Sure, it matters that Donald Trump owns a historically low favorability rating. Then again, disliking the president isn’t exactly a courageous act. Plenty of Americans — many of whom supported the president during the general election — don’t like Donald Trump. They do realize that politics is a tradeoff. A more revealing question pollsters might ask people is: But do you “like” any better Chuck Schumer or Elizabeth Warren, pussy-hatted marchers griping about the patriarchy, or the totalitarians blocking Education Secretary Betsy Devos from walking into a public school?
That’s the choice #TheResistance — whose mantra, let’s face it, has synched with the national Democratic Party — has created for many moderate Republicans, right-leaning independents, and movement conservatives concerned about Trump. Which is to say, they offer no choice whatsoever. They offer plenty of hysteria, hypocrisy, and conflating of conservatism with Trumpism for political gain.
For pundits on the Left, the idea that conservatives can judge the presidency issue by issue is completely unacceptable. As important as attacking Trump is, depicting conservatives as fellow travelers who enable fascism confirms every preconceived notion they harbor about the Right. As Scott Adams put it not that long ago:
But lately I get the feeling that Trump’s critics have evolved from expecting Trump to be Hitler to preferring it. Obviously they don’t prefer it in a conscious way. But the alternative to Trump becoming Hitler is that they have to live out the rest of their lives as confirmed morons.
In a recent Atlantic piece titled “The Anti-Anti-Trump Right,” by Peter Beinart, the subheadline reads: “For conservative publications, the business model is opposing the left. And that means opposing the people who oppose Trump.” As is customary these days, the Left, much like Trump, questions the motives of political foes rather than addressing their arguments. Beinart goes on to name the two only honorable conservatives in the entire country (according to Democrats), David Frum and David Brooks. For them, Beinart contends, conservatism is “prudence, inherited wisdom, and a government that first does no harm.” Sure it is. Everyone else is a moral coward and a hypocrite for failing to support liberals in their fight to …
… in their fight to do what, exactly?
It’s true that Trump doesn’t exhibit prudence, reliance, or inherited wisdom. Yet — and I know this is exceedingly difficult for Democrats to comprehend —neither does the alternative. If liberals were serious about convincing Republicans to abandon Trump in toto, they’d have something better to offer than Donald Trump.
What seems to most vex critics of the anti-anti-Trump contingent (and I am mentioned in the Atlantic piece) is that conservatives aren’t appropriately agitated about the world that liberals see — a world that has turned out to be far less apocalyptic in the early going than they imagine. But if it’s a zero-sum choice they’re offering, that includes picking Neil Gorsuch over Planned Parenthood; tax cuts over teachers unions; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over Iran’s Holocaust deniers; deregulation of the bureaucratic state over legislation, or forcing progressive cultural mores on everyone. And so on.
As Matt Lewis pointed out today, for example, many former free traders are now embracing the protectionist, big-government policies of Trumpism. This is the kind of capitulation many fiscal conservatives feared. Again, the problem is that for free traders, Democrats are as just bad. In fact, the popularity of protectionism among populist movements on left and right is so strong, there’s a good argument that the only way to possibly counteract it is by electing more conservatives to Congress.
The average Resistance fighter might dislike Trump. They hate conservatism. By treating even the most milquetoast, run-of-the-mill cabinet nominee as Worst Thing That Has Ever Happened to America, The Resistance gives conservatives the space to defend long-standing political positions such as school choice, immigration enforcement, and deregulation. I imagine many Republicans would happily hand over the scalp of more Michael Flynns if it meant creating a more stable and experienced administration. But they also understand that people who treat DeVos like a bigger threat to the republic than Steve Bannon will never be placated. Those who spend weeks after the election acting like the Electoral College was some kind trick pulled on the country are not interested in “rule of law.” They’re interested in Democrats.
Last week, when the president tactlessly attacked the Ninth Circuit Court on Twitter, the mantra was “Trump doesn’t respect the law!” — even though Democrats had spent eight years attacking the Supreme Court over Citizens United. By Monday, when we learned that there was a deportation uptick (there probably wasn’t) of illegal immigrants, the mantra had changed to “Trump is upholding the law!” (Do Democrats believe enforcing the law horrifies most voters? Do they really believe a temporary ban on refugees from Muslim-majority countries that are terror-producing nations is as cut and dry an issue as it looks on their Twitter feeds?) These days, “the law” means “policy positions liberals like.”
As Thomas Sowell says, there are no ideal solutions, only tradeoffs. Trump brings an array of obvious and problematic issues with him to the presidency that may one day make his presidency untenable for Republicans. The Resistance, though, offers them absolutely nothing.