Tuesday, May 10, 2016

The Dangers of Being a Conservative Intellectual

Over the last week it has become clear that Donald Trump will gain the GOP nomination for the Presidency.   He is a candidate that I cannot vote for.  He won a very flawed nominating process where many in the media treated his vulgarity and lack of substance with kid gloves.  For many reasons the other candidates were not able to point those flaws out.  

The process designed by the RNC to winnow down the number of possible candidates was fatally flawed and Trump exploited that.   There were arguably at least three or four candidates with the background and experience to a) be elected and b) more importantly lead a coalition of members of congress and citizens into some genuine changes that would benefit the country in the long term.   I felt a lot in 2015 like I did in 1979.  We had a president who had a problematic record that had been repudiated twice in mid-term elections.  

Early in my career I was the leader of a group of DC young conservatives that thought that ideas matter in politics.   I was active in the group for the time I was in DC.   I thought, and still do, that deficits matter; that the tax policy is important; that the things which government tries to do should be limited; and finally that individuals should have a wide range of choice in making decisions about their own lives so long as those decisions did not affect others' lives.   After I left DC, the group began to diverge in their thinking.   Some left and became leaders in conservative think tanks.   A few others became active libertarians.   Even a few became active with the democrats.

Over the weekend two people (both named Doug) who I admire greatly and are prominent in GOP politics in Sacramento and beyond took different decisions - one announced he would vote for Hillary Clinton - saying that Trump would make a horrible president.  Another, I think out of party loyalty, endorsed Trump.   I disagree with both positions.

Over the weekend it developed that some of the more cartoon like figures on the right have begun to yammer.  Sarah Palin said she will campaign against the Speaker of the House AND that she is available to have Trump select her as VP.   Both propositions are nuts.  Palin's only qualification to be VP is her age.  Ryan has been a very good speaker and has worked hard to keep his caucus together.   But she generated a couple of blips in the news cycle. 

Steve Sample, the monumental former president of USC, commented in his book The Contrarian's Guide to Leadership that it was not necessary to read the paper every day.   And indeed the time spent perusing the kind of nonsense that Palin threw out, occupies one's time and reduces the ability to think about things of substance.  He was right.   His principle should also offer some ideas about how to combat the combined menace of Trump and Clinton.   We might take a short time to think about next steps - so figuring we have to choose at this point is wrong.

 One sees the train wreck of Trump lurching toward November (whether he wins in November or not).  Those of us who value conservative policies cannot wait too long.   And yet, with a bit of reflection we may be presented with an answer that is not obvious now.  Timing is important to be able to avoid the perils of Charybdis and Scylla that this primary system has produced but too quick may be just as bad as waiting too long.