Philosophers Voting for Trump: A Defense

Several philosophers, including Rob Koons, Daniel Bonevac, and Scott Soames, announced that they would be casting their votes for Donald Trump this election. Justin at the Daily Nous produced a post asking how these philosophers could vote for Donald Trump, and proceeded to document Trump’s well-known (even to conservatives) character flaws. His central question: “What has led these scholars to endorse this horror show of a human being?”

Leaving aside the rudeness with which these three eminent and outstanding scholars were addressed, I think a reasonable case can be made for why someone who is conservative would vote for Donald Trump. I left a comment there, which I substantially reproduce here:*

At least speaking for myself, I am (considering) voting for Trump primarily because:

A. Unfortunately, the fact is that the courts are presently the single most influential determinant of public social policy. This is because they invalidate perfectly constitutionally legitimate laws, and allow the president to issue executive orders outside of the bounds of his proper powers.

However, since the law teaches, the courts now basically control which direction the culture will take. And I do not think the courts should have so much influence over the direction of society, either in favor of or against socially conservative views. In other words, I believe in judicial restraint (in both directions!); however, liberal judges do not share this belief, and so I see no other solution but to elect a president who will appoint conservative judges.

B. Of course, I do want socially conservative policies to be passed by Congress and the states. But I am very certain this would be substantially prevented by any Clinton appointments. Clinton will continue (what conservatives consider to be) the legal activism of previous administrations by virtue of continued executive overreach (viz., by executive orders), and by her legal appointments. This will weaken conservatism severely, possibly to the point of collapse (so that the Republican Party, seeking electability, will become like the Conservative Party in the UK: fiscally conservative/moderate, but socially/culturally liberal).

So, in short, I am certain that if Clinton becomes president and succeeds in her legal appointments, there will basically be no way at all for conservatives to meaningfully advance their political policies. All such policies will be shut down by courts, and the Republican Party will continue to cave.

It’s sad, because if I did not think the stakes were so high, and that left-wing judicial power were so over-reaching, then I probably would not have voted this election, even knowing that a Hillary presidency would result from Trump’s losing. But based on induction, I have very good reason to think this will continue with full force under Clinton.

C. I have very good reason to think that Trump will appoint conservative judges, since it is in his best interest to do so, and since he has explicitly given a list to solicit the support of people, like me, who would otherwise never have voted for him. And he has good reason to follow through: Trump knows that the Democrats want liberal judges, and it is inconsistent with what we know of him to intentionally help his enemies and hurt his allies. Moreover, he knows that if he nominates liberal judges this still will not help him to gain support from the Democrats in a future reelection (we are not going to be seeing a Democratic Trump any time soon); whereas it will almost certainly cause him to lose a substantial amount of support from the Republican side. On the other hand, if he is successful in his judicial appointments (and not a completely reckless president), this significantly increases his chances of reelection by Republicans. Not to mention that a strengthened liberal court will only help to shape the future political climate in his disfavor — another reason for him not to appoint liberal judges.

D. For similar reasons, I think the concerns that Trump would be erratic and dangerous are overblown; again, that would not be in his interest. (I think we can hardly say that he has not been acting in his interest up to now, considering how far he has gotten; and besides, leftists implicitly assume he is acting in his self-interest by appealing to a heretofore silent white, “racist” subcurrent.)

Certainly, his actually playing the role of president would not be good per se. But I think he is more a political idiot and a jackass than actually malicious or erratic. I expect Trump would do very little frankly, and would have very little influence, at least qua president.

I think Trump is an awful candidate of course, and that his candidacy was one of the biggest (if not the biggest) blunders in Republican history. Almost any of the other candidates would have been much better. Also, he seems to suffer from enormous character flaws (at the very least). However, although she is not as odious as Trump in public, I am not naive enough to think that Clinton is substantially better qua human being than Trump.

And besides, I should not vote based on whether the person is good or not, but based on what I believe he or she is likely to do. One need not intend any expression of approval of (“endorse”) the behavior or character of the person who gets one’s vote. It is irrational to think of voting except in instrumental terms. To that extent, I can grant that Trump is a bad, even awful, person, and I can still consistently say that it would be overall better for the country if he were the president rather than Clinton. This is due, in part, to the credible risk inherent in a Clinton presidency, a result of the present liberal regime of rule by fiat in place of the rule of law. In circumstances such as these, for anyone concerned for the future of conservatism in the United States, voting for Trump is reasonable, even if not ideal.

*The editor would like to note that the Daily Nous is refusing to publish comments from users whose names link to Rightly Considered. See this post for more details. This is rather strange (or is it?).

Ideal Observer

An academic philosopher someplace, somewhere. A dispassionate judge of facts and evidence. Interests include politics, economics, religion, and morals. Obviously a devout Christian, and obviously very conservative.

View All Posts

13 Comments

  1. Nice one, IO.

    I thought it remarkable that Justin from Daily Nous just couldn’t see how conservative philosophers could vote for Trump. It’s like he suffers from a cognitive disability, unable to get into the mind of a conservative and think like one even for a moment. One suspects that it’s because he doesn’t have a diverse group of friends and hasn’t discussed political issues with conservatives at any depth. It’s rather a shame and embarrassing if so.

    • Well, I’m sure he *can* see how one would vote for Trump. It’s just that, by feigning ignorance in this way, he can shame people who “should know better.”

      I’m not voting in this election, but I can see why conservatives would vote for Trump. It doesn’t take a PhD in philosophy to see that.

  2. Wow, what a vicious diatribe against Trump. And not a single piece of evidence cited to justify the vitriol. Such a hateful, fact-free rant hardly does anything to commend *your* character, IO. 🙁

  3. I’d be interested to know what you think of the argument in this post at Slate Star Codex: http://slatestarcodex.com/2016/09/28/ssc-endorses-clinton-johnson-or-stein/

    The author there (in my understanding) suggests that Trump winning would be bad for political moderation and avoiding the hegemony of the left, since there would be a backlash (and accepting that there would be a backlash is of course compatible with endorsing his policies and decisions) and lots of people would grow up around that and swing left in reaction. And it would give the far left too much ammunition. As someone who cares about political moderation, I take this argument very seriously.

    • Anonymous I fully agree with that case, which is part of why I’ve been NeverTrump for a long time now. With that said, it’s not a problem that some philosophers should be able to vote for the guy. Heck, most of them voted for Bernie Sanders and what’s moral about that?

  4. Stop harping on Trump’s well known defects. He does in fact have many positive virtues demonstrable from his life and career. Ye shall know them by their fruits. If Trump were anywhere near as bad or odious as he is presented, his children would have been corrupt and corrupted as all hell. He’s obviously done a good job raising them, just as he has obviously done a good job managing, maintaining and growing his inheritance, weathering all the myriad financial storms that have come and gone.

    Donald Trump has never drank or smoked a day in his life. This was because a brother of his died young enjoying too much of the more extreme temptations of affluence, including hard drugs (I am told). That brother, on his deathbed, made Trump swear he would not waste his life as he had. As far as everyone knows, Donald Trump has faithfully kept that promise to his dying brother.

    No one – least of all Mr. Trump – denies he did not, however, indulge in other extreme vices – even sins – of celebrity. He already made it public record, which is why the timing of the release of that eavesdropped (and obviously saved for the purposes of blackmail) conversation and tape is highly suspicious. You already have Trump is his own words on public record gloating even about how he tried to seduce even married women. So why this feigning of shock and surprise when the fact that he did this is again made public, albeit more concretely? Let’s not forget we just gave the media a free pass to snoop on people’s private conversations in order to destroy them politically! Arguably, at least Donald Trump has provided an example of how to mitigate such shameless and immoral licentiousness by the press. He did not allow it to destroy him. His campaign continues when arguably all others would have caved and collapsed completely. That is a remarkable feat in and of itself.

    Donald Trump has a great track record in business and project management. There is simply no candidate that can come close to him on these grounds. He has very demonstrable reasons to provide for believing he can turn things around. He has done it before.

    Give Donald Trump a chance. He is not a quitter and he rather obviously doesn’t like losing or failing at anything. He has set a high bar for his Presidency: nothing less than making America great again. Anyone else making such a promise would probably – and arguably rightly – be dismissed as a demagogue; however, Donald Trump is very unique in that achieving goals he sets, he has a track record of actually getting done.

    Further, I am told the man sleeps for only 4 hours a day and works much of the rest. Consider that Napoleon once famously advised for anyone who wants to become someone, for men to sleep six hours a day; women, seven and eight if your a fool. Donald Trump appears to enjoy life – and specifically women, albeit too much – to the full: he does not waste a single minute of it. Give him a chance, he just might prove something of a miracle worker.

    • Truetradition: you have many valid points. But they all hinge on trust: NeverTrumpers do not trust the man. They say he is unhinged and too self-absorbed and even a risk for nuclear war. Even worse, there are otherwise conservative, Orthodox ministers telling their congregants that Hillary is the lesser of two evils.

      This election cycle is showing us what our priorities are. Mine is to do good, especially to the household of faith (Gal. 6:10). No doubt these NeverTrumpers would not have helped found this nation since many politicians had slaves. Nor would they have helped Joseph, Ester or Daniel materially cooperate with wicked tyrants to help save the visible church of old.

      Short of Trump promising to use his presidential power for a gross violation of God’s law, with a likely-hood of it occurring, we ought to support him for the sake of the church. In America’s peace, the church has peace.

      • Hillary has openly promised to use the government and taxpayer dollars to launch a war to change Americans’ deepest held and core religious beliefs. She’s on the record doing that.

        Those ministers claiming that voting for Hillary is the lesser of two evils. Unsurprisingly, since they are endorsing Hillary, the corrupt Democrat-run IRS is not revoking their tax exempt status and demanding back taxes. Ridiculously, Trump has promised to end that Orwellian law and threat to churches and pastors.

        NeverTrumpers have to vote Trump. Hillary has been exposed as cultivating a covert operation to plot a ‘revolution’ in the Catholic Church. The Mormons will be next, if she hasn’t already done that.

        People with any sense in their head need to fight for Trump hard. The man might be a pig when it came to women; however, Hillary laughs and brags about getting someone she KNEW was guilty of RAPING A 12 YEAR OLD GIRL. SHE LAUGHED. They are willing to risk giving this woman the power to issue Pardons? THAT’S immoral.

        Hillary Clinton has even promised on record to ISSUE EXECUTIVE ORDERS to enforce liberal-concocted gun restrictions. That’s her promising to be an Emperor not a President. Trump has vowed to defend our right to self-defense and defend our lives and property, even up to and including lethal force if necessary.

        This isn’t even a contest. The DNC plotted this October Surprise against Trump since it was clear to them he was going to be the nominee: it is the only reason Hillary has ANY support at all, outside the most extreme Leftist cultists. EVERYONE knows it. If it weren’t for these accusations spewing out of the liberal owned NBC or New York Times, Hillary would be completely TOAST.

  5. Thank you for showing that voting for Trump is not necessarily treasonous, morally bankrupt or otherwise irrational. Now, if more Christians would consider the legal and social situation serious enough to take a second look (I commend the Claremont Institution article, The Flight 93 Election).

    But the Supreme Court argument is further reinforced by the ABA’s new addition to the code of conduct for lawyers and the already-occurring attack upon judges who express out-loud reservations about presiding over so-called gay marriage. If the courts are compromised from within and from the top (SCOTUS), what legal defense will my children have?

Comments are closed.