David Frum — a neoconservative and former speechwriter for President George W. Bush — has drawn a line in the sand for conservatives who oppose Donald Trump: The only effective way to oppose Trump is to cast a vote for Hillary Clinton.
“One of only two people on earth will win the American presidency on November 8,” he writes in the Atlantic. “Hillary Clinton is one of those two possibilities. Donald Trump is the only other.” And Trump is such a threat to American democracy and the Constitution, Frum argues, that he has already voted for Clinton. Now he is calling on other conservatives to do the same.
“I am voting not to advance my wish-list on taxes, entitlements, regulation, and judicial appointments,” Frum writes. “I am voting to defend Americans' profoundest shared commitment: a commitment to norms and rules that today protect my rights under a president I don’t favor, and that will tomorrow do the same service for you.”
He enumerates what he sees as Clinton’s greatest faults: She is a “suspicious and vindictive personality,” she “sold access” through the Clinton Foundation, she “will want to spend and regulate” more than Obama. But here is the heart of his case for Clinton:
But she is a patriot. She will uphold the sovereignty and independence of the United States. She will defend allies. She will execute the laws with reasonable impartiality. She may bend some rules for her own and her supporters’ advantage. She will not outright defy legality altogether. Above all, she can govern herself; the first indispensable qualification for governing others.
Why David Frum’s case against Trump matters
Frum is not going to change the minds of many conservative true believers. He’s been a critic of the Republican Party since he was forced out of the American Enterprise Institute for deviating from the party line on Obamacare. Still, his statement is notable for two reasons.
First, Frum is one of the rare conservatives opposed to Trump who is willing to endorse (however tepidly) Hillary Clinton. Other Trump opponents within the Republican Party have come up with clever ways around this — John Kasich is writing in John McCain, Jeb Bush and Sen. Susan Collins are somehow choosing “none of the above,” Sen. Ben Sasse is writing in Mike Pence — but the best way to stop Trump is not only to vote for Clinton but to convince others to do so as well. The time to choose for Never Trump Republicans is here, and Frum has made his choice.
Second, Frum’s argument is a window into what conservatives find most odious about Trump. Frum basically agrees with Trump on immigration. He argues that immigration hurts American-born workers and that immigration levels should be reduced. He had no problem with Trump’s immigration speech in Arizona, a speech featuring rhetoric and campaign promises liberals widely saw as terrifying. Trump’s descriptions of Mexicans as rapists and criminals is absent from Frum’s list of Trump’s sins, as is the word “racism.”
Frum’s problems with Trump are about how he would use and abuse his power.
He cites Trump’s incitement of violence at his rallies, his threat to use libel and antitrust laws against his opponents, his admiration of strongmen and dictators. He criticizes his business practices, including stiffing contractors and laborers; his tax avoidance; his refusal to disclose his tax returns; and his ties to the Bank of China.
And Frum is repulsed by Trump’s cruelty, describing him as a man “who boasts of his delight in sexual assault … who mocks the disabled, who denounces immigrant parents whose son laid down his life for this country, who endorses religious bigotry, and who denies the Americanism of everyone from the judge hearing the fraud case against Trump University to the 44th president of the United States.”
“To vote for Trump as a protest against Clinton’s faults,” he concludes, “would be like amputating a leg because of a sliver in the toe; cutting one’s throat to lower one’s blood pressure.”