For many reasons, I don’t vote. First, there’s a better chance that I could die in a crash on my way to the polling location than my vote affecting the outcome of the election. Secondly, I do not want to signal consent to a nonconsensual institution. Lastly, it’s morally dubious to impose policy preferences on others, even if my policy preferences happen to be non-policy.
However, I registered as a Republican over a year ago in the event that Rand Paul needed help from the nation’s capital. The case now is such that I believe in earnest that I should vote against Donald Trump defensively. However, there’s much to consider here as it’s unclear to me what a Trump presidency would mean in terms of individual liberty in both the long and short term compared to alternative mainstream candidates.
The prospects of a Trump presidency gives me notions of a reverse revolution of sorts, where Americans get what they’ve asked for so thoroughly that they’re brought to their knees in despair and forced to reflect intelligently on politics. History seems to suggest intense short term pain, but there could perhaps be important long term reforms if Trump were to give it to us good and hard. Alternatively, we could simply continue down the Road to Serfdom, the theory to which I’m most partial.
Needless to say, I am very scared of Donald Trump. Other candidates offer illiberal policy reforms, whereas Trump threatens to undermine the rule of law. Trump’s capacity to subvert the rule of law lies in his ability to convince the bureaucracy to carry out his will, even if he were to ignore constitutionally enumerated powers. As is the case with politics broadly, power only exists insofar as others believe in the legitimacy of the ruling class. If the bureaucracy, military, and the People believe in Trump’s authority, we are in for bad times. My suspicion is that most people are so docile that this would be the case.
The saving grace could perhaps be that Trump’s naked usurpations could defy public opinion to the point that his credibility and thus power would whither. If this happened, Trump would be no more powerful than a southern blue law.
If we strip away Trump’s rhetoric, his policy proposals are not that far outside the mainstream. Other candidates on both sides support immigration restrictions and oppose free trade. When it comes to the prospects for more war, Hillary Clinton and the remaining Republicans have records far worse than Donald Trump.
These savvy politicians know how to navigate the channels of power to get what they want better than Trump. While I’m very scared of Donald Trump, I’m also scared of these remaining candidates who are less lawless only by degree. Matt Yglesias and his friends on the left laud Hillary Clinton’s prospects for lawlessness. In this piece, he pines for a liberal with a “iron fist” and fawns over Clinton for her defiance of constitutional limits. It’s unclear to me whether Yglesias supports Clinton or Trump when he begs for a president who “cares more about results than process, who cares more about winning the battle than being well-liked, and a person who believes in asking what she can get away with rather than what would look best.”
Rubio and Cruz would obviously advance the Bush-era abuse of executive power. The difference between these two is that Rubio seems to be more susceptible to puppeteering. Is this good or bad? In the Bush administration, the likes of Cheney, Rumsfeld, John Yoo, et al. answer this readily.
So, it’s clear to me there is no meaningful way to cast a defensive vote. There is a reasonable case to be made that each candidate will subvert the rule of law in serious ways, and it’s unclear to me given the constraints of each candidate who would have the capacity to advance their agenda the most. I think it’s likely that they’ll all be able to enact their will to an intolerable point. I suppose it’s most likely I’ll stay home then.
The last thought I have is that a vote against Donald Trump is a vote against a certain domestic culture. The culture that Trump’s campaign represents is the most insidious variant of Americanism. As politics is merely the reflection of a culture, it may still be worth it to consider voting Not Trump.
It’s a serious moral dilemma I face. I honestly believe that voting is immoral. I’m willing to commit an immoral act if there’s a serious case to be made that there is a mainstream presidential candidate who doesn’t also fall prey to the same case against Trump.