As the media (erroneously) try to give the Cruz/Carly ticket its last rites, it may be worth examining what those twin horrors – a Trump or Clinton Presidency – might look like.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump overlap on many policy positions; Trump has waffled on abortion, said he backs government-run healthcare, and expressed his support for touchback amnesty. However, for the sake of argument, assume that he is to the right of Hillary on at least a few important issues. As Dennis Prager is fond of remarking on his radio show, should conservatives bet that Trump will do less damage to the country than the known disaster that will be President Hillary?
A key missing piece in this analysis of Trump as the lesser evil, however, is the opposition factor: how will the rest of the Republican Party react to policies advanced by a Clinton versus a Trump administration? If the last three decades have proven anything, it’s that Republicans in Congress are unlikely to stand up to liberal policies pushed by anyone with an (R) after his name in the White House.
Under both George Bush, Sr. and George W. Bush, Newt Gingrich’s once-revolutionary Republican Congress gave its stamp of approval to big-government programs like No Child Left Behind and Medicare Part D, allowing the deficit to continue growing. That same Republican Congress was poised to pass comprehensive amnesty in 2006 on direction from the White House, stymied only by the popular revolt against it that preceded similar Tea Party demonstrations three years later.
Conservatives can rest assured that Hillary Clinton’s picks for the Supreme Court will be opposed by Republican members of the Senate, forcing her to pick centrists. After President Trump’s initial conservative picks are rejected by Senate Democrats, can those same Republican Senators be counted on to filibuster his inevitable liberal nominees?
In California, conservatives have already seen this dynamic play out. Shamefully shunting aside the state’s rock-ribbed conservative Tom McClintock (in an election with eerily similar dynamics to today’s Trump-Cruz contest, right down to Sean Hannity’s betrayal), California Republicans bet on a celebrity who said some conservative-sounding things during the primary, but had known liberal leanings on many issues. Arnold Schwarzenegger gave several decent conservative reforms a shot in the first two years of his governorship, but when he realized that passing conservative policy in the state was going to be a tough political battle, he shifted to the parts of his agenda that were easier to pass through the Democrat-laden legislature, where he was able to mute most of the opposition within his own Republican ranks.
What did California conservatives get out of Schwarzenegger’s tenure at the helm? Cap and Trade and raised fees that a Democratic governor could never have passed over Republican opposition.
Both Trump and Clinton would be disasters for conservatism and for our constitutional republic. But with a Clinton administration, conservatives can at least rely on the partisan opposition of the Republican Party, and the systemic checks the Founders wisely placed in the system to slow down her “fundamental transformation[s].” Relying on the Republican Party to actively oppose the liberal and disastrous policies of a Republican President is a worse bet. Between the terrible options presented by the possibility of a Trump-Hillary race, conservatives should sit this one out or vote third party.