This post has been updated.
It's one thing to say you'll never vote for Donald Trump; it's another to follow through on it or even say you'll vote for Hillary Clinton. That's the choice now facing many conservative media types who swore they would never back the now-presumptive GOP nominee.
And some do indeed say they'll make good in their promise. Ben Howe, a contributing editor at the conservative Red State blog, made his choice Tuesday night.
— Ben Howe (@BenHowe) May 3, 2016
I am a fiscal conservative and I am a social conservative. That will not change. But I will not vote for an egomaniacal authoritarian. Nope.
— Ben Howe (@BenHowe) May 3, 2016
Howe tweeted those sentiments before Ted Cruz dropped out of the presidential race on Tuesday night, following a thumping in the Indiana Republican primary. He seemed to be echoing former John McCain chief of staff Mark Salter, who tweeted that he is "with her" on Tuesday morning, as Trump promoted an unsubstantiated tabloid rumor linking Cruz's father to John F. Kennedy's assassin.
the GOP is going to nominate for President a guy who reads the National Enquirer and thinks it's on the level. I'm with her.
— Mark Salter (@MarkSalter55) May 3, 2016
Even at that hour, it was pretty clear that hopes of blocking Trump's path to the GOP nomination were all but dashed. So there are three options in November: Stay home, vote for a write-in or third-party candidate, or vote for Clinton.
Howe thinks Clinton is the best choice. And he's not alone. Kyle Foley, a contributor to the conservative Hypeline news site, quickly tweeted his agreement.
— Kyle Foley (@KFoleyFL) May 4, 2016
Jay Caruso, another Red State contributing editor, tweeted an Alexander Hamilton quote that was quickly becoming popular.
The Clinton migration even extended across the pond, where conservative commentator Louise Mensch — a former Tory member of the British Parliament who recently launched a Rupert Murdoch-backed news site — tweeted that electing the former secretary of state would be better than putting Trump in the White House. (Mensch was apparently in New York when she tweeted. The new site, Heat Sheet, will cover news in the United States and United Kingdom.)
As a conservative, i would always rather lose to a democrat, than support a racist and sexist with my party's nametag. #NeverTrump
— Louise Mensch (@LouiseMensch) May 4, 2016
Some just can't bring themselves to go for Clinton, though. Conservative writer and radio host Erick Erickson wrote on the Fox News Channel website that he refused to choose between two "evils."
Neither Hillary Clinton nor Donald Trump should be acceptable to any principled conservative or evangelical Christian. As Charles Spurgeon said, "Of two evils, choose neither." Neither candidate is fit for office.
Charlie Sykes, the Wisconsin talk radio host who confronted Trump in a March interview about a mean retweet disparaging Heid Cruz's appearance, reaffirmed his opposition to the real estate magnate but didn't say what he would do with his vote.
— Charles Sykes (@SykesCharlie) May 3, 2016
Similarly, the Never means Never PAC issued a statement that didn't offer a clear alternative.
— ABC News Politics (@ABCPolitics) May 3, 2016
Other conservatives indicated they were ready to abandon the GOP — if not quite ready to vote for Clinton. Among them was conservative commentator and pollster Kristen Soltis Anderson.
I registered Republican when I was 18 because I thought free markets and liberty were important. Not sure what "Republican" means today.
— Kristen S Anderson (@KSoltisAnderson) May 3, 2016
And other conservative media figures made similar decisions.
I have officially de-registered as a Republican. pic.twitter.com/DjRI21Oyvx
— Philip Klein (@philipaklein) May 4, 2016
Former Florida governor Charlie Crist, who famously changed party affiliations between his tenure and an unsuccessful bid to reclaim the office in 2014, issued an open invitation to fleeing Republicans.
— Charlie Crist (@CharlieCrist) May 4, 2016
Still other conservatives have previously indicated — grudgingly — that a President Clinton would be preferable to President Trump.
David Harsanyi, a senior editor at the Federalist, wrote in the National Review in February that Trump would be "a bigger disaster" than Clinton.
Clinton, as you may have noticed, does not have the charisma of Barack Obama. Not only would she be divisive and ethically compromised, but she would also galvanize the Right. Republicans would almost certainly unite against her agenda, which would be little more than codifying Obama’s legacy: a collection of policies that half the country still hates.
She won’t be able to pass anything substantial. The most likely outcome is another four to eight years of trench warfare in Washington, D.C., giving conservatives a pass for a number of winnable, state-level issues. There will probably be, if historical disposition of the electorate holds, a Republican Congress. (Who knows what happens to Congress if Trump is elected?) Hardly ideal. But unless you believe that an active Washington is the best Washington, gridlock is not the end of the world. ...
So, while gridlock will still hold up most of the issues conservatives care about, chances are high — considering his long history of supporting big government — that Trump would try to cobble together a populist coalition for the policies that conservatives hate. This will end up marginalizing ideological conservatism from within the party.
Around the same time, Tom Nichols wrote in the Federalist that he would pick Clinton over Trump for similar reasons.
Better to lose to a true enemy whose policies you can fight and repudiate, rather than to a false friend whose schemes will drag you down with him. This is a painful choice, but it also embraces realism while protecting the possibility of recovery in the future. The need to live to fight another day is why conservatives should adopt a Hamilton Rule if, God forbid, the choice comes down to Hillary and Trump.
Syndicated Washington Post columnist George Will suggested last week — without actually writing the words — that conservatives like him ought to vote for Clinton to stop Trump at all costs.
Were he to be nominated, conservatives would have two tasks. One would be to help him lose 50 states — condign punishment for his comprehensive disdain for conservative essentials, including the manners and grace that should lubricate the nation’s civic life. ... If Trump is nominated, Republicans working to purge him and his manner from public life will reap the considerable satisfaction of preserving the identity of their 162-year-old party while working to see that they forgo only four years of the enjoyment of executive power.
Also in The Post, conservative writer David Bernstein wrote on Monday that he'd "rather Hillary Clinton win."
I'd rather (and I never thought I’d say this) Barack Obama serve a third term. I’d even rather Bernie Sanders win, though if it came down to Sanders vs. Trump it might be time to form a breakaway republic. If Trump wins the nomination, I will actively seek to prevent him from becoming president.
Even Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol, who favors the idea of a third-party candidate, said in March that Trump "shouldn't" win a general election against Clinton. It sure sounded like — if he had to choose — Kristol would vote for Clinton over Trump. That's certainly how Sean Hannity interpreted the remark.
Kristol's Weekly Standard colleague, Stephen Hayes, just can't bring himself to cast a ballot for Clinton, however: "I'd never support Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders, of course, so if Trump is the Republican nominee, I'll vote down-ballot and support someone else," he wrote in March.
Many #NeverTrump conservatives will probably make the same call. But the time for choosing has arrived — and not just for media folks. Former first lady Laura Bush said at last month's Women in the World Summit in New York, "I want our next president — whoever he or she might be — to be somebody who is interested in women in Afghanistan." The remark seemed to indicate a preference for Clinton, who has served alongside Bush as an serve as honorary co-chair of the U.S.-Afghan Women’s Council.