Play with the cards you are dealt, or fold and go home
By John D. Turner
15 Mar 2016

I heard an interesting interchange last week on the Dennis Prager show. Dennis had Ben Shapiro on as a guest. The topic of discussion was whether or not Conservatives should vote for Donald Trump if he wins the Republican nomination for President. Dennis’s position was “yes you should;” Ben’s was “absolutely not.”

Ben was adamant. There is absolutely no way he will ever vote for Donald Trump, no way, no how. He gave a list of reasons why not, beginning with the fact that Donald Trump is no conservative; he stands against pretty much every conservative principle that Ben stands for; small government, free markets, religious freedom, and personal responsibility to name a few.

He doesn’t like the stances Trump has taken in the past. He doesn’t like his belligerent tone. He doesn’t like a lot of the people following Trump. About the only good thing he had to say about Donald Trump, and the only point of agreement he and Dennis could come to in the time I had to listen was that Trump is not Adolph Hitler, and he is not Joseph Stalin. If that is not damning with faint praise I don’t know what is.

Now I like Ben Shapiro. I usually find myself in agreement with him. This time however I think he is dead wrong.

I do agree with fighting against Trump. This is why we have primaries. Do whatever you can to get the person you like elected, fight Trump every step of the way. But if he gets the nomination then is it time to pick up your marbles and go home? You are standing on principle, you say? Tell me; what country do you live in? Are you planning to leave and go elsewhere?

That worked out so well the last time, didn’t it? How many conservatives “stood on principle” last election and stayed home because Romney wasn’t “conservative enough?” How many evangelicals “stood on principle” last election and stayed home because Romney was Mormon? How many Republicans “stood on principle” and stayed home last time because Romney wasn’t they guy they wanted?

So what did we get for all that “principle?” Four more years of Barack Hussain Obama. That’s been great for the nation, hasn’t it? Obamacare firmly entrenched in the fabric of our nation and likely to stay that way. $19 trillion in debt and still growing. That smaller government that Ben wants? Not happening, is it? Gay marriage now the law of the land. A “treaty” with Iran that allows them to get nuclear weapons and even pays for it by unfreezing their assets and an arms race in the Middle East. Harassment of conservatives by executive branch agencies such as the IRS. Destruction of our energy infrastructure in the form of Obama mandated regulations by the EPA designed to shutter coal-fired plants, destroy the oil industry, and ensure a lower standard of living for all Americans in the future. And a nation more divided than it has been since the 1960s.

Since the last election, President Obama has appointed, and the Senate has confirmed 25 judges to the US Courts of Appeals. Another five are awaiting confirmation. He has appointed another 122 district court judges, with an additional 28 awaiting Senate confirmation. He has appointed two judges to the US Court of International Trade (four more awaiting confirmation), seven to the US Tax Court (2 awaiting confirmation), three to the US Court of Federal Claims (5 awaiting confirmation), and 1 to the US Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces. Most of these judges serve for life and will be there long after President Obama leaves office. Not sure who Romney’s picks would have been, but I expect they would have been a bit more conservative.

Oh yes, and we mustn’t forget – he also gets to nominate a replacement for Justice Scalia who died recently. This is probably the most significant nomination of his entire presidency because it is one that will shape the court for decades to come. Which do you think would nominate a more conservative justice – Obama or Romney?

Where was the victory for conservatism?

Yes, principles are important, and they do have to inform our decisions or else we are nothing more than an ethical windsock blowing in the breeze. However, the problem is that we don’t live in an isolated state where we get to practice our principles and the rest of the country can do as it pleases. Elections do have consequences. Ben Shapiro and his ilk can sit at home and sulk all they like; doesn’t bother the Democrats one whit if at the end of the day the result is Democratic victory.

Because elections have consequences, Ben and the rest of us will have to live in a nation shaped by laws, rules, and regulations put into place by those who most certainly are diametrically opposed to the principles he stayed home to “protect.” While Ben and his ilk are waiting for that perfect candidate to vote for, the rest of us will continue to sink deeper into the morass. Trump might not be a great candidate – heck, he may not even be an adequate candidate, but he is most certainly the “best” candidate when put up against either Hillary or Bernie, at least from a conservative perspective.

Yes, candidates of this ilk may be taking us down the same path, albeit at a slower pace. However that slower pace gives us more time to eventually turn the ship than the hell-bent, breakneck pace that the Democrats are pursuing. We run the risk there of waking up one morning and discovering that we are now living in a socialist dictatorship with no options short of leaving or dying.

And what kind of precedent does this set? If sitting out this election for one’s principles is ok for Ben, then it’s ok for others too, right? If his perfect candidate ever does show up, no doubt others with slightly different “principles” will take Ben’s place on the couch, ensuring electoral defeat once again. One person’s “principled candidate” is another’s “RINO.” Someone please tell me exactly what a “real” Republican is anyway? Or a “real” conservative?

I do agree with Ben on a number of things. Trump is certainly not a conservative. And, quite frankly, I really don’t know where he stands on most of the issues – they seem to change at a whim. He has supported a lot of things I don’t like. He makes statements I find deeply disturbing. I don’t like some of his supporters. He is extremely narcissistic, perhaps even more so than Barack Obama, if that is possible. In fact, in many respects, as I have written before, he seems to me to be the Republican version of Barack Obama. Not a good thing.

When all is said and done, there is no guarantee that Trump will win anyway. I find the current lack of media scrutiny disquieting. Does it presage an “October surprise?” There are quite a few hints around that it does, that the media has quite a bit of anti-Trump ammunition they are just waiting to unload at the right moment to ensure a Hillary Clinton presidency. Of course, that is assuming any Trump voters care what the media has to say. So far they haven’t cared about what any of the other candidates or anyone else has had to say that’s negative concerning Trump. They are just "mad as hell and not going to take it anymore." They want change.

So what do we get if we “stand on principle” and stay home? Hillary Clinton? Bernie Sanders? For four or even eight years? Will the country even be recognizable when we are done? And how long can we pass on elections, waiting for the next Ronald Reagan (who probably would not have been elected had he not been running against Jimmy Carter in any event) to come along?

Hillary is already saying that she will be nominating the next Supreme Court justice to take the place of Justice Scalia. Her, not Obama. I know that the Republicans have said there will not be any hearings on an Obama nominee, but who believes them? Is there a deal between Hillary and Barack? Who would Hillary choose? Certainly not a conservative! Might a President Hillary, with long enough coat tails to drag along the Senate, nominate Barack Obama, Constitutional Scholar and former President to the highest court in the land? After he pardons her, before he leaves office, for all the “indiscretions” she committed while Secretary of State?

Ben Shapiro says it really doesn’t matter if Hillary gets to pick the next justice. Let her pick all of them! He says that the Supreme Court can rule as it likes; the States and the Federal government are under no obligation to follow the court’s rulings. Indeed. So when was the last time in recent memory that you recall the Federal government or individual states saying “no” to a Supreme Court decree? Let’s take what has to be one of the most divisive decisions made in recent memory; Roe v Wade. Which state told the Supreme Court to shove it sideways and went their own way on that one?

Ignoring the Supreme Court; is that really what we want to happen in the United States of America, a nation that is supposed to be a nation founded on the rule of law?

Ben says “if we are going to save the country, it will not rest on one or two justices on the Supreme Court. It will rest on the will of the people to resist tyranny. That will start at the state and local level. It will start with the people.”

Ben sounds a lot like a revolutionary. Is that what we want? Blood in the streets? “We had to destroy the country in order to save it”? Better to resist tyranny at the ballot box I think.

He is right in one respect. It does start with the people. That is why we have elections. If you decide to stay at home and not make a decision between the two people running, you have made a decision. As have the people who voted. Your decision was to opt out. "Well, at least I didn't sully my principles," you can say as the nation goes to hell in a handbasket. You then may have another choice to make; live here under the laws made by the people who voted the current government in, or leave and go to some other country. Elections have consequences. “Standing on principle” has consequences as well.

Being part of a political party means supporting that party. Ronald Reagan knew that and said as much more than once. If you are not going to support the party nominee, then you don’t belong in the party. Leave. Go somewhere else.

The Republican Party is not the Conservative Party. Perhaps that is part of the problem. There is a perception among some Republicans that the Republican Party is the Conservative Party. In fact, many outside the Republican Party have that perception as well. Maybe that is why conservatives such as Ben Shapiro find the Trump phenomena so dismaying. However it is a fact that in the United States today, there is no Conservative Party. Perhaps there should be. Of course, for it to mean anything at all it would have to be able to compete in a general election and no third party to date has been able to do that.

The Republican Party was born of the ashes of the Whig Party. Will a true Conservative Party be born from the ashes of the Republican Party? Or is it possible to have three “real”, viable political parties in the system we currently have?

I don’t know the answer to that. I do know that at least for this election, we have two major parties, Republican and Democrat. I also know that if Republicans do not unite behind whomever the eventual Republican candidate is, Trump or whomever, they will lose this election as they have lost the last two, whether the Democratic candidate is Hillary, Bernie, or a yellow dog.

We, our children, and our grandchildren will have to live in the country as it exists after the next election. We no longer have the luxury of “standing on principle” and opting out of the process. We have to work with what we have. If what we have is Trump, then we need to make sure we retain the House and Senate, keep on our elected officials to keep him in line with constitutional principles and doing at least mostly what we would like to see him do, and not just rubber stamp everything he wants simply because “he’s our guy”. We can’t afford that thinking any longer either. What’s more, we can’t afford to just think about and communicate with our elected officials only at election time, and run on auto pilot in between.

We can no longer afford to be “absentee landlords” when it comes to government. We must have principles, yes. But those principles must inform our actions; not be reasons for inaction. We cannot afford inaction. As Edmund Burke once said, “the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

You shuffle like mad and pray for the best of all possible outcomes, but in the end, you play the game with the cards you are dealt, not the cards you wish you had.