Donald Trump isn’t a conservative. He doesn’t have a strong belief in limited government, individual rights, or the free market. Quite the contrary, in some respects, and this is well established and beyond reasonable argument.
So how could a conservative like me ever vote for him?
Simple. By not voting for him.
Trump said last week that Senator Jeff Sessions is “certainly someone I would consider” for vice president, and that the Alabamian was a “fantastic person” and is “absolutely” on his short list of prospective running mates.
For his part, Sessions said that he “would have no objection to serving in a Trump administration … because I think it could be a historically positive administration.”
This is music to my otherwise Trump-tortured ears.
Sessions is everything Trump isn’t: someone who understands and believes conservative principles. Sessions has faithfully defended conservatism against attack and has tirelessly advocated for its advancement. He’s humble yet bold, courteous yet steadfast, and he’s selfless, wise, and honest to the core. He’s not only the most decent politician I know, he’s one of the most decent men I know, period.
But it’s true that when Sessions introduced Trump at a massive stadium rally in my boyhood home of Mobile earlier this year, I felt nervous about his association with a man who didn’t appear to understand conservatism at all. And when Sessions later endorsed Trump at another stadium rally near my home in Huntsville, I felt heartsick about his embrace of someone who I then fully realized actually opposed many of conservatism’s tenets.
After a little grumbling, I gave Sessions a pass on the endorsement. He’s earned a mistake or two. Besides, after years of politely dealing with the establishment – who betrayed his loyalty by denying him chairmanship of the Senate’s budget committee – perhaps Sessions sees the erratic wildfire of Trumpism as necessary to prune the impenetrable bureaucratic forest that has grown up around our nation’s capital.
Trump should not only pick Sessions, but pledge to heed his advice, as well. He has been fighting those guys for years trying to get illegal immigration under control, attempting to confirm conservative judges and restrain liberal courts, strengthen our national security, limit government overreach, and protect our individual rights.
He’s the best we conservatives have in the Senate, and he’d be the nearest our movement has gotten to the Oval Office in decades. So, if I ever see “Jeff Sessions” on a ballot – even if it’s listed beside “He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named” – I’ll vote for him, and so would many of my fellow movement conservatives who currently oppose Trump.
A friend recently said that Sessions is one of the few politicians who has remained the same man today as when he entered politics years ago. Very true, and we can, with utmost certainty, trust that Sessions will be the same man in the White House that he is today in the Senate.
Having a running mate like Sessions isn’t only great for policy, it’s a good political choice. Here’s why: conventional wisdom based on past elections has many pundits thinking Trump should shore up swing-state support with a pick from Florida or Ohio, but that’s not where Trump is weak.
Trump’s weakness is with conservatives like me. We’ve always voted, and we usually bring several of our family and friends to the candidate, as well. This time, however, we’re dismayed with our party’s nominee, and while I might – might – be talked into voting for Trump based on a lesser-of-two-evils calculation, I’d do it without my usual energy or advocacy. And frankly, I might just skip the polling station altogether that day if other things come up. Point is, if I have to be dragged to the polling place, lots like me won’t turn out for someone they can’t stand, let alone promote to others.
That’s what happened to Mitt Romney in 2012. He won independents, but many from the small sliver of movement conservatives stayed home. It was a thin margin, but it probably cost him the election, and cost America another four years of rampant unconstitutional liberalism.
If Trump doesn’t choose to be wise with his pick, then the same could happen this year.
Unfortunately, there aren’t many hopeful signs that he will be.