Editor’s Note: The following opinion was submitted by Mercer College of Republican Co-chair Austin Paul
The rise of Donald Trump has left many conservatives with nowhere to turn. We have been forced to face the reality that a man with ideas many thought only existed on the fringes of the party could very possibly become the next leader of the party and the country. We are on the verge of watching the party of Lincoln and Reagan implode under the weight of a man that resembles a third-world strongman. Conservatives must reject Donald Trump, but they have to understand his rise if they wish to save our movement.
There is real anger in this country. This anger permeates throughout our society for a variety of valid reasons. For the sake of political expediency, Republicans have only tapped into this anger in a destructive way. Republicans are ultimately responsible for “Trumpism,” but that does not mean that conservatism is to blame. An extremely vocal and active segment of the party’s base is reacting to the failure of those who made promises they can’t keep in order to turn anger into votes. The shock and awe attitude of right wing media is feeding the anger of the base while the commentators fill their bank accounts with little regard for what they are doing to political discourse in this country. The base — and those that claim to have all the answers — have reached the point where they are willing to trade an authoritarian they despise for an authoritarian that agrees with them, rather than refusing to elect an authoritarian at all.
Being a conservative in the #NeverTrump camp is a difficult undertaking. Others in my party accuse me of throwing the election to Hillary Clinton even though we have spent months telling them that nominating Trump would destroy our movement and put a democrat in the White House. Donald Trump is a glorified con artist who is using conservatism to further his own personal ambitions. He has spent his career funding liberals and their causes. He has only adopted marginally conservative positions when he realized it was politically expedient.
Trump supporters have been a cult-like movement that refuses to hear any criticism of their savior. From guns to life to healthcare, Trump opposes everything that conservatives stand for. If he does not oppose it, he ensures that his views are vague so that no one knows where he truly stands. He makes extraordinarily troubling statements about journalists, and he doesn’t seem to have any respect for women, minorities or anyone that isn’t named Donald Trump. Trump’s ideas will only alienate our allies and isolate us on the world stage. It will make our country weaker, not great again. Trump does not represent my conservatism or my party, and because of that, I will never cast a ballot for him. Nearly any reasonable person would do a better job in the White House than this buffoon.
As a philosophy, conservatism is about limited government and individual freedom. Conservatism is inherently optimistic. It seeks to empower people through individual freedom and personal responsibility. If conservatism is to remain a respectable philosophy, we must reject Donald J. Trump. The Republican Party and the country are depending on it. William F. Buckley once described a conservative as someone who “stands athwart history yelling stop.” It’s time for conservatives who truly believe in our principles to stand athwart Donald Trump yelling stop, regardless of the cost.