that America has been interfering in their business. The solution to this problem is for us to get out of there and leave them alone. If we leave them alone, they’ll leave us alone . . .” That worries me. A lot. As does the fact that, as commander-in-chief of the U.S. military, Johnson would have to contend with the serious and increasing threats posed by China, North Korea, Russia, and other rogue nations to boot.
Would Trump’s or Hillary’s foreign policy be better than Johnson’s? Unlikely. Hillary’s foreign policy would be akin to those of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, which got us into and kept us in this deadly, American-sacrificing mess—except that hers would be even more carefree with the lives of Americans (think Benghazi and her email server). And no one—including Trump—has any idea what Trump’s foreign policy would be. The concept of “policy” doesn’t even apply here, as Trump apparently does whatever strikes him as emotionally satisfying at any given moment.
Thus, even though I have grave concerns about Johnson’s foreign policy and about lending credence to libertarianism, depending on what I hear from Johnson in the coming weeks, and depending on whether he achieves some degree of viability, I could end up supporting him. If I do, however, it will be with a heavy dose of caveats along with prescriptions about what he must advocate and do if he genuinely cares about liberty and America.
The remaining alternatives—supporting some other good third-party candidate (if one arises), or writing in someone decent (e.g. Ted Cruz), or abstaining from voting in the presidential election—all strike me as reasonable possibilities given the circumstances.
Most importantly, though, we lovers of liberty must remember this: Whom we support or vote for in a presidential election is far less important than how we think and speak about politics. If we want to put America back on a road toward liberty, we must work to understand, uphold, and articulate the moral and philosophic principles on which liberty depends.