A lot of my fellow Democrats have been begging you to vote for anyone but Donald Trump on December 19th. They even made one of those videos where Hollywood celebrities stand in front of a white background to make their case, raising the question: Do liberals know any other way to make a point that doesn’t involve celebrities on a white background?
Still, as a Democrat with a little bit of a public profile, I felt it worthwhile to let you know that while I have profound worries about a Trump presidency as an American, as a Democrat... well, I’m practically salivating for it.
To be clear: I am an American first and, like you, I have serious concerns about Mr. Trump. I am troubled by his refusal to attend security briefings, and by how his impulsive tweeting could easily spark violent retribution against our interests and allies around the world – or even our troops. (He’s already sparked nuclear brinksmanship with China.)
I also don’t care for his embrace of cronyism, and I worry that his refusal to divest from his family business creates serious conflicts of interest, allowing corrupt foreign governments to say “Do what we want or we’ll find a way to shut down the Trump building in our country.” Talk about leverage!
But here’s the thing: If I put aside those grave security concerns for a moment, as you would surely have to do to confirm Mr. Trump as president, I see a very different picture. If I just trust that smart men like General James Mattis will more or less keep Mr. Trump in check, I realize that from a purely partisan perspective, I would love to see a President Trump!
Why? Because he’s already profoundly politically wounded, by far the least popular president-elect since they started polling the question, and he will almost certainly become less popular over time, especially as more details come out about the Kremlin’s efforts to get him elected. Most Americans are only beginning to tune into this story, and the CIA’s assessment of the case has now been corroborated by the FBI. This thing isn’t going away.
What happens, then, when more CIA leaks come out and the American public at large realizes that the president owes his election, at least in part, to a foreign dictator whose explicit objective is to destabilize the American-led order and rebuild the Evil Empire? What happens when more conservatives like Evan McMullen come forward acknowledging that senior Republican party officials knew about the Russian involvement but said nothing? Won’t that be like Watergate, but implicating the entire party – including yourselves, if you vote for Mr. Trump?
And what happens to the House Republicans’ agenda in that environment, with the drip-drip-dripping of scandalous details completely dominating endless news cycles? Won’t it give Democrats cover to grind Congress to a halt, framing ourselves as heroes facing down a hopelessly compromised president?
Some smart conservative friends have told me they’re not worried because Congress can always impeach Trump and then Mike Pence becomes president. Well, fine, but impeachment takes a long time, and nothing much else gets done while it’s happening. Republicans would have the government but be mostly unable to do anything with it. Meanwhile, a Republican presidency that’s mired in scandal would be a drag on down-ticket races like George W. Bush was in 2006 and 2008.
But, some might argue, wasn’t Trump supposed to be a drag on the Republican ticket in 2016, and he won anyway? Well, only kind of. Democrats still picked up seats in the House and Senate, and Trump eked out a win narrowly in just a few swing states. Exit polls showed that most Americans who voted for Mr. Trump did so to stop Hillary Clinton, not because they liked him, and he is by far the most widely despised incoming president the country has ever seen.
For Democrats, that’s a great thing.
Even so, I’m an American first, and it’s irrefutable that Trump’s behavior, especially since election day, has raised serious doubts about his fitness for office: His “let them eat dirty bombs” approach to security briefings is alarming, as are his pro-Putin appointments, as are the conflicts of interest which he said he would address through divestment and a blind trust but has not. These concerns pose a real threat to the security of the country, and the Electoral College was specifically tasked by the founding fathers with addressing those kinds of perils.
That’s why as an American (and as a Californian who will likely soon be living within range of North Korea’s nuclear weapons), I’d ultimately much prefer to see a non-Trump Republican in the White House. Indeed, I believe that if 38 electors send John Kasich, Mitt Romney, or John McCain to the House for a contingent election, and one of those men is elevated to the presidency, most Americans would be relieved to know that a vulgar, unstable, dim-witted Putin acolyte isn’t the Commander in Chief. It might even be healing to have neither of the two least popular presidential candidates in our nation’s history actually become president.
From one American to another, I want you to know that I’d be deeply, sincerely grateful to you if you made such an outcome possible.
As a Democratic partisan, on the other hand, I believe the odds are good that the havoc wreaked by a scandal-ridden Trump presidency would sooner or later be a huge boon to my party, and also probably really hurt Republicans. So if you find that you just don’t have it in you to vote against Mr. Trump, please know that by voting for him, you’ll likely be doing Democrats a bigger service as a political party than we could ever do for ourselves.
I don’t envy you for having to make that choice, but it is what it is. Now it’s really all up to you.