The Mental Gymnastics of the Pro-Trump GOP
This week, two leading conservative writers made cases for why queasy Republicans should (or will) suck it up and eventually support Donald Trump. This happened, somewhat hilariously, the same week in which Trump spent approximately 15 minutes mocking various Republicans at a California rally; publicly bashed New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez, a well-liked rising star in the GOP; and blatantly lied about telling a previous blatant lie about raising $6 million for veterans.
Well, whatever. If poor, bedraggled America has learned any lesson from 2016, it’s that nothing matters, so let’s move on. At the website Townhall.com, Dennis Prager wrote “A Response to My Conservative #NeverTrump Friends,” a column that, to its credit, is kind, calm, and well intentioned. “I just don't understand how anyone who understands the threat the left and the Democrats pose on America will refuse to vote for the only person who can stop them,” he writes, listing “nine reasons (there are more) why a conservative should prefer a Trump presidency to a Democrat presidency.”
This sounds fair, so let’s go over a few. We’ll start with the weirdest: Trump, according to Prager—a commentator I like and respect—would “prevent Washington, D.C., from becoming a state and giving the Democrats another two permanent senators.” That would be news to the August version of Donald Trump, who told Chuck Todd that he “would like to do whatever is good for the District of Columbia because I love the people … I would look at a number of things. And something would be done that everybody would be happy.”
Next, in March, Trump told the Washington Post, “I don’t have a position on [D.C. statehood] yet … I think statehood is a tough thing for D.C. … It’s just something that I don’t think I’d be inclined to do,” but that giving D.C. a vote in the House of Representatives probably would be “okay.” Since I am regrettably fluent in Trumpspeak by now, I can translate: Like his stance on many issues, Trump likely has no idea what he thinks about D.C. statehood, nor does he give a rip—and his position will probably change, again and again.
This is not about nitpicking details. Rather, it is emblematic of the kind of startling GOP wishcasting that surrounds Trump. Let’s move on to the bigger fish in this proverbial pond. According to Prager, Trump will “repeal Obamacare.” Well, sure, Trump has said he’ll repeal and replace Obamacare, but with what?
Let’s go to the tapes: “I would end Obamacare and replace it with something terrific, for far less money for the country and for the people.” Woo, party time! On other occasions, Trump has made the groundbreaking argument that you can’t let Americans “die in the streets”—seems reasonable, I guess—and praised the socialist Scottish single-payer system, which does not seem reasonable at all.
Trump’s website, to be fair, has an actual proposed health care “plan,” which writer Peter Suderman has aptly described as “as bunch of words somewhat related to health policy that his campaign is calling a plan.” It is a sometimes-contradictory word salad, and at this point, Donald Trump does not appear to have digested it, with the exception of the vague concept of removing “the lines between the states.”
But, hey, let’s trust the guy! He’s shown himself to be honest, humble, consistent, and open to advice and criticism. I’m sure he’ll be more principled once he’s president and doesn’t have to kowtow to people to get elected anymore. Also, please excuse me. I’ve got to go take my crazy pills.
Prager argues that Trump will “reduce job-killing regulations on large and small businesses,” which may or may not be true. What is quite clear is Trump’s promise of multiple trade wars and tariffs, driving up costs for average Americans across the board. Out of Prager’s nine points for Trump, in fact, only one seems compelling: that he could “prevent a left-wing Supreme Court,” which would be a near and disastrous certainty under Hillary Clinton.
But would he even do that? The answer appears to be “maybe.” Earlier this month, Team Trump released an admittedly fantastic list of potential Supreme Court justice nominees, inspiring a media freak-out. Next, literally hours later—stop me if you’ve seen this movie before—Trump publicly pooh-poohed the importance of the list, noting that it might not even include his final pick. Right-o.
This week, the Hoover Institution’s Victor Davis Hanson predicted that most Republicans would hold their noses and vote for Trump. The rationalization, he noted, boils down to something like this: “Sure, Trump is unhinged, but have you seen the left? They’re even worse! It’s time for OUR crazy guy in the White House!”
Hansen is probably right, and, to be fair, this is excusable behavior for people who don’t follow politics closely. After all, it’s almost impossible to keep up with all the lies in this campaign, and the left is certainly off its collective rocker, and Clinton is astoundingly terrible.
But for those whose job it is to pay close attention to politics, it should be clear that Trump is consistent on one thing, and one thing only: the abuse of government power. If you think this guarantees the appointment of the next Antonin Scalia, you might want to check your premises—and if you think Trump will govern as a conservative, you’re performing mental gymnastics worthy of a gold medal.
This election, in other words, has boiled down to a coin toss between a consistent, calculating liar and an inconsistent, compulsive liar. Please, my friends, you can vote for Trump if you want, but let’s at least try to tell it like it is.