The party and movement dedicated to “limited government” and “freedom” not only favors public education; conservatives have sought measures to strengthen the federal government’s hold over public education. From the Republicans’ passage of “No Child Left Behind”21 under George W. Bush to the embrace of Common Core by such “conservative” governors and presidential candidates as Jeb Bush22 and Chris Christie,23 conservatives have aggressively undermined the privileges and rights of school communities at the local and state levels to supply to their children the kind of education that would benefit them most.
Yet public education is far from the only socialist phenomenon that conservatives have labored to further entrench. They have also worked to “save” or “reform” Social Security, 24 Medicare 25 and Medicaid.26 Even the Affordable Health Care Act—i.e. “Obamacare”—against which conservatives rail is a socialist monstrosity that they want to repeal and replace. Jeb Bush’s and Scott Walker’s proposals, to name just two, sound every bit as ambitious as Obamacare. Bush’s plan would, among many other things, “encourage” states to see to it that insurers offer “affordable” plans that cover those with “pre-existing conditions.” It would also “promote innovation” by “modernizing the Food and Drug Administration, investing in the National Institutes of Health, and facilitating big data solutions in health care.”27 Scott Walker promises that his plan will “ensure affordable and accessible health insurance for everyone” while providing “financial stability for families and taxpayers.”28 Promises, promises.
Republican conservatives during the tenure of the “compassionate” conservative, President George W. Bush, promoted the latter’s “Home Ownership Society,”29 a program by which the national government pressured mortgage lenders to drop traditional criteria so that virtually anyone, particularly minorities, could obtain mortgages for homes that they otherwise couldn’t have dreamt of being able to afford. Yet this program wasn’t just an instance of Big Government; this was an instance of the worst of Big Government, for it led to the economic crisis of 2008.30
To all of this, conservative Republicans may offer one or both of two responses. First, it could be said that there truly is that fundamental philosophical divide between them upon which Republicans and Democrats insist every election cycle in that the former, unlike the latter, offer people choices (in education, health care, social security, etc.). Let’s call this the argument from choice. Second, conservatives may now acknowledge that Bush and his Republican majority were not genuine conservatives. However, they would add that, precisely because of this, it is unfair for me to focus on this generation of Republicans. Ronald Reagan is the benchmark of contemporary conservatism, they will insist. If we want to know what conservatism truly represents, it is to Reagan that we should turn.31
As we’ll see, neither the argument from choice nor that from Reagan succeeds one iota in so much as qualifying, let alone undermining, my thesis.
The freedom of choice that conservatives champion is a fake. As C. Bradley Thompson and Yaron Brook observe in their Neoconservatism: An Obituary for an Idea, conservatives’ conception of choice consists in using “the coercive force of the State to redistribute wealth and to provide for all of the people’s needs [.]” Yet the “choices given to the people would not be the unlimited, wide-open choices of a free market” but, rather, a severely limited number of options “preauthorized” by the government. Thompson and Brook state: “To define ‘choice’ as the freedom and the right of individuals to choose between a few government-approved programs is fundamentally dishonest and it destroys the concepts of ‘choice,’ ‘freedom,’ and ‘rights.’” They add: “Under such a corrupt definition of ‘choice,’ the only people truly free to choose are the government bureaucrats who decide which programs are government approved and which are not.”32
As long as the central government continues to control people’s resources and the options from which they must choose, there is neither individual liberty nor limited government.
It has been noted that not since the presidency of LBJ, with Johnson’s “Great Society” and “War on Poverty,” had both total and non-defense government spending increased to the extent that it did under George W. Bush.33 But what about Reagan? Surely, Reagan must’ve been different, for it is not for nothing that “Reagan conservatism” has become synonymous with conservatism itself. The media lore aside, neither was Ronald Reagan any kind of proponent of “limited government” and individual liberty.
While he’s widely heralded for having slashed taxes, the truth of the matter is that tax revenues, and government spending, increased exponentially during Reagan’s tenure. In fact, Alan Simpson, a former Republican senator from Wyoming and friend of Reagan, confirmed that Reagan raised taxes eleven times during his two terms.34 Reagan eliminated not a single government program, much less an agency. Instead, he strengthened those agencies—like the Departments of Energy and Education—that he originally pledged to abolish, and he even strengthened the profoundly intrusive Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Reagan created the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. As Murray Rothbard writes, “The Gipper deregulated nothing, abolished nothing.” He concludes: “Overall, the quantity and degree of government regulation of the economy was greatly increased and intensified during the Reagan years.”35
That Reagan expanded the federal government is not just a fact noted by his critics. As recently as 2014, Mother Jones, a leftist journal, commended Reagan for advancing the cause of Big Government. Alex Park remarks: “If you judge him [Reagan] by the uncompromising standards of today’s GOP, Reagan was a disaster.” During Reagan’s eight year tenure, the national debt almost tripled from $907 billion to $2.6 trillion. The federal workforce increased to 324,000 people (of whom only 26% consisted of military personnel). In fact, Park observes that as of 2012, nearly a quarter of a century after Reagan left office, the federal government has nearly a million fewer people working within it. In contrast, under the “liberal” Democrat, Bill Clinton, “the federal workforce was at its smallest size in decades.”36
Implicitly, even Reagan’s biggest devotees admit that he presided over a substantial enlargement of the federal government, for they continually declare, against “liberal” Democrats who suggest otherwise, that government revenues increased courtesy of Reagan’s income tax cuts. Thanks to Reagan’s economic policy, the federal government now had significantly more of citizens’ monies to do with them as it pleased.
It wasn’t just as president that Reagan revealed his penchant for Big Government. While campaigning for the governorship of California, Reagan pledged to not raise taxes. Once he was elected, however, he not only reneged on his promise; he slammed Californians with the largest tax increase in their history. And it wasn’t just incomes that he taxed. Reagan proceeded to tax sales, cigarettes, alcohol, banks, and corporations. He also acquiesced in legislation requiring tax payers to conserve three of California’s rivers—after he had promised to fight it.37 Reagan legalized abortion. Though Reagan (supposedly) came to regret this, his biographer, Lou Cannon, writes that Reagan “knew that the California law was overly restrictive,” and he “was particularly bothered that it made no exception for rape or incest.”38
So while he talked a good talk on the dangers of Big Government, in practice, Reagan was as Big Government as they come. Even the “outstanding measures of deregulation” for which President Reagan was credited were actually launched by his “liberal” Democratic predecessor, Jimmy Carter.39
As far as being “pro-life” is concerned, most conservatives share Reagan’s position: they are opposed to abortion except for when they aren’t: from Reagan to Paul Ryan,40 the politically-convenient position to which virtually every Republican subscribes is that abortion is immoral except for when the human victim is the product of rape or incest, or when that unborn human being threatens its mother’s life. It is obvious, though, or at least should be so, that this point of view is indeed a cop-out, for if abortion is immoral, it is immoral because it consists in the unjustified killing of an innocent, defenseless human being. This innocence is in no way compromised by the circumstances within which that human being was conceived. Thus, if Republican conservatives are “pro-life” even though they allow exceptions that are morally irrelevant to the innocence of the unborn, then liberal Democrats are also “pro-life,” for most oppose abortion under some circumstances as well (second and third trimesters, etc.). Conversely, if liberal Democrats are “pro-choice” for allowing circumstances for abortion, so too are conservative Republicans “pro-choice” for allowing circumstances under which women can choose to abort their offspring.
Conservatives, by virtue of their “love for people,” for “the individual,” as Rush Limbaugh expressed it to his CPAC audience, favor equality of opportunity for all. They do not, though, favor “sameness of opportunity,”41 or “equality of results,”42 for all. Or so they say. In fact, though, conservative Republicans not only boast about having been the largest supporters of the historic federal civil rights legislation of the 1960’s—legislation that dramatically undermined both the sovereignty of the states as well as the individual’s right to free association; it is conservative Republicans who brought us “affirmative action”—policies in hiring, college admissions, and housing that grant preferential treatment to people on the bases of race and gender. Richard Nixon inaugurated “affirmative action,” and conservatives, despite their claims to the contrary, continue to support it.
Our last conservative Republican president and the conservative movement’s standard bearer for eight years exemplifies the semantics trickery to which conservatives resort in order to convince their predominantly white working class base that they oppose “affirmative action.” When asked his thoughts on the 2003 Supreme Court decision that found “quotas” unconstitutional while upholding the constitutionality of using race as a criterion for hiring and college admissions purposes, George W. Bush replied that he concurred with it. However, he quickly added that if “race-neutral admissions policies” fail “to achieve…diversification,” then “race ought to be [used as] a factor.” The President explained: “I think it’s very important for all institutions to strive for diversity [.]” On another occasion, just a few months earlier, Bush declared: “The habits of racism in American have not all been broken.” De facto segregation may have ended, but “equality of opportunity and excellence” in America’s schools, in hiring, and in housing, have not yet been achieved. Thus, it is imperative that laws prohibiting “racial discrimination” be “vigorously enforced in education and [in] housing and [in] hiring and [in] public accommodations.”43
George W.’s brother, GOP Presidential hopeful and former Florida governor Jeb Bush, is as crafty politician as any at this game. Despite his explicit rejection of “affirmative action” while governor, he was actually one of its more erstwhile proponents. Bush used his power to aggressively promote more racial and gender diversity among justices, contractors, and in college admissions via his “One Florida” program, a program designed to insure that the racial and gender privileges for minorities and women demanded by “affirmative action” remained secured—even while he formally denied that he favored bestowing privileges on racial (and other) bases.44
It should come as no surprise, then, that conservatives praise the likes of such hard leftists as Martin Luther King, Jr., even going so far as to refer to the latter as a “conservative.” As far back as 1993, the Heritage Foundation, a conservative organization, was hosting events commemorating “the conservative virtues of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” During one such event, conservative Bill Bennett described King as “a saint” who was conservative by reason of believing in “a color-blind society.”45A Human Events writer explains that King was a Republican—meaning conservative—because the GOP has always “championed freedom and civil rights for blacks.” The Democratic Party, in glaring contrast, has always represented “slavery, secession, segregation and now socialism.” The Democrats’ “socialism and dependency on government handouts offer the pathway to poverty,” but the GOP “principles of hard work, personal responsibility, getting a good education and ownership of homes and small businesses offer the pathway to prosperity.”46
King—the historical King—was a self-avowed “democratic socialist”47 (87-88) who, maintaining that America was “born in genocide,” “racial hatred,” and “racial supremacy,”48 (38) called for a redistributive scheme that he himself characterized as “massive.” King called it “a broad-based and gigantic Bill of Rights for the Disadvantaged, our veterans of the long siege of denial.”49 (28) America, “the biggest purveyor of violence in the world today,”50(61) as King once described his country, must undergo “a reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values,”51 (39) for “the vast majority of white Americans are racist, either consciously or unconsciously.”52 (39-40) I suppose that, by the standards of today’s conservatives, King is a conservative. There is, though, one little problem: King despised Ronald Reagan. Reagan is one of the few people against whom King spoke publicly when he said of him that Reagan was “lacking distinction even as an actor” and that “only the irrationalities induced by a war psychosis” could account for how and why Reagan could “become a leading war hawk candidate for the presidency [.]” King thought that this was “such a melancholy turn of events.”53 (60)
Conservatives also lavished praise upon Nelson Mandela upon his death. Ted Cruz, for example, said that Mandela was “an inspiration for defenders of liberty around the globe.” Thanks to “his epic fight against injustice, an entire nation is now free,” Cruz continued.54 Newt Gingrich described Mandela as “one of the greatest leaders of our time” and likened him to “the farmers at Lexington and Concord” and George Washington who fought “the British’s dictatorial assault on our freedom.”55 Years before Mandela died, back in 2002, George W. Bush awarded Mandela the Medal of Freedom.56
On the issue of illegal immigration, conservatives have been at least as enthusiastic as liberal Democrats vis-à-vis amnesty.57 Reagan granted amnesty to some three million illegals in 1986, and conservative Republicans in the present day—including such stalwart “Reagan conservative” media figures like Sean Hannity—have been laboring tirelessly to convince the rank and file voters of “the conservative movement” both that “comprehensive immigration reform” isn’t amnesty58 and that it’s “conservative!”59 More recently, Paul Greenberg, writing for the conservative website Townhall.com, lauds President Obama’s executive action granting amnesty to millions of illegal, mostly non-white, immigrants as an act of “justice and mercy.” To deny citizenship to those who had been brought here as children, he tells us, would be “un-American.”60
So, far from being proponents of smaller, decentralized government, domestically speaking, both Republicans and Democrats, “conservatives” and “liberals,” equally favor an omnipotent, activist national government, a government for which governing is an uninterrupted exercise in “social engineering.” There is, however, also bipartisan consensus when it comes to international affairs. Only here, the conservative’s enthusiasm for social engineering is far greater than any that can ordinarily be found among Democrats. Virtually every time we hear conservatives speak of “American Exceptionalism”—and it’s only conservatives who speak this way—they signal this unqualified enthusiasm for military interventionism, for deploying the United States military to the four corners of the Earth, or at least to those places that are “non-democratic,” for the purposes of exporting “liberal democracy.”
In 2012, the GOP stated that the party professes “American exceptionalism,” “the conviction that our country holds a unique place and role in human history [.]”61 (39) American exceptionalism justifies, among many other things, its leading the world in securing the “protection of human rights” around the globe. This goal is to be achieved through “diplomacy,”62(45) “foreign aid,”63 (45-46) and, of course, military interventionism. “American exceptionalism” also entails “unequivocal support for Israel.”64 (49-50)
Conservatives, as I hope it is now clear, aren’t conservative at all. “Conservatives” are essentially of one mind as “liberals” not only insofar as they both favor an unlimited activist national government; the two are as well in essential agreement over most of the issues of the day—even if they differ over details, and regardless of how aptly they’ve been able to conceal these agreements by way of “rhetorical tics”65 and semantics trickery.
Nevertheless, the media invention that is “the conservative movement” isn’t just about the promotion of pecuniary and professional interests. For however misleading is the advertisement, there is indeed an ideology that moves beneath it. And this ideology is neoconservatism.
Given the reality (as opposed to the appearance) of the conservative movement, the reader will find that the latter is actually a neoconservative movement. Though they are typically wont to admit this in public—i.e. in the media—there are neoconservatives who admit that, “socially, economically, and philosophically,” neoconservatism differs in kind from traditional conservatism. Some of its proponents even admit that the two are mutually antithetical inasmuch as neoconservatism is “revolutionary [.]”66 As Irving Kristol, the “godfather” of neoconservatism, admits, unlike traditional (or genuine) conservatives, neoconservatives embrace “the welfare state,” i.e. “social security, unemployment insurance, some form of national health insurance, some kind of family assistance plan, etc.”, and it will not hesitate “to interfere with the market for overriding social purposes”—even if this requires “‘rigging’” instead of imposing upon it “direct bureaucratic controls.”67
Kristol underscores the point that neoconservatives are “always interested in proposing alternate reforms” and “alternate legislation, [to the Great Society] that would achieve the desired aims”—the eradication of poverty—“more securely, and without the downside effects.”68Neoconservatives don’t want to “destroy the welfare state, but…rather reconstruct it along more economical and humane lines.”69
Neoconservatives are enthusiastic proponents of “American exceptionalism.” Kristol insists that the United States, then, is “a creedal nation”70 with a “‘civilizing mission’”71to promote “American values”72throughout the world, to see to it “that other governments respect our conception of individual rights as the foundation of a just regime and a good society.” Kristol is unambiguous: the United States, given its status as a “great power” and its “ideological” nature, does indeed have a responsibility, “in those places and at those times where conditions permit” it “to flourish,” to “‘make the world safe for democracy.”73
“Neocons,” Kristol continues, “feel at home in today’s America to a degree that more traditional conservative do not.”74 He explains that the “twentieth-century heroes” of neocons “tend to be TR [Teddy Roosevelt], FDR [Franklin Delano Roosevelt], and Ronald Reagan,” while “Republican and conservative worthies” like “Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Dwight Eisenhower, and Barry Goldwater are politely overlooked.”75
Fox News celebrity and nationally syndicated columnist Charles Krauthammer, though widely heralded as a respected conservative, is in reality a neoconservative. Krauthammer affirms “American exceptionalism” and advocates on behalf of a “value-driven foreign policy”—what he calls “democratic globalism.” From the latter vantage point, “the engine of history” is “not the will to power but the will to freedom”76—i.e. “the spread of democracy” around the planet.77 While America “will support democracy everywhere,” Krauthammer maintains, it “will commit blood and treasure only in places where there is a strategic necessity,” i.e. “places central to the larger war against the existential enemy, the enemy that poses a global mortal threat to freedom.”78
The vast majority of Krauthammer’s colleagues among the “conservative” punditry class agree with him precisely on all of these points. Nationally syndicated “conservative” columnist and radio talk show host Dennis Prager, for instance, affirms “American exceptionalism” while explaining that it is nothing more or less than the belief that “America often knows better than the world what is right and wrong.” And why is this? For the most part, belief in “American exceptionalism” rises from the “Judeo-Christian” character of America’s “values,”79values that, while possessing a “moral superiority” to all competitors, are also of “universal applicability” and “eminently exportable.” Prager is unabashed: “These magnificent American values are applicable to virtually every society in the world.”80
Michael Medved, another “conservative” columnist and talk radio host who is really a neoconservative, responds to the charge that “conservatives” like himself reveal inconsistencies in their thought when they simultaneously spout the mantra of “limited government” here at home while calling for a more “activist” American government abroad. The solution to this apparent inconsistency, Medved claims, turns on the view of “American exceptionalism” held by “conservatives” who “passionately embrace the idea that the United States is better than the rest of the world [.]” This is the “almost mystical faith in the American people and the powers of the market.” Thus, since Americans “need a strong hand from Washington far less than do beleaguered hordes in less fortunate societies around the world,” there should be “less Washington interference at home and more Washington determination abroad [.]”81
Neoconservatives are not conservatives. They favor Big Government, “the welfare state,” no less strongly than do their “liberal” Democratic rivals. Neoconservative Nathan Glazer goes so far as to suggest that neocons are essentially socialists. “It’s very hard for us [neocons and socialists] to define what it is that divides us, in any centrally principled way.” While in some instances there may be disagreement over “the details or the scope of health insurance plans,” “the level of taxation that should be imposed upon corporations,” or “how much should be going into social security,” there doesn’t appear to be any “principles that separate us [.]”82 (Thompson, Brook 47)
Here, we can now conclude, appearance and reality finally coincide: there is the appearance that neocons and socialists subscribe to the same moral principles because they really do share the same principles. Neoconservatism, what the media passes off as “conservatism,” is but another variety of socialism.
A friend and colleague of mine just sent me a NY Times article by Robert Reich in which the latter contends that the Republicans are acting “unconstitutionally” by refusing hearings to any of Barack Obama’s Supreme Court nominees. I replied—admittedly, a bit too abruptly—that the Democrats feign concern about abiding by the Constitution only when it suits their purposes.
I stand by this position. But I know that the same can be said for Republicans.
Brion McClanahan’s latest book underscores in spades this bipartisan disregard of the Constitution. His 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America and Four Who Tried to Save Her (Regnery: 2016) is a tailor-made book for the lover of American political history. Moreover, though a piece of scholarship of the first order, it is, refreshingly, written in prose that is accessible to any remotely curious reader.
Another welcoming feature of McClanahan’s analysis is its indisputably non-partisan tone. Unlike Robert Reich, McClanahan’s repulsion from unconstitutional governance is not selectively determined by ideological prejudice and political gain. It is principled. That this is so becomes obvious as soon as one begins thumbing one’s way through 9 Presidents.
McClanahan notes that the concerns of the anti-Federalists began to materialize as early on as George Washington’s tenure in office.
While “Washington’s first administration was a model for the constitutional exercise of the presidential powers,” his second administration was not. For starters, though he was constitutionally required to seek the “advice and consent” of Congress when it came to issues of war and treaties, in 1793, in the wake of the bloody French Revolution, Washington acted unilaterally by essentially breaking America’s treaty with France by issuing his “Proclamation of Neutrality.” James Madison and Thomas Jefferson were among those who viewed this move as the stuff of, not presidents of Constitutional Republics, but monarchs.
Washington also crushed the so-called “Whiskey Rebellion,” a move that was unconstitutional on multiple grounds.
Yet Washington is not among the cast of characters that McClanahan charges with having “screwed up America,” of having grossly, routinely undermined the Constitution. This ignominious distinction the author endows upon such worthies as Andrew Jackson; Abraham Lincoln; Theodore Roosevelt; Woodrow Wilson; Franklin D. Roosevelt; Harry Truman; Lyndon Johnson; Richard Nixon; and Barack Obama.
It would be a mistake, however, to think that McClanahan treats this list as exhaustive. Like Washington, there are several presidents—George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush are three notable examples—who don’t have chapters reserved for them, but whose flagrant abuses of the Constitution the author meticulously documents.
McClanahan knows that by including Lincoln in his list of presidents who “screwed up America,” he will shock the contemporary sensibilities of many readers. Yet he also makes a compelling case that any such list that omitted “Honest Abe” would be downright dishonest, for Lincoln, “more than any president who came before him, created the blueprint for the modern presidency.”
If ever there was a “fundamentally transformative” president, it was Lincoln, the man who presided over the transformation of the American political system from “a federal republic to a consolidated nation.”
Through a chain of the most cogent reasoning, McClanahan reveals how and why the Southern states that formed the Confederacy were indeed justified, constitutionally speaking, in seceding from the Union. Lincoln, thus, acted unconstitutionally in treating secession as a “rebellion.” Yet even conceding, for argument’s sake, that Lincoln was right about this matter, he was, from the standpoint of the Constitution, terribly wrong in how he proceeded to address it.
“Lincoln,” McClanahan explains, “violated the Constitution and his oath by unilaterally calling up the ‘militia’ to subdue ‘combinations too powerful to be suppressed by the ordinary course of judicial proceedings or by the powers vested in the marshals by law.” The problem, here, is that the Constitution authorizes Congress—not the Executive branch—to do such things.
However, McClanahan remarks, “these violations of the Constitution were only the beginning.” The 16th president, he continues, “presided over the most oppressive and lawless general government in American history to that point, one that has only been surpassed by the imperial presidencies of the twentieth century.” Lincoln’s “unilateral suspension of habeas corpus was ruled unconstitutional by Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney”—and yet “Lincoln ignored the ruling [.]” His administration “arrested over ten thousand Northern Americans for their opposition to the war, mostly newspaper editors and politically well-connected citizens” (emphases original) [.]
There are many more violations of the Constitution of which Lincoln was guilty, but space constraints preclude enumeration of them here.
“Progressive” Republican President Teddy Roosevelt, given “his belief that…the Constitution was an outdated piece of parchment subject to elastic interpretation and the will of the executive,” was the first of the 20th century imperial presidents. Even some of his fellow Republicans in Congress objected to his blatant subversion of the Constitution in executing his “Square Deal” agenda.
While Roosevelt was the first of the last century’s imperial presidents, he was far from the last. Woodrow Wilson, who “lamented that the founding generation did not have the foresight to call for a closer link between the executive and legislative branches” and who, to remedy this alleged weakness, regarded the Constitution as “organic,” “was a…pioneer in unconstitutional executive authority.”
Then, of course, Franklin Delano Roosevelt ratcheted things up considerably by ramming his “New Deal” “through Congress with a personal zeal unmatched by anyone who had held the office before him.” Yet FDR’s successor, Harry Truman, “had become the most progressive president in American history” by the time his nearly eight years in office had come to a close.
The four presidents who tried to “save” America by exercising admirable, if imperfect, constitutional constraint are Jefferson, John Tyler, Grover Cleveland, and Calvin Coolidge. Not unsurprisingly, though, and with the exception of that of Jefferson’s, the presidencies of these last three are ordinarily regarded by historians as either unremarkable or even failed. This, however, reveals more about the extent to which these same historians subscribe to the model of the imperial—to repeat, the unconstitutional—presidency than it speaks to these forgotten presidents themselves.
By the measure of the Constitution-as-ratified, Tyler, Cleveland, and Coolidge join Jefferson as among the best presidents in American history.
Brion McClanahan’s Nine Presidents Who Screwed Up America and the Four Who Tried to Save Her is must reading for everyone who is more interested in preserving the Constitution than in preserving their respective parties.
During this heated election season, it is also timelier than ever.
Dear Trump supporters,
A recent ABC/Washington Post poll of “registered voters” purports to show that Donald Trump lags 12 points behind Hillary Clinton in a national head-to-head contest. In case you’re inclined to accept this at face value—don’t.
First, this poll does indeed purport to gauge preferences nationally. Ultimately, what’s going to matter is how the candidates fare in the battleground states. For example, a Pew Poll from just last week showed Trump beating Clinton by two points in North Carolina (a state that Barack Obama won in 2008).
Secondly, it is June. The election isn’t until November.
Thirdly, this poll focuses on how “registered voters,” not likely voters, say they would vote if the election was held today. There are lots more registered voters than there are people who will actually come out to vote.
Fourthly, as the pollsters themselves admit, this poll is heavily stacked in favor of Democrats: the latter constitute 37% of registered voters while only 27% of Republicans count for the same.
Fifthly, ABC and the Post acknowledge that had they used the same party division numbers that they used in their poll from last month, Clinton would be up a full one-third less (8%) than this poll shows her leading now.
Sixthly (and isn’t this interesting?), a Wall Street/NBC News—a poll, that is, taken at the same time as the ABC/Post poll—shows Clinton with a five point lead in a national head-to-head matchup (46%-41%). However, when third party candidates Gary Johnson and Jill Stein are thrown into the mix, Clinton and Trump are in a virtual dead-heat with 39% and 38%, respectively.
The ABC/Post poll questioned 836 registered voters. The Wall Street/NBC poll questioned 1,000 such voters.
Both surveys were conducted during the week of June 19-23, a week during which Trump fired his campaign manager. And Trump’s had a bad June. Bill McInturff, a Republican pollster who conducted the Journal poll with Democrat Fred Yang, summed up their findings well: “Donald Trump has had the worst month one can imagine, but Clinton’s negatives are so high the net impact on the ballot is almost invisible.” Yang added: “The fact that Donald Trump had a really bad period and he went down just a few points indicates that it will be difficult for either candidate to break out given the hard-set division in the electorate.”
In other words, contrary to what ABC and the Washington Post would have us think, Clinton does not have a 12 point lead over Trump. This election isn’t close to coinciding with the impression that they’re working so hard at conveying.
Think about this: There are two polls of registered voters taken in the same period of time by well-known media outlets. The one proclaims that the Democrat nominee leads the Republican by twelve points. The other declares that her lead is only five points, but even then notes that with the third party candidates thrown into the mix, the two are tied!
And by the way, the NBC poll shows Trump leading Clinton with the much coveted “independent” vote by double digits.
Seventh, other than as a mechanism by which to manipulate voters into voting for those candidates that the pollsters and media favor, and other than as a means by which pollsters can earn a living and the media can increase their profits, there is absolutely no reason why anyone needs to learn five months in advance how a select sample of people claim they would vote in a hypothetical contest.
Five months is an eternity in politics—and these pollsters and “journalists” know it.
Eighthly, Trump brought millions of otherwise disenchanted people back into politics, and he garnered more votes in the GOP primaries than did any other Republican in American history. And yet now we are expected to believe that millions more have turned against him?!
This is crucial: Not only Trump, but his supporters, have not only been demonized by both the Democrat-friendly media and Republican NeverTrumpers; they have been the objects of physical intimidation and assault. It has become dangerous to be a Trump supporter. There is no such danger to being an Obama, a Clinton, or a Sanders supporter, for Republicans generally and Trump supporters specifically just don’t unleash violence upon those of their fellow Americans with whom they disagree. It doesn’t happen.
But as for left-wing thugs—not “protesters,” but cowardly, criminal punk-thugs—violence is the air that they breathe. And they’ve been visiting this violence upon attendees at Trump rallies and anyone else who they suspect of being a Trump backer.
It’s not at all implausible to think that many are fearful of expressing publicly their support for the Republican nominee. They may not necessarily fear being beaten up. But they most definitely fear for their livelihood, reputation, and property, for they know that once they admit that Donald Trump is their man, their opponents will seek to brand them as “racists” and “fascists.”
Finally, the polls found that Trump is losing to Clinton because while 90% of Democrats back their nominee, only 77% of Republicans are backing theirs.
The GOP NeverTrumpers, the very same folks who chastised Trump for his initial refusal last August to pledge to support the GOP nominee, could now imperil his victory because of their refusal to do the same.
If so; if their fantasy comes true and Trump loses, they should be mindful that the millions who back Trump will not forget. NeverTrump could very well give way to NeverGOP—and the neocon establishment Republicans will lose power for a generation.
A Citizen for Truth
Are (Republican) NeverTrumpers “pro-Hillary,” as some of their critics are now claiming?
It’s true that if the NeverTrumper gets his wish and Donald Trump’s candidacy fails, then the outcome will be a Hillary Clinton presidency. Yet just because the outcome of not voting for Trump is exactly the same as that of actually voting for Hillary Clinton, these may still be two distinct acts, for consequences alone do not an act make.
Abortion, for instance, is regarded by many as an immoral act. No one, however, regards as immoral surgery meant to save the life of a woman with an ectopic pregnancy. The consequence of the one act is exactly that of the other—the death of the unborn child. Yet these are still two distinct acts.
Obviously, it is not the consequence of each act that differentiates them—there is no difference in the consequences. It is, rather, the intentions informing these actions that distinguish them from one another.
An abortionist intends the death of the unborn child. The doctor who removes the fallopian tubes of the woman with an ectopic pregnancy, though he foresees that in so doing he will bring about the death of the child, does not intend any such thing.
That one act is considered wrong by many but the other wrong by virtually no one makes sense in light of the Christian moral doctrine of “double effect.” According to this doctrine, if a person foresees that his action will bring about an otherwise immoral outcome, it may still be permissible for him to perform it as long as he doesn’t intend this outcome.
Now, “intentions,” it’s crucial to recognize, are not subjective psychological processes. If some acts, as most of us seem to think, are right or wrong regardless of context, irrespectively of their outcomes—if some acts are just right or just wrong—then it must be the case that the acts embody as well their own intentionality, their own internal logic.
Abortion is, essentially, by design, the intentional killing of an unborn child. A procedure aimed at saving a mother’s life from an ectopic pregnancy embodies no such intention.
Take another example. Suppose I shoot a gun in a crowded place and strike down innocents. That I may not have been motivated by any desire to harm anyone, that I didn’t mean to harm anyone, doesn’t’ get me off the hook, for the act that I performed is designed, as it were, to jeopardize others. This is what is implied by such common manner of speaking as, “It just so happened that, thankfully, no one got hurt.”
Now, if the NeverTrumper is simply one who refuses to vote for Trump, then—in light of the doctrine of double effect—it doesn’t seem right to say that he is “pro-Hillary,” for the act of refusing to vote for Trump has as its essential aim the prevention of a Trump presidency. Granted, the NeverTrumper foresees that if enough people think as he does, then a Hillary presidency will be inevitable. But he does not intend for Hillary to win. Theoretically, he may object to her just as much, if not more so, than he objects to Trump.
If the NeverTrumper, from an informed conscience, judges that voting for Trump is itself an evil act, then it would indeed be immoral for him to vote for the GOP nominee. And it would remain immoral for him to vote for Trump even if, from that same informed conscience, he believed that voting for Hillary is the greater of the two evils and that only by voting for Trump could he preclude the greater evil of a Hillary presidency.
As the Scriptures say, we must never do evil so that good may come from it.
Still, in point of fact, it is highly doubtful that the NeverTrumper objects to Trump from conscience. Although the typical NeverTrumper would have us think that it is his commitment to “limited government” and/or “Constitutional conservatism” that prevents him from voting for Trump, this is immediately seen for the lie that it is the moment we realize that these same NeverTrumpers have been enthusiastically advancing the interests of just those Republican politicians who for decades have been at least as wedded to Big Government as is Trump.
These NeverTrumpers have enthusiastically been supporting a party that, culturally, socially, economically, and politically, has facilitated America’s movement to the left. They have happily endorsed such faux conservatives as John McCain, Mitt Romney, and George W. Bush—all of whom have, if not always in rhetoric, in effect, advocated on behalf of policies that, from a conservative perspective, are often even more objectionable than some of Trump’s more objectionable stances.
The truth of the matter is that NeverTrumpers will never support him because Trump threatens the status quo. He threatens them professionally and, inasmuch as his foreign policy vision is at odds with the failed neoconservative vision that they’ve peddled all throughout the Bush II years to the present, he threatens them ideologically as well.
The NeverTrumpers actually would prefer Hillary to Trump.
From the juxtaposition of the relentlessness with which they attack Trump and their relative silence on Hillary, it is hard to infer any other conclusion.