In a world where people make consistent moral judgments, one would think this would lead to immediate condemnations from the usual suspects on the anti-Trump right. To their credit, some conservatives unhappy with Trump, such as Ramesh Ponnuru and Bethany Mandel, have done this. Others, not so much.
Never Trumper in Chief Bill Kristol, for example, actually encouraged Walsh’s challenge, despite years of vehemently criticizing Trump for behaving in a manner very similar to Walsh. Kristol told the New York Times that Walsh’s one term as a fire-breathing tea party congressman “gives him an ability to speak to Republican primary voters that ‘Never Trumpers’ like me don’t have.” But that explanation doesn’t fly.
No one actually believes Joe Walsh is going to defeat Donald Trump, least of all Walsh himself. The whole point of the endeavor is to weaken Trump among Republicans to make a Democratic victory in the fall more likely. Or, as Kristol more elegantly put it: ”The key is getting voters to focus on the question of whether they’re OK with four more years of Trump in the Oval Office.”
That is precisely the conundrum that millions of conservatives and Republicans have wrestled with for years. On one hand, many conservatives see Trump’s deficiencies quite clearly. On the other, the choices presented in the primary and the general election mean conservatives would have to abandon policy positions they care deeply about if they abandoned Trump. Those who wrestle with this on a daily basis are frequently criticized as racists and moral reprobates by anti-Trumpers from across the political spectrum. It’s not an easy position to be in, and whom to support in 2020 will not be an easy decision to make.
The willingness of some anti-Trumpers to tolerate Walsh, however, places their criticisms into perspective. Apparently, it’s okay when they wrestle with difficult moral decisions and decide to overlook the obvious and apparent unfitness of a man to become president, but it’s not okay when many conservatives look at a flawed president and make reluctant but rational decisions they disagree with.
I know lots of anti-Trumpers — ardent progressives, centrists, disappointed conservatives and libertarians. All are motivated by sincere principles. All are deeply disturbed by Trump’s behavior and character. I understand and respect their views.
Walsh’s candidacy forces them to make a choice. If they want people to take their moral rectitude seriously, they need to clearly and vocally reject Walsh’s effort and place their hopes in the basket of someone who isn’t Trump’s political Mini-Me. If they don’t, then it will be clear to all that they think the rest of us are, to quote Thomas Jefferson, a mere “mass of mankind ... born with saddles on [our] backs” to be ridden by them, a “favored few, booted and spurred.” Or, to put it simply, they just think they’re better than the rest of us.
Joe Walsh as president is laughable. Republican voters clearly understand this. Does the Never Trump opposition?