Former Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld once said that when a nation goes to war it must by necessity rely on “the army it has rather than the army it wishes it had.” Anyone contemplating the political struggle in which the nation, the Republican Party and America’s conservatives find themselves in today should think about those words because in a political campaign voters have a choice between not the candidates they might have wanted, but the candidates on the ballot.
Donald Trump won the Republican presidential nomination against one of the strongest group of potential nominees in decades. Successful Republican governors and senators were among those he bested by harnessing the deep frustrations of Republicans and Independents at the status quo. The fact that he didn’t run as a traditional conservative and had no political experience as either a candidate or office holder ruled him out as the first choice of many conservative activists and voters who rallied around more traditional contenders such as Wisconsin’s Gov. Scott Walker, Florida’s Sen. Marco Rubio or Texas Sen. Ted Cruz while even many of those who were seeking an outsider preferred Dr. Ben Carson or Carly Fiorina over the New Yorker. The pre-nomination struggle was, as might have been expected, a rough and tumble affair and some of the losers and their backers were less than happy with the outcome.
The very idea that an outsider like Mr. Trump could prevail over establishment giants upset many Republicans as much as his language and seeming lack of understanding of both the process and what they believe conservative candidate should be talking about. They wondered openly about his qualifications, intellect, manners and dedication to conservative values. Some eventually decided that they simply couldn’t support him even if he had won the party nomination and was the candidate they would have to go to war with in the general election. They were right in their feeling that Donald Trump is far from a perfect candidate for the presidency and in their belief that some of his positions may not comport with traditional conservative dogma, but the conclusion on the part of some to sit out the election, vote for a third party contender or even vote for Hillary Clinton in one of the most important elections of our lifetime is wrong and dangerous.
It is easy enough once one decides he or she doesn’t really like a political candidate to conclude the candidate is incompetent, crooked, evil or dangerous; once that happens, the opposition begins to look better and better. That seems to be what’s happened to some conservatives whose distaste for Mr. Trump has morphed into support for Mrs. Clinton. These “Never Trumpers” argue not only that Mr. Trump isn’t good enough, but that he is an existential threat to the United States and the Free World. There is no question that the man’s tendency to speak without thinking and shallow understanding of some of the issues have made him his own worst enemy, but they should step back for a minute and consider the consequences of what they are proposing.
Anyone concerned about the economic stagnation in which the country is mired, the road on which we are travelling toward a European style collectivism, the collapse of the nation’s military capabilities and the probability that a Hillary Clinton presidency would result in a Supreme Court majority that would eagerly reinterpret the Constitution’s protections of free speech, the free exercise of religion and the right to the private ownership of firearms while allowing governmental regulations to grow unimpeded by constitutional or judicial restraint should think very carefully before doing anything to help Mrs. Clinton and her liberal progressive team into the White House.
In her remarks as the second debate between the two drew to a close Mrs. Clinton herself said it as well as anyone. “This is not an ordinary election,” she said, “We are going to be choosing a president who will set policy for not just four or eight years, but because of some of the important decisions we have to make here at home and around the world, from the Supreme Court to energy and so much else, and so there is a lot at stake. It’s one of the most consequential elections that we’ve had.”
• David A. Keene is Opinion editor at The Washington Times.