What is it about Trump that some conservatives find so distressing? You’d expect progressives to be disturbed, of course, even before you get to policies. Trump is a manly, no nonsense, successful businessman. When you do consider policies, the nightmare deepens.
He is unashamedly proud of his country, and has made it clear that when it comes to foreign policy and trade, he intends to put its interests first. He is pro-life, and supports police and the military. He supports Israel, and Israel’s right to defend itself. He does not buy into currently popular (and in some circles mandatory) issues like global warming and multiculturalism.
A horror story for progressives. But why are some conservatives also lining up under the #nevertrump banner? Only a few percent; not enough to influence the outcome of the Republican Convention. But a few percent of conservatives who refuse to vote, or vote for a third party candidate, may be all it takes to get Hillary Clinton over the line and into the White House.
First in the litany of Trump’s faults is this: He’s a fascist! The word fascist comes from Latin fasces, a bundle of rods tied together, sometimes with a protruding axe blade. In Roman times it was symbol of magisterial authority. The meaning is that the state is stronger when all its members think and act in concert. Fascism subsumes the interests of individuals and families to the perceived needs of the state, in the belief that citizens are eventually better off if everyone serves the same purposes and works towards the same objectives.
Explaining in detail why this is wrong and does not work would take a much longer essay than this. The question for now is, “Is this the position that Donald Trump espouses?” Hardly. Trump’s central policy positions are small, low-tax, non-interventionist government, free speech, and individual and family rights. The exact opposite of an authoritarian, all-encompassing central government.
Well, then, he’s a racist! Racism is not intrinsic to fascism, although the two are often conflated. Is Trump a racist? No one has been able to point to specific instances where Trump has abused or disadvantaged anyone on the basis of race. He has been publicly supported by black and Hispanic staff and former staff, by black pastors and business people, by immigrants of a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds, many of whom who share his concern over illegal immigration. It is assumed in some circles that if you believe illegal immigration is a problem, you must do so on the basis of race, because you are xenophobic. Showing that to be untrue is as easy as going to Youtube and looking for Hispanics for Trump.
Well then, he is an islamophobe! Here, as others have pointed out, it isn’t a phobia if there is genuinely something to fear. Since September 11, 2001, over 28,000 terror attacks have been made on civilians specifically in the name of Allah and Muhammad. In the name of all other religions? About one-tenth of one percent of that figure. ISIS, and before ISIS Al Qaeda, have called on all muslims everywhere to undertake random murders of civilian populations in non-muslim countries. Very few will take up that call. But very few will speak out against those who do, or explain how the Koran’s command to “slay the unbelievers wherever you find them” is to be set aside while at the same time maintaining the Quran’s commands apply for all time to all muslims everywhere. There is sufficient reason to be concerned, despite the French Prime Minister’s pronouncement after Nice that we must get used to living with terror, or Waleed Aly’s claim after the Boston bombing that terrorism is not an existential threat, merely “an irritant”. How to deal with Islamic terror is another question, but recognising that it is a problem is a good first step. Taking ordinary people’s fears about it seriously is a good second step.
Well, then, Trump is a sexist! This coming from the Clinton camp is, like, um, really? Are there no mirrors where you live? Coming from conservatives it is even more baffling. In an interview published in The Sunday Times on July 3, Trump’s daughter, Ivanka, described her father as having lived feminism: “He always told me and showed me that I could do anything I set my mind to if I married vision and passion with work ethic. He’s also surrounded me with strong female role models who have done just that since I was a little girl. People talk about gender equality. He has lived it. He has employed women at the highest levels of the Trump organisation for decades.”
Opposed to this is Trump’s admission that he finds attractive women attractive. Of course this is unspeakable bastardry in modern progressivism, but from conservatives it sounds more like desperation to find something, anything, on which to base their disapproval.
In addition, Trump makes the fatal error of actually treating women and men equally. In the world of gender equality, this is as big a blunder as finding women attractive. In business and political debate, Trump appears not to notice the gender of a competitor. For example, he noted that Carly Fiorina was so unattractive it was unlikely anyone would vote for her. In fact, pretty much no one did. If he had said this about Ted Cruz or John Kasich no one would have batted a butt hair, let alone an eyelid. But just as equality in race means treating people differently on the basis of their race, so gender equality means treating people differently on the basis of their gender. You mustn’t say mean things about women!
Unless of course, you are a progressive, and a woman has said something that is outside the progressive agenda. Then all the rules cease immediately. So, for example, when Australian media personality Sonia Kruger suggested a temporary ban on muslim immigration, she got this (and hundreds of others) from compassionate inclusive Twitter persons: “You useless f%#king c&^t. The reason you spew this sh#t is cause your mouth is always full of c*%k.” Or this from a person deeply concerned about the impact of racism, to Rita Panahi, an Iranian born Australian, after she defended Sonia: “Ohh right curry muncher … say racist things about every person in a religion then say pay a visious price the things that mole said was visious but you won’t say that will you curry muncher.” Melania Trump has been described by a supporter of open borders as “a stupid bitch with a dumb accent.” A desire to welcome immigrants and ensure they are treated fairly is demonstrated here by insulting a successful immigrant woman who speaks four languages for her “dumb accent.”
Having exhausted all of the above, #nevertrump will eventually come out with the claim that Trump is stupid and cannot string a coherent sentence together. One has to step back in wonder at this argument. An unintelligent person who is not able to communicate built up an initial investment of $1 million into a multi-billion dollar real-estate and entertainment business. Nope. Just nope. Trump is an entertainer himself. He communicates his vision clearly and effectively, and without the aid of a teleprompter. Watching his question and answer sessions at rallies you see a man who listens intently, conveys his interest to the questioner, and responds, generally, with a thoughtful and straightforward reply. Generally? Yes. Trump sometimes trips over his words. He sometimes responds or comments in ways that might have been more delicately put, or required more time and detail to explain. It is very easy to put together a video of such moments and portray him as a mindless bumbler. But doing so says little about Trump, and a great deal about the agenda of the video maker. One of the qualities ordinary people like in Trump is that he is not rehearsed. He does not give the impression of saying what he thinks will win approval. He doesn’t need to.
Finally, “He’s not a conservative!” Yes, he is. There is not a single Trump policy position that does not fit under the very wide umbrella of freedom-loving, free-market conservatism. It is certainly possible to disagree about some aspect of social policy, or trade, for example. But any position taken in these discussions is a long way from large government socialism. At best, #nevertrump can claim that Trump’s opinions now are not what they were twenty years ago. No intelligent person’s opinions are what they were twenty years ago. Values clarify as one gets older. Practical experience and knowledge of the world is gained. The world changes, problems and issues change, and ways of dealing with them change. There would be much more reason for concern if Trump’s opinions had not changed with changing times.
I wrote six months ago that the only way the Republican Party could lose the election would be to nominate Trump. He was not my preferred candidate. But he received more votes in the Primaries than any other Republican candidate ever. Men and women who have never voted before turned out to vote for Trump. A recent survey of bellwether counties in a bellwether state (Florida) showed Trump leading in every one. Some of team #nevertrump claim it is not a binary contest between Trump and Clinton Mk II. There are, they say, other options. Maybe in some parallel universe, but here in the real world the next president of the United States will either be Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
At this point, continuing to undermine Trump and the Republican campaign is lobbying for Clinton.
Peter Wales is a former Anglican clergyman who now runs an IT consultancy business on Kangaroo Island in South Australia