Being a great aficionado of Patrick O’Brien’s tales of the Georgian Royal Navy, I beg the reader’s indulgence of my using a metaphor from that era. Imagine the American Right to be in the position of a Royal Navy captain of the Napoleonic Wars era, who has found himself trapped in a narrow strait of water blocked at one end by a strong French fleet, and at the other by a large ship which he recognizes as belonging to an infamous and eccentric buccaneer. Escape might still be possible by skirting past the pirate, but is growing more improbable by the moment. The crew, so loyal and steadfast in the past, is becoming spooked. Some are even jumping overboard and swimming toward the pirate vessel, hoping to join him, and the corpulent purser has absconded with a ship’s boat, rowing in the pirate’s direction.
The choices are grim. To surrender to the French is an appalling prospect, meaning four or even eight years in a prison hulk. However, the pirate is so eccentric and unpredictable that he might just kill you for surrendering to him. You call a council of war with your remaining officers and hear their opinions. One counsels that you take to the remaining boats and set the ship on fire, rather than surrender her to either. That would deny the ship to your enemies but leave you adrift and helpless. You might indeed make your way to shore and slowly, painfully use salvaged supplies to build a new ship, but that is uncertain, and would certainly leave you stranded for a long time.
Some counsel that you yield the ship to the French. They are, after all, civilized people who more or less observe the rules of war. And there is no dishonor in surrendering the ship in wartime to a foe with overwhelming power. The war will eventually be over, and you will return home and get a new ship. Others object: the pirate is, after all, so unpredictable that a decent deal might be struck with him. Your ship still represents a valuable asset with which to trade. You might convince him that you know of a hidden French treasure, and propose that you join forces with him to capture it and split the loot — the sort of deal that appeals to him.
You contemplate, quickly because time is running out, and finally conclude: you must deal with the pirate. You cannot deal with the French. Surrender is not just a personal tragedy; it hands a valuable ship to an enemy whose war goals are the conquest of your country and the eradication of your way of life. A guillotine in Piccadilly; your children growing up singing the Marseillaise. Distasteful as it may be, you must prefer the pirate.
That may be the choice facing the American right. I do not like Trump’s populist nationalism, and I like even less the probable outcome of an actual Trump presidency. (You don’t imagine he’s actually going to enact his stated platform, do you?) Never the less, if I am faced with a choice of Trump versus Hillary Clinton, or Trump versus Sanders, I will, however reluctantly, prefer the pirate and vote for Trump. I will decline any offered virtue-signaling exercise of voting for some third-party option. I would urge everybody else, whether social-conservative, libertarian, or fusionist, to do the same.
However, at the same time, I would regard the situation as a tactical retreat, not the end of the world. It would become critical to fight with all available might for the down-ticket races. We would have to take stock of remaining assets, avoid circular firing squads and recriminations, and prepare an agenda for the sizable remnant of committed rightists in the House and Senate.
Trump, after all, has no party. He has no demonstrated skill in creating and leading a principled movement. He must govern with the cooperation, however negotiated, with the leadership the houses of Congress choose. We must decide what to ask for and what to give in return. A critical part of any administration is the several hundred high-level appointees the new President can make; not just the Cabinet secretaries, but the undersecretaries and assistants and Federal prosecutors, and eventually, the judges. Most presidents come to power with a list of sympathetic potential office-holders they have collected over the years and vetted for loyalty and (hopefully) competence. Trump has none such. He will likely draw many of them from the ranks of the Right. Opportunists will offer themselves, of course, but their loyalty is only skin-deep, and as quickly as they attach themselves, so quickly can they be bought off with the right offers.
As for the other option, do not believe it is necessarily survivable. A Clinton Restoration will be very much like the Bourbon Restoration in France, having learned nothing and forgotten nothing. Hillary will use both the legal and illegal powers of the Presidency to systematically dismember the American Right, seeking to use her term(s) in office to permanently cripple its ability to block the social-justice warriors’ agenda. She undoubtedly looks on Obama’s weak and easily distracted measures with contempt. The use of the IRS to attack right-wing institutions was fully uncovered during the Obama administration without effective consequence. Therefore we can expect it to be used much more consistently and systematically under the Clinton Restoration. A number of measures will be used to permanently handicap the Republican Party, such as Puerto Rican statehood and, possibly, the abolition of the Electoral College, allowing corrupt urban machines to flood the ballot boxes with the votes of the Deceased-American demographic. The FCC will be used to muzzle conservative media and a progressive majority on the Supreme Court will erode all ten Amendments of the Bill of Rights.
A Trump administration may represent a substantial opportunity cost to America as needed reforms remain undone and unneeded populist measures are done. But it will be unlikely to actually constitute the war on the American right that a Clinton Restoration will represent. Meanwhile, American conservatism will be put to the test. It might ask itself why, with all the potential advantages it should have had in the 2016 election, did it go off the rails so badly? It will have four years to find some answers to that question.
But only if the pirate is chosen over the French, if it should come to that.