Today, when all hell has broken loose for the Republican Party, a lot of my friends on social media are asking why so many conservatives have announced that they are appalled by everything The Donald says and does but are still going to vote for him. I understand their confusion. On the other hand, I understand the Trump supporters (at least among the intelligent conservatives) and why they might vote the way they do.
I understand them because, if Donald Trump were a Democrat, I’d vote for him too.
I know most of us like to think that we Democrats would not produce such a horrific candidate. We’re too intelligent. We’re too enlightened. And while it is true that we are not going to support a xenophobic, racist, overtly misogynistic con man, we could well support a con man of another stripe. The Donald took over the Republican Party; he could have, by shifting his positions (positions which seem to have been never firmly fixed until recently), taken over the Democratic Party by energizing disaffected youth and others who feel shut out by the political system. Bernie Sanders did just that, albeit far more benignly. If it’s useful to remember that Trump only became a Republican a few years ago, it’s also useful to remember that Sanders became a Democrat only last year. (The threat of a demagogue hijacking our party is the best reason I can think of for closed primaries.)
Although I naively used to think that progressives were immune to openly nasty misogyny, the past year has shown me how wrong I was. The Bernie Bros spewed misogynist invective almost as nasty as anything the Republicans threw out. There were also plenty of tin-foil conspiracy theories floating around: namely that the fix was in, and that The Powers That Be in the party had decided in advance that Hillary would be the nominee. (How that was supposed to happen when the party did not control the election process is beyond me, and probably beyond any of them. The difference is that I care about actual truth, not the bizarro imaginings percolating in my divorced from reality brain.) (And no, I am not by any stretch of the imagination implying that ALL Sanders’ supporters were like that. A lot of calm, rational people were Bernie fans; then again, on the other side, there are some calm, rational Trump supporters, too.)
But as I said, if by some awful set of circumstances a Trumpian demagogue ended up the Democratic nominee, I would support him (or her).
I wouldn’t be voting for them, of course; I would be voting for whomever they placed in that empty Supreme Court Seat. I would be voting for whomever they nominate to fill the other couple of Supreme Court seats most likely to come open in the next four years. I would be voting for the ninety-eight judges (thirty-nine if you assume all pending nominations would finally be approved) they would place up and down the line in the federal judiciary.
I would be voting for whomever they named Secretary of State, and Treasury, and Attorney General. I would be hoping (perhaps unwisely) that someone like Trump isn’t really interested in running the country, just enjoying the trappings of the role, and that they would surround themselves with people who actually know what they are doing.
More importantly, I would be voting to prevent the other candidate’s nominees from taking office. Because while whomever my guy in that situation would nominate is a crapshoot, whomever the other side would nominate isn’t. As a progressive, would you really want a rabidly anti-choice, pro big-business éminence grise determining the shape of the courts for generations? Not to mention the other dangers (another war in the Middle East anyone?) that might befall the country during those four years.
What about the Interior? Would you want a Secretary willing to sell off Bureau of Land Management lands to ranchers out West, for far less than they’re worth? Would you want an EPA headed by an Administrator looking to relax standards on drinking water? Would you like an Antitrust Division in Justice that would look the other way when already huge companies merge to become behemoths? Or a Civil Rights Division completely gutted? You might shrug off a USDA that let food inspection lapse completely on the grounds that market incentives would be enough to force meat producers to police themselves — that is, until you ended up in the hospital in serious condition from an e. coli infection.
All of this underscores what Presidential elections are really about: shaping the government. And why it is so important that all of us vote.
That same scenario (albeit from the opposite angle) holds true for the other side. So yes, I understand why some of Trump’s supporters stand by him. I even have a little bit of sympathy for them.
Not a lot, though.