Hard Truths: Truthless Ambition

HardTruths_8_20_15Chapter 47, in which Sidney attempts to answer a burning question:

Is it “okay” to support Donald Trump for President of the United States?

The short answer which should be obvious to everyone is yes. This is the United States of America and you’re absolutely free to support whoever you choose. The medium-sized answer is obviously no, because Donald Trump is a monster and I wouldn’t feel comfortable with him running a pancake breakfast to raise money for arthritis research, let alone the most important country on the planet. But that leads into the longer answer which unfortunately again is yes. That’s the “yes” I want to talk about because it hints at larger discord amongst the electorate.

There’s currently a flame war going on in conservative camps over the candidacy and unexpected popularity of Trump in the early going. Last week on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show, respected conservative journalist Charles Cooke reacted with incredulity and just a little bit of condescension to Hannity and his other guest, the notorious Ann Coulter, and their continued praise of Trump. Coulter has even since doubled down on her support of Trump, tweeting, “I don’t care if @realDonaldTrump wants to perform abortions in White House after this immigration policy paper,” (with an accompanying link to said paper). Then after that little showdown, Glenn Beck, former fellow Fox News personality of Hannity’s and now an independent conservative juggernaut, used even stronger words to condemn both Trump and his republican supporters, in a widely circulated piece from his website The Blaze.

The gist of both Cooke’s and Beck’s criticisms is simply that Trump is very clearly no conservative in either the traditional or “big tent” sense. They charge that he’s an opportunist Democrat looking for a way in. He’s pro-tax, pro-choice, pro-gun control, and pro-single payer healthcare. Not only that, he’s an unprincipled clown.

The clown charge in particular is an oft-repeated one by commentators on both sides of the aisle. I’m pretty sure I even used it myself a few weeks ago in a column.

Let me be clear, I absolutely think Trump is a clown, and no matter what party he was running for, under any platform, I could never vote for him. My reasoning is as simple as this: Trump represents something that is completely fair, and even to some extent desirable, in an open society with free markets. Trump very simply believes that whatever it takes to end the day with the most coins in his purse is morally defensible, and the ultimate measure of a human is their earning capability. And I honestly don’t have a problem with that in a human. It’s really not that crazy, it’s just another version of survival, which is to say, rational self-interest. But for the job of POTUS, a job that comes with it ultimate responsibility for the safety of all US citizens as well as a being a role model for our youth and a symbol of what is good and just in society, he’s very clearly not the man for the job. This isn’t an insult to Trump. I know plenty of great guys who have no business being president. Barack Obama for one, Mike Huckabee for another. Al Gore, Bernie Sanders, Mitt Romney, Ben Carson are just some other immediate examples that come to mind. But in Trump’s case, I just don’t want the next generation to grow up perpetuating the notion that there’s no such thing as a principle. That you can endlessly compromise, and change your convictions as long as you end up “on top.” It may work great in the board room, but it doesn’t work for president.

But this all overlooks the key issue, which is whether or not it’s “okay” to support him. And as much as I loathe the concept of him as president, it unequivocally is completely okay. If the problems I mentioned aren’t as important to you as his position on immigration (as ostensibly is the case with Coulter), then you should absolutely support him. Position shaming is the lazy intellectual equivalent of slut shaming.

“Only an idiot would support _______” is not a politically or morally defensible position. To be clear, not all of the Trump criticizers are relying on this tactic. Charles Cooke gave a very concrete, policy-based and respectful critique on Hannity. But other attacks on Trump, notably Becks and Charles Krauthammer’s from the right, and literally every single attack from the left, have consistently relied on this rather feeble rhetorical strategy.

If you really in your heart think Donald Trump has the answers to our problems, don’t be afraid to let your freak flag fly. Just be prepared for principled (and not so principled) opposition.

By Sidney Reilly

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