For forms of government let fools contest;
Whate’er is best administer’d is best
-Alexander Pope: Essay on Man
Two Concepts of Voting
Americans generally have a romantic conception of politics. It’s either politics becomes an extension/expression of one’s moral character or you don’t go into it at all. Let’s call this the romantic view of voting. On the romantic view, voting is an expression of one’s own values or moral character. You are essentially extending your endorsement/approval of the candidate as a whole. It’s almost like a creation of a mystical political communion with the candidate in question, whereby you are “united” and joined to his character, his ideas, his principles, etc. So not only does the candidate in question need to behave well or at least in socially respectable ways, he also has to profess the right principles for a vote for him is also an endorsement of his principles. A political candidate is a “representative” and he is an extension of one’s personal moral character or political principles.
In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I am a Singaporean and in Singapore voting is compulsory, you have no choice but to choose from whatever is given to you. Furthermore in any sufficiently complex civil polity it is impossible to agree with every action done or every principle or policy espoused by the candidates available. Thus you have to sometimes accept differences of opinion and disagreements with the particular actions of the candidate in question.
When you are forced to vote, or when it is impossible for one to ever find the perfect political candidate, one will inevitably learn to compromise and choose a candidate based on a very different set of criteria from an attempt to enact some mystico-political communion with the candidate. One votes on the basis of which candidate in question can best effect one’s ends or desires. His professed principles or character is irrelevant, you are voting for someone to do a job or perform a function, not marrying him. The only question is which candidate has the highest chance of getting it done or realising that purpose. A person’s character or professed principle at most gives one probable evidence of the chance that he would be able to realise some end, but that’s just about all that contributes. Let’s call this conception of voting the pragmatic view of voting. Voting is a means to effect a certain end, one chooses the candidate which has the highest probability for effecting the maximum of one’s goals (although obviously not all of it for reasons already stated.)
In this post I shall be assuming the “pragmatic” view of voting and based on that, make the conservative case for voting for Trump. However, the pragmatic vote will require some clarification. It might be objected that even if we go with the pragmatic vote that is no reason to vote for Trump because we cannot know what he will really do given the fact that he is so unpredictable, constantly flip-flopping, making wild and inconsistent statements, etc.
I grant that all that is true but that is why I emphasised the point of the highest probability of attaining one’s objectives. In the common law while the standard for a criminal conviction is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, the standard for a civil case is merely the stronger evidence on the balance of probabilities. Thus, it is not necessary for me to proof convincingly that Trump will do what he says “beyond a reasonable doubt”, in civil affairs it is only necessary for me to prove that the probability that Trump will realise conservative goals is higher than the probability that his opponent will effect them. A lot of my arguments will essentially be of this form, that the probability of Trump acting in aid of a goal is higher than the probability of Hilary acting for that goal (if not a negative probability of going the other way).
But before I can make my arguments that I will need to state conservative policy goals first.
Conservative Policy Objectives
So what does an American Conservative desire? What are their policy objectives? Let’s divide this into three areas: Foreign Affairs, Economics and Domestic.
If you are a conservative, and not a neo-conservative, then you would tend to lean towards a more libertarian view of America’s foreign entanglements, it could range from Jefferson’s “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none” to something like a Monroe Doctrine, where the US will only intervene when others attempt to intervene in affairs within its own “sphere of influence” (e.g. the Americas), all the while taking no stance or position on conflicts outside of that. In other words, those are none of America’s business.
So generally you would desire less intervention in Eastern European or Middle Eastern conflicts, less attempting to overthrow the governments of dictators or reorganise the politics of those areas, etc, less involvement with NATO, etc. You would also desire less involvement of the US in the political affairs of the Far East, maybe even not wanting to defend Japan or Taiwan or the Philippines, etc.
In this case you would definitely want to elect Trump over Hilary on this. Trump says wild, vague and inconsistent machoing things about the ISIS and invading them to drive them out, etc. In this he is not much different from Hilary. However on every other point, while Trump merely has occasionally made sporadic vague macho statements (a necessary diversionary strategy), Hilary has consistently, practically, and actually supported a neo-conservative foreign policy and extensive American intervention in all those areas. In fact, on balance, Trump’s statements about a much less interventionalist America is something he has consistently espoused over his life, long before he sought office, and during his presidential candidacy it is a consistent theme in his policy statements and arguments not withstanding the macho outbursts now and then.
So on the balance of probabilities, if you want a scaled down involvement of the US in foreign affairs, the probability of a Trump starting WWIII is a lot lower than the hawkish Hilary’s chance of starting WWIII.
As far as economics is concerned, Trump is certainly not a libertarian or a true free market believer. However if you’re an ordinary conservative, and not a true blue libertarian who wants to abolish social security, income tax, etc, then what you would normally desire is at the very least, a check upon the powers of crony capitalism, e.g. bailing out Wall Street, banks, buttressing corporate power, etc, that the free market might have more room to breathe.
Without doubt again the balance of probabilities does favour Trump over Hilary. Trump has made the RNC officially support laws imposing financial regulations and breaking up the big banks. Whatever our position on international free trade, conservatives certainly do not want trade deals which protect multinational corporate power, which the TPP seemingly does. Furthermore free trade is only possible if the other side are not using financial instruments or tariffs to undercut trade from the US, which they are in the case of China and Japan. In such a case one will require retaliatory economic action against them.
Is this satisfactory for the conservative? Many conservative will like to see a massive scaling down of a lot of government organisations and programs, etc. However again the balance of probability question is, who do you think is much more likely to make that happen? Trump or Hilary?
Furthermore there is the point to consider that Trump is not a career politician. Despite this being a rhetorical point of his I do believe that there are merits to it. It is a strange and curious thing that nobody really asks what is Trump’s personal motivation for joining politics since he does possess almost every other worldly goods. Whatever it is, we can be sure that giving in to corporate or special interests would not be a necessity of his given the fact that he isn’t beholden to the party interest, compared at least to Hilary.
Trump may do nothing to change the status quo, but Hilary will definitely make it worse from a conservative point of view.
The conservative has four main issues of concern here: Abortion, the appointment of the Supreme Court judges, religious liberty, and political correctness.
On the last point, there is no possible universe where Trump would realise SJW goals more than Hilary even if he occasionally made friendly noises towards it. On immigration again there is simply no contest between Hilary and Trump, Trump definitely trumps.
On the issue of abortion, Trump has actually thought of an a lot more hard line view of abortion, initially suggesting that it should be a penal offence, more than any other republican candidate. Whatever his support of select parts of Planned Parenthood or abortion exceptions, the point is that the probability of Trump reducing abortion is a lot higher than Hilary. After all the RNC has adopted the most pro-life platform ever.
As far as the appointment of Supreme Court Judges go, this is a highly critical point for Supreme Court judges are for life and irrevocable (an utterly idiotic system in my opinion but we have to work with what we have). Trump has already announced his list of candidates for the SCOTUS seat and it seems sound. There is a possibility that Trump may not appoint any of them and appoint a flaming liberal. What is a mere possibility for Trump however is a high probability for Hilary. Again there is no contest here on the balance of probabilities.
Finally on religious liberty, Trump has indicated that he would abolish the Johnson Amendment which prevents churches from engaging in political activism. There is no doubt that the probability of Trump expanding religious liberty is higher than that of Hilary, even if he is not that much enthused on the issue.
If we are going by the balance of probabilities argument, as to which candidate will has the higher probability for effecting the maximum of conservative goals, that candidate is no doubt Trump.
However the problem is that Americans are innately romantic. They need a candidate they can give their whole heart and soul to. The only problem is that such a dream candidate may not have any realistic prospect of entering politics anytime soon.