Better the Devil You Don’t Know
April 13, 2016
This column by ACRU Policy Board member Kenneth Blackwell was published April 12, 2016 by The Washington Times.
This election season hasn’t been kind to traditional Republicans. Of nearly 20 GOP presidential candidates who started out, just three remain. All of them at times seem determined to drive away rather than attract Republican voters.
As a result, it’s common to hear even GOP stalwarts say they won’t support candidate A or B if he is the nominee. Ted Cruz is too extreme, Donald Trump can’t be trusted, and John Kasich is too squishy.
Some, perhaps even most, of the criticisms may be true. But that doesn’t matter.
Unfortunately, Americans can’t choose “none of the above.” Refusing to back the Republican Party nominee doesn’t mean no one wins. It doesn’t mean a libertarian wins. It doesn’t mean some obscure independent constitutional conservative wins. It means the Democratic nominee — either left-wing Hillary Clinton or socialist Bernie Sanders — wins.
That would be a disaster.
This is not a partisan issue. Many Democrats once worried about wasteful spending, social engineering and international security. At the same time, plenty of Republican politicians have fallen short on all of these issues.
However, in this election the two Democratic candidates represent awful and worse. After all, Hillary Clinton implemented President Obama’s foreign policy. She was the architect of her husband’s attempted takeover of America’s health care system. In the Senate, she voted for every budget-busting program. After chatting up Wall Street for big bucks, she claims to be “fighting for us.”
The best one can say about Bernie Sanders is that he has no interest in foreign policy, so maybe he’ll just stay with Mr. Obama’s disastrous course. This self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” complains that Obamacare wasn’t radical enough. And he wants government to provide most everything, like education, for “free.” But don’t worry, he says he’ll raise taxes to pay for all the new federal goodies.
There are other important issues. For instance, ponder the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of the irreplaceable Antonin Scalia. Mr. Obama surprised many of us by nominating someone who, while not a centrist, especially if you believe in liberty and gun rights, isn’t a radical, either. But if either Mrs. Clinton or Mr. Sanders wins, expect a new and far more dangerous nominee.
None of the three remaining GOP candidates is nearly as bad by any standard. Say your worst about them. None of them is ideologically committed to an ever-expanding state. None of them is determined to constantly increase government power. None of them is oblivious to foreign challenges. None of them would turn the Supreme Court over to the hard left.
At stake is not just the presidency. Congress also is at risk. Of course, in theory, Republicans could go to the polls and simply skip the top line. But that’s not how it normally works. A lot of folks convinced that it isn’t worth supporting a presidential candidate simply won’t show up.
Moreover, the presidential campaign helps drive the entire election. If party activists abandon the top nominee, so will other candidates, who fear for their own success. There already is talk within the GOP leadership about writing off the presidential race. With the convention months away, congressional candidates have suggested separating themselves from the top of the ticket. Widespread party dissatisfaction would intensify these trends. And that would set up an electoral tsunami for Democrats — extremely left-wing Democrats from the national through the local levels.
Anyone concerned about America who is tempted to stay home because they don’t like the eventual GOP nominee should ask: What will happen to the country if next January we end up with President Clinton or Sanders, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi? Anyone who cares about America should shudder at that trifecta possibility.
Who will end up on the Supreme Court? What will happen with federal spending? What will the military look like? What will Washington do to education across America? What kind of regulations will flow out of the nation’s capital? How will Uncle Sam seek to undermine state and local governments still controlled by Republicans?
Every election is said to be more important than the last. Every contest is said to be a dramatic turning point with the country’s long-term future at stake.
This time it’s true, and the famous old Irish proverb “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t” no longer makes sense.