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?).