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Trump is Reprehensible: Does That Create a Moral Duty to Vote for His Opponent?

Among the regular guests on the “Boston Public Radio” program (WGBH in Boston, which styles itself as — wait for it — “Boston’s Public Radio”) is Juliette Kayyem, a security consultant and commentator, lecturer at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government, and former Assistant Secretary in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  During the conversation with her on 7 Aug, 2019, on the general subject of the environment of white supremacy, she averred that, at this point, nearly three years into Donald Trump’s presidency, a vote for Trump in the next election is, by definition, a vote for “a vision of America that is destructive”.

I completely agree with her assessment.  But the implication hung on that assessment– and on many other equivalent assessments in many other discussions of Trump in the context of the upcoming Presidential election — was that there is, as a result, only one moral choice when the time comes for that election: to vote for whoever the Democrats nominate in order to rid ourselves of the pestilence of a continued Trump presidency.

Alas, I am not quite ready to go there.  As horrible as Trump is, I can imagine worse; and there are a great many other people out there who, though their views of Trump may range from discomfort to downright loathing, have imaginations that are, if anything, more fecund than my own.

I sent the following by e-mail both to Juliette Kayyem and to Jim Braude, who was leading the conversation with her.  Neither responded.

7 August 2019

I caught your conversation with Jim Braude this morning on BPR.  Of the many things said in the conversation, one stood out for me in particular: the assertion that a vote for Trump this time around would necessarily be a vote for a certain (ugly) vision of America — and, by implication, that there is, therefore, no moral alternative but to vote for his opponent (meaning the eventual Democratic nominee, who might actually beat him, not some third-party loser).

To be clear:

I loathe Trump.  I didn’t vote for him last time; I would never vote for him this time; the very fact that the Republican party took him at all seriously as a candidate, never mind actually nominated him as their standard-bearer, was beyond disheartening; and the fact that they have pretty much capitulated their agenda to his is a source of despair.

Further, although I self-identify as a ‘conservative’, my disgust with what that term has come to mean in modern political discussion pre-dates Trump by more than a decade — in fact, I spent that decade writing a book, “American Conservative: Reclaiming Conservatism From the Right” (published just before Trump was nominated), lamenting the demise of American ‘conservatism’  and offering an alternate vision of what it should and could be.

There is pretty much nothing about Trump or his policies that I would care to defend.  And, given the disgrace with which the Republican party has covered itself, I find myself depending on the Democratic party to give me a plausible alternative.

But….

To use an analogy that is, admittedly, intentionally, and consciously  way over-the-top in order to make the point utterly unmissable:

Yes, Trump is Hitler.  But, if the choice you offer me is to get rid of Hitler by embracing Stalin, can I be blamed for, instead, wishing that a pox descend upon your house as well as his?

That is the fear out there: that the Democrats will manage to nominate someone just as effective as Trump — in, of course, a completely different, yet equally divisive and authoritarian mannerat destroying everything good about America.

© Copyright 2019, Augustus P. Lowell

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