The Case for Trump

Victor Davis Hanson, National Review, October 17, 2016


What has always been missing to end the long public career of Hillary Clinton is a four- or five-percentage-point boost from a mélange of the so-called Never Trump Republicans, as well as women and suburban, college-educated independents. Winning back some of these critics could translate into a one- or two-point lead over Clinton in critical swing states.


The counterarguments for voting Trump are by now also well known. The daily news–riot, terrorism, scandals, enemies on the move abroad, sluggish growth, and record debt–demands a candidate of change. The vote is not for purity of conservative thought, but for the candidate who is preferable to the alternative–and is also a somewhat rough form of adherence to the pragmatic Buckley dictate to prefer the most conservative candidate who can win. The issue, then, at this late date is not necessarily Trump per se, but the fact that he will bring into power far more conservatives than would Hillary Clinton. No one has made a successful argument to challenge that reality.

Nor is the election a choice even between four more years of liberalism and a return of conservatism; it’s an effort to halt the fundamental transformation of the country. A likely two-term Clinton presidency would complete a 16-year institutionalization of serial progressive abuse of the Constitution, outdoing even the twelve years of the imperial Roosevelt administration. The WikiLeaks revelations suggest an emboldened Hillary Clinton, who feels that a 2016 victory will reify her utopian dreams of a new intercontinental America of open borders and open markets, from Chile to Alaska, in the manner of the European Union expanse from the Aegean to the Baltic.

Conservatives who sit out the election de facto vote for Clinton, in the manner that Sanders’s liberal supporters, should they stay home, become votes for Trump. Oddly, renegade Democrats seem more eager to return to their fold than do their louder Republican counterparts. The idealist Bernie Sanders is not nearly as bothered by WikiLeaks and other hacked revelations of how Hillary Clinton sabotaged his campaign, cozied up to big banks, and admitted to talking progressively while in reality serving Wall Street, as are Republicans by Trump’s potty mouth. Yet in a veritable two-person race, the idea of expressing positive neutrality, to paraphrase the Indian statesman V. K. Krishna Menon, is to suppose that tigers can be vegetarians.


Trump’s defeat would translate into continued political subversion of once disinterested federal agencies, from the FBI and Justice Department to the IRS and the EPA. It would ensure a liberal Supreme Court for the next 20 years–or more. Republicans would be lucky to hold the Senate. Obama’s unconstitutional executive overreach would be the model for Hillary’s second wave of pen-and-phone executive orders. If, in Obama fashion, the debt doubled again in eight years, we would be in hock $40 trillion after paying for Hillary’s even more grandiose entitlements of free college tuition, student-loan debt relief, and open borders. She has already talked of upping income and estate taxes on those far less wealthy than the Clintons and of putting coal miners out of work (“We are going to put a whole lot of coal miners and coal companies out of business”) while promising more Solyndra-like ventures in failed crony capitalism.


Contrary to popular anger against them, Never Trump conservative op-ed writers and wayward Republican insiders do not have much direct influence in keeping Trump’s party support down. Indeed, even after the latest gaffes, it creeps back up even as he is alienating women and the suburbs. The problem is more nuanced. Never Trump conservative grandees help flesh out the Clinton narrative of a toxic Trump that is then translated through ads, quotes, and sound bites to more numerous fence-sitting independents and women: Why should they vote for a purported extremist whom even the notables of the conservative movement and Republican party cannot stomach?

In an election with flawed candidates, balance is a legitimate question: Why didn’t The New Republic or the Huffington Post run an “Against Clinton” special issue? Certainly, she was dishonest enough to warrant such opprobrium from among a few of her own–given her prior treatment of Bill Clinton’s likely victims of sexual assault. Her endangerment of national security through use of her private server, the utter corruption of the Clinton Foundation and indeed the office of secretary of state, and her serial lies, from claiming to have braved sniper fire in Bosnia to misleading the families of the Benghazi fallen amid the caskets of their dead, make her unfit for the presidency.

In this low-bar presidential race, why do conservative establishmentarians and past foreign-policy officials feel a need to publish their support for the Democratic candidate, when their liberal counterparts feel no such urge to distance themselves from their own nominee? Is what Clinton actually did, in leaving Iraq abruptly, or lying about Benghazi, or violating federal security laws, so much less alarming than what Trump might do in shaking up NATO or “bombing the hell out of ISIS”?


{snip} Casualties pile up to prove what should have been known but went unrecognized before blows fell: in this case, that in his energetic harnessing of popular anger, Trump, my own least favorite in the field, was the more effective candidate in gauging the mood of the times.

These are all valid rejoinders to those who say that recalcitrant conservatives, independents, and women should not hold their nose and vote for Trump. But they are not the chief considerations in his favor.

Something has gone terribly wrong with the Republican party, and it has nothing to do with the flaws of Donald Trump. Something like his tone and message would have to be invented if he did not exist. None of the other 16 primary candidates–the great majority of whom had far greater political expertise, more even temperaments, and more knowledge of issues than did Trump–shared Trump’s sense of outrage–or his ability to convey it–over what was wrong: The lives and concerns of the Republican establishment in the media and government no longer resembled those of half their supporters.

The Beltway establishment grew more concerned about their sinecures in government and the media than about showing urgency in stopping Obamaism. When the Voz de Aztlan and the Wall Street Journal often share the same position on illegal immigration, or when Republicans of the Gang of Eight are as likely as their left-wing associates to disparage those who want federal immigration law enforced, the proverbial conservative masses feel they have lost their representation. How, under a supposedly obstructive, conservative-controlled House and Senate, did we reach $20 trillion in debt, institutionalize sanctuary cities, and put ourselves on track to a Navy of World War I size? Compared with all that, “making Mexico pay” for the wall does not seem all that radical. Under a Trump presidency the owner of Univision would not be stealthily writing, as he did to Team Clinton, to press harder for open borders–and thus the continuance of a permanent and profitable viewership of non-English speakers.

One does not need lectures about conservatism from Edmund Burke when, at the neighborhood school, English becomes a second language, or when one is rammed by a hit-and-run driver illegally in the United States who flees the scene of the accident. Do our elites ever enter their offices to find their opinion-journalism jobs outsourced at half the cost to writers in India? Are congressional staffers told to move to Alabama, where it is cheaper to telecommunicate their business? Trump’s outrageousness was not really new; it was more a 360-degree mirror of an already outrageous politics as usual.


When Trump shoots off his blunderbuss, is it always proof of laziness and ignorance, or is it sometimes generally aimed in the right direction to prompt anxiety and eventual necessary reconsideration? Questioning NATO’s pro forma way of doing business led to furor, but also to renewed promises from NATO allies to fight terror, pony up defense funds, and coordinate more effectively. Deploring unfair trade deals suddenly made Hillary Clinton renounce her prior zealous support of the “gold standard” Trans-Pacific Partnership deal.

Wondering whether some of our Asian allies might someday build nuclear weapons galvanized Japan and South Korea to step up and warn North Korea against further aggressive acts, in a new fashion. In Europe, Trump is said to be unpredictable and volatile. But since when are predictability and serenity always advantages in global poker?


The ancient idea of tragic irony can sometimes be described as an outcome unfortunately contrary to what should have been expected. Many of us did not vote in the primaries for Trump, because we did not believe that he was sufficiently conservative or, given his polarizing demeanor, that he could win the presidency even if he were.

The irony is now upon us that Trump may have been the most conservative Republican candidate who still could beat Hillary Clinton–and that if he were to win, he might usher in the most conservative Congress, presidency, and Supreme Court in nearly a century.

Topics: ,

Share This

We welcome comments that add information or perspective, and we encourage polite debate. If you log in with a social media account, your comment should appear immediately. If you prefer to remain anonymous, you may comment as a guest, using a name and an e-mail address of convenience. Your comment will be moderated.