Erica Grieder: The Conservative Case for Hillary Clinton – Texas Monthly

…If Clinton becomes president, Republicans will be members of the opposition, meaning they can oppose her agenda openly and even, despite this Trump disaster, with occasional credibility. If Trump becomes president, they’ll be the loyal members of a party led by a dangerously impulsive president. They’ll be chronically torn over whether they should summon the temerity to express their discomfort with whatever Trump decides to do in response to something mean he saw someone say about him on the internet, or to accept the reality that he is their leader, and they are tools he feels free to use to serve his ego. I know which lifestyle I’d prefer.

So there you go, conservatives. Six reasons. And though I could go on, I suspect any of you who’ve read this far could use a break. But that does bring up one more reason conservatives should hope Clinton beats Trump: if she does, that’ll likely be the end of Trump’s career in politics. And so I’d have no more reason to write about him, or the many Republicans humiliating themselves on his behalf, ever again.

5 comments on “Erica Grieder: The Conservative Case for Hillary Clinton – Texas Monthly

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  1. I remain open to further arguments along these lines, but this one leaves me unmoved, except further disappointed and annoyed at the effort. “Psychologically stable” — unserious, ad hom. “Toddler-type state of mind” — same; and while I hope conservatives urge Trump to corral his language, his effective neutralizing of unfair and untruthful arguments is of incalculable value to our politics, the blueprints to the Death Star. Case in point: debate-ending, low-class-surrender name-calling like “bigot.” Every conservative who’s earned the name is already a bigot.

    “Clinton is less risky” — no mention of SCOTUS except that Clinton “has at least heard of the Constitution” = unserious, ad hom, and that “Republicans should have thought about that before settling on Trump as the man to oppose her in November” = lie down and give up. How rousing.

    “Clinton is more conservative on key issues” like “trade” — what about other issues, which Trump’s supporters find more urgent and important, like immigration? Again, unserious. The smart set’s stupidity on immigration trumps Trump’s stupidity on trade (& most everything else).

    “Clinton is a Democrat” is the Hamilton Rule restated, which I find a potentially interesting line of argument, if only someone would follow the argument through: what does rebuilding look like once we’ve lost SCOTUS for a generation? Conservatives had the last eight years in the wilderness, and the support early on of the Tea Party successes, and their best idea was…a third Bush? The intellectuals don’t pay their promissory notes. They need to put up the security of a serious plan for a way forward.

    While poorly argued, the arguments all contain valid points. But they are all secondary. The reasons for Trump’s support are the very ones ignored in pieces like this: status quo is not desirable (or, for that matter, conservative); GOP doesn’t deserve a presumption that it’ll make everything all right after a Hillary tenure — its recent track record instead earns it the burden of proving what fundamental changes will accomplish, and how it means to do so.

  2. Thanks for responding here, rather than Twitter, Tim.

    A primary feature of any presidential election, and I think especially of this one, is the difficulty of speaking about any aspect of it in isolation from much larger questions, which range from the bases of personal and collective identity to the action of great historical forces to the nature and purposes of politics. I’ll try to confine myself as much as possible to your argument as you state it, point by point, but I suspect the strain will show, and I see no alternative to “going long” on this response.

    In your dismissal of Grieder’s “conservative case,” you move initially to some comments meant, apparently, to express your “annoy”-ance:

    “Psychologically stable” — unserious, ad hom. “Toddler-type state of mind” — same; and while I hope conservatives urge Trump to corral his language, his effective neutralizing of unfair and untruthful arguments is of incalculable value to our politics, the blueprints to the Death Star.

    Both here and in your response to “Clinton is less risky,” you apply the common mis-characterization of personal criticism as “ad hom.” Invoking the “ad hominem” fallacy here is inappropriate in two ways.

    The form of an ad hominem argument is “this argument is wrong because these people whom we all dislike believe it.” Indeed, your last statement on the term “bigot” is much closer to the actual fallacy – something like “Because this argument is often made by the enemies of conservatives it is untrue or repugnant.”

    More to the point, for someone arguing on behalf of Donald Trump or in favor of supporting him (perhaps two different things) to be criticizing anyone for engaging in insulting or “low class” language or “unfair and untruthful arguments” is risible. Whatever else a vote for Donald Trump may be, a vote for a more temperate or “high class” political discourse it cannot be, unless, perhaps, under some kind of borderline nihilistic “the worse, the better” theory: Is that what you’re advocating? Is that the meaning of the second part of your statement on Trump’s “incalculable value”?

    “Incalculable” seems a telling choice of words here: How is an observer supposed to “calculate” accurately the effect of… whatever exactly it is you believe Trump has accomplished or is accomplishing? Which “untruthful arguments” are we to expect no longer to have force as a result of Trump’s conduct in this campaign? By what mechanism is this alteration in attitudes and mores supposed to take place? How will conservative support or opposition, or Trump’s success or failure, affect the judgment – if judgment of something “incalculable” is possible for us mere mortals at all?

    You at times seem to be suggesting that, by himself engaging constantly in bad arguments, or by constantly reversing himself, or by constantly misstating or inventing facts including in attempted self-defense, Trump somehow exposes the falseness of contemporary political discourse in general. So, for example, his surrogates are now saying that, in seeking disqualify a judge on the basis of the latter’s ethnicity, Trump is turning leftist identity politics against the left and exposing their evil.

    The notion of voting a satire into office, or selecting a fool for king in order to bring down the monarchy, does not strike me as a conservative political notion – or a responsible or patriotic one. I’d like to think it too contrived and self-contradictory to be intended seriously by a mature, self-styled “conservative,” but, in light of the above and other comments you’ve made on Twitter or at the New Reform Club, I have to wonder if that’s not the underlying theory of your case for Trump.

    We don’t know each other very well. I wonder if over the last few years, you have moved to an authentically radical, reactionary, and revolutionary position that qualifies as “conservative” only by historical affiliation, not by any intrinsic “conservatism” regarding national governance or political affairs.

    I’m not yet sure what you mean to suggest, however. In other words I’m not sure what type of “Trump supporter” you really are. If you instead believe we are seeking a comparatively “better” person to become President of the United States of America, so are making a choice that doesn’t reduce purely to program or ideology, then the question of the character of the individual to be entrusted with executive power is not some unusual or trivial or in any way inappropriate question. It is an ancient question. It was a question of great concern to the American Founders and Framers. It has often been considered a conservative question – not least since overly privileging the ideological, and ignoring questions of character and virtue, has been typically considered an ill of the progressive left.

    It goes without saying that voters for better or worse seek to formulate and act upon judgments about the kind of person seeking high office. Strauss pointed out that this assumption is an unacknowledged classically “aristocratic” element of our mass democratism. We seek an outstanding person for the office – a war hero, an experienced legislator, a particularly well-spoken and thoughtful individual – rather than “just anyone.” Jefferson hoped we’d exploit the talents of our “natural aristocrats.”

    Of course, lacking perfect, trustworthy information about the private lives of politicians, voters have always had to satisfy themselves with making a statement about character or the kind of character they would like in a leader. At the same time, it is thought to speak well for a party or cause that it attracts “good people” or the best person.

    The question of “stability” is independently important, for reasons that Grieder partly outlines, given the powers of the American presidency, and the pressures to which the American president is subjected. If we lack a truly heroic or wise candidate, it is incumbent upon us – or some of us might take it as obligatory – to make an at least safe choice.

    To return to the Grieder and her case, she makes a strong argument regarding the public characters of Trump and Clinton. You do not address it on its own terms, and instead dismiss it as somehow improper and demeaning, then stand on that conjecture about an attribute of Trump’s campaign that seems, as discussed above, to rest on Trump’s evident lack of virtue.

    You next turn to Grieder’s argument about Clinton’s conservatism on some issues. Grieder gives an example of one issue on which Clinton is demonstrably more “conservative,” by recent policy definitions, than Trump. You’re right that she ignores immigration and the Supreme Court. More on the latter in a bit, and perhaps we can discuss both issues in relation to this election at another point, but I believe Grieder is arguing here under the general proviso that Trump cannot be trusted at all: Any issue positions he takes should not be taken very seriously – and we have extraordinarily plentiful evidence, with new exhibits added daily or more often, supporting this conclusion.

    Considering the very good chance that Trump will not win, the question before you is also more complex than what positions you think he, compared to Clinton, might be more likely to realize as policy – or in the form of appointments to the Supreme Court. We may or may not differ about the odds of his winning, but all that is certain today is that as a political matter Trump and his positions are now understood to represent the Republican Party, which is still understood to be the “conservative” party in the United States. I consider this predicament terrible for principled conservatism in America. I think every step further in this campaign on its present course, even today with Republican officials North, East, West, and South desperately seeking distance from their nominee while still endorsing him, deepens the damage.

    One does not have to agree with everything one’s candidate says and does in order to vote for or endorse him or her, but every issue discounted in that process is a potential advantage you have ceded to the other side. On matters of ethnic discrimination, coherent economic and fiscal policy, national security, and the precepts of our constitutional and liberal-democratic order, the question may soon be whether the political damage to conservative credibility will be reparable in our lifetimes. (This argument is the basis for a prudential argument or argument from conservative self-interest against supporting Trump.)

    As for whether or not you find Grieder’s or my arguments “rousing,” why should we consider it our obligation to be “rousing”? Maybe the political situation is in fact very bleak for American movement conservatives, at the moment. Maybe, not to put too fine a point on it, you screwed up royally, and are paying the price now for years or worsening error. Maybe a period of grieving by the survivors for the death by mass self-poisoning of the American conservative movement (as we knew it) would be more becoming. Maybe, at least, you’ll have to find the “saving power” somewhere else other than in a national campaign for and under the man who is destroying that movement.

    Which brings us to:

    …what does rebuilding look like once we’ve lost SCOTUS for a generation? Conservatives had the last eight years in the wilderness, and the support early on of the Tea Party successes, and their best idea was…a third Bush? The intellectuals don’t pay their promissory notes. They need to put up the security of a serious plan for a way forward.

    At this rate, you are very likely to “lose SCOTUS for a generation” regardless of whether movement conservatives lend their support to Donald Trump. Were he to win, they would still have a political problem even beyond his personal trustworthiness: To say nothing of the real harms to the nation and the world, conservatives would risk association with a disastrous presidency. In that case, in relation to recovery from the current crisis in American political conservatism, the only thing worse for you than having supported the loser Trump would be having supported Trump the winner. You might not just “lose SCOTUS” for a generation, you might lose everything, in classically tragic fashion continuing your movement’s recent course of engineering the political apocalypse you’ve been trying to warn people about.

    I’m sure you’re familiar with the “doctrine of holes.” How are you supposed to start “re-building” when you’re still shoveling away at the bottom of the pit you’ve dug?

    The reasons for Trump’s support are the very ones ignored in pieces like this: status quo is not desirable (or, for that matter, conservative); GOP doesn’t deserve a presumption that it’ll make everything all right after a Hillary tenure — its recent track record instead earns it the burden of proving what fundamental changes will accomplish, and how it means to do so.

    Whatever else the above might constitute, it is not a conservative position. The “preference for the status quo” is the sine qua non of “conservatism.” The conservative presumption is that none of us is in a position to judge the “status quo” objectively and totally against its by definition non-existent alternatives. Appreciating the complexity of human affairs, constituted prior to and beyond “politics,” the conservative never promises to “make everything all right.” That is a utopian notion.

    The situation before, during, and after a “Hillary tenure” will be mixed, and the conservative will not look primarily to the political system, or to politics at all, for solutions to ills that run deep in culture or to the eternal predicament of life on Earth this side of the eschaton. Maybe the problem all along has involved those seeking from the GOP, and therefore from partisan politics, that which conservatives know, or used to know, is never to be found there.

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[E]ven Fox didn’t tout Bartiromo’s big scoops on Trump’s legislative agenda, because 10 months into the Trump presidency, nobody is so foolish as to believe that him saying, “We’re doing a big infrastructure bill,” means that the Trump administration is, in fact, doing a big infrastructure bill. The president just mouths off at turns ignorantly and dishonestly, and nobody pays much attention to it unless he says something unusually inflammatory.On some level, it’s a little bit funny. On another level, Puerto Rico is still languishing in the dark without power (and in many cases without safe drinking water) with no end in sight. Trump is less popular at this point in his administration than any previous president despite a generally benign economic climate, and shows no sign of changing course. Perhaps it will all work out for the best, and someday we’ll look back and chuckle about the time when we had a president who didn’t know anything about anything that was happening and could never be counted on to make coherent, factual statements on any subject. But traditionally, we haven’t elected presidents like that — for what have always seemed like pretty good reasons — and the risks of compounding disaster are still very much out there.

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So, does Mitchell make any money on the work, which has been shared so many times? He uploaded a high-res image of the symbol and granted permission for anyone to use it personally for free. But for those who want to support his work or simply want something readymade, you can also buy T-shirts, sweatshirts, mugs, and journals emblazoned with the symbol through Threadless.“I really just want to spread the image as much as possible and cement it in history,” Mitchell says. “In all honesty, the amount I’ve made from my Threadless shop so far is still less than my hourly rate, so I don’t really see it as a big deal. If you look at my Twitter, half the replies are people wanting to know where they can buy a shirt. Threadless is happy to help them out with that, and so I’m happy to let that happen.”Now that the symbol has flooded our streets and our timelines, Mitchell just has one request: “Impeach this idiot already,” he says.

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For WordPress self-hosted people, there is already a "restore legacy editor" plugin, even though Gutenberg hasn't been installed yet as the default.

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