By David Gelernter 10/15/16
The Wall Street Journal
Some conservatives have watched their evaluations of Donald Trump’s character drop so low in recent days that on this vital question they no longer see a choice between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. Accordingly, they are forced back onto politics and policy; and naturally Mr. Trump wins in a walk. If conservatives who argue that Mr. Trump is worse than Mrs. Clinton had a case, it would be a relief to vote for Mrs. Clinton or for no one. But they don’t, and one is therefore forced for the good of the nation to vote for Mr. Trump. In his Mr. Nauseating video of last weekend, Mr. Trump showed us that he had all the class and cool of a misbegotten 12-year-old boy. Yet the video taught us nothing; no one had ever mistaken him for anything but an infantile vulgarian. This week’s allegations of actual abuse are different. If these stories are true (and I don’t know why they shouldn’t be), there is nothing to be said for Mr. Trump. Unfortunately, there is nothing to be said for Mrs. Clinton either. If we don’t take both facts into account, we are not morally serious. Mrs. Clinton has nothing on Mr. Trump when it comes to character. She lies (“Wipe? Like with a cloth?”—cute and charming Mrs. C.) the way basketball stars shoot baskets—constantly, nonstop, because it’s the one thing she is best at and (naturally) it gives her pleasure to hear herself lie—swish!—right onto the evening news. And her specialist talent of all is the verbal kick in the groin of a Secret Service man or state trooper who has the nerve to talk to her as if she were merely human. She is no mere rock star; she is Hillary the Queen. She is so big, and you are so small, she can barely even see you from up there. What are you? A macromolecule? I’ll vote for Mr. Trump—grimly. But there is no alternative, no shadow of a responsible alternative. Mr. Trump’s candidacy is a message from the voters. He is the empty gin bottle they have chosen to toss through the window. The message begins with the fact that voters hear what the leaders and pundits don’t: the profound contempt for America and Americans that Mrs. Clinton and President Obama share and their frightening lack of emotional connection to this nation and its people. Mr. Obama is arch, patronizing, so magnificently weary of having to explain it all, again and again, to the dummies surrounding him. Mrs. Clinton has told us proudly how thoroughly she prepared for the first debate and has prepared to be president. For her, it is all a matter of learning your lines. Her whole life has been memorized in advance. Mr. Obama is at least sincere. Mrs. Clinton is as phony as a three-dollar bill, as a Clinton Global Initiative. Mr. Obama has governed like a third-rate tyrant. He’s been a stern baby sitter to an American public that is increasingly getting on his nerves. ObamaCare and the Iran treaty are his big achievements. That the public has always disliked them, and hates them worse as it knows them better, strikes him as so unspeakably irrelevant; he doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Do you ask 6-year-olds if they like going to school? Luckily, a few grown-ups have been set over the public to keep it in line. Mrs. Clinton couldn’t agree more. Policy is for smart people, who are people of the left by definition—leftists having scored all those big successes over the years in foreign policy, race relations, policing, restarting wounded economies, making unsecured loans, running school systems and so on. On topics from Keystone to Guantanamo, Mr. Obama has made it clear that he doesn’t give a damn what people think—he no longer even tries to explain to the citizenry. Do your homework! Understand? Yes, leadership sometimes requires that you take an unpopular position and make it popular.
We are told that Mr. Obama is working on his “legacy”instead, as if that makes him farsighted instead of irresponsible and insanely vain. Presidents are supposed to run the country, not worry about their reputation in coming centuries. Trump voters have noticed that, not just over Mr. Obama’s term but in recent decades, their own opinions have grown increasingly irrelevant. It’s something you feel, like encroaching numbness. Since when has the American public endorsed affirmative action? Yet it’s a major factor in the lives of every student and many workers. Since when did we decide that men and women are interchangeable in hand-to-hand combat on the front lines? Why do we insist on women in combat but not in the NFL? Because we take football seriously. That’s no joke; it’s the sad truth. Did we invite the federal bureaucracy to take charge of school bathrooms? I guess I missed that meeting. The schools are corrupt and the universities rotten to the core, and everyone has known it since the 1980s. But the Democrats are owned by the teachers unions, and Republicans have made only small-scale corrections to a system that needs to be ripped out and carefully disposed of, like poison ivy.
The Emasculated Voter to whom no one pays any attention is the story of modern democracy. Instead of putting voters in charge, we tell them they’re in charge, and it’s just as good. That’s the Establishment’s great discovery in the Lois Lerner Age. Enter Mr. Trump. People say he became a star because he just happened to mention an issue that just happened to catch on. But immigration is the central issue of our time. Trump voters zeroed in because they saw what most intellectuals didn’t. What is our nation and what will it be? Will America go on being America or turn into something else? That depends on who lives here—especially given our schools, which no longer condescend to teach Americanism. The liberal theory is that, other things being equal, all human beings have an equal right to settle in America. For liberals this is too obvious to spell out. But it is also too ludicrous to defend. Does all mankind have a right to camp in your backyard, eat in your kitchen, work at your office and borrow your best jogging outfit? We fail in our duty if we don’t think carefully whom we want in this country, who would be best for America. Furthermore, we know that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”But that’s got nothing to do with immigration; freedom of religion means freedom for American citizens—what else could it possibly mean? We must not tamper with Americans’religious life. We must not admit, as possible future citizens, anyone we don’t choose to; anyone we don’t think will be good for America.
Not to admit Muslims is bad policy but it does not violate freedom of religion and the American people have a perfect right to discuss and debate it. Hold on, some of my fellow conservatives say. Never mind Hillary. Trump would be dangerous. He would further endanger our national security and world position. He might start unnecessary wars. He might even push the nuclear button. These are important objections, but after thinking them through I’m unable to take them seriously, either in political terms or psychological ones. Mrs. Clinton is right at home in the Oval Office and thinks she owns it. She holds herself entitled to supreme power, as her friends are entitled to fancy positions with enormous salaries and her followers to secure government jobs or ample government funds, as the case may be. But forget psychology. Ordinary politics says that Mr. Trump will not do crazy things or go off half-cocked, because Republicans in Congress will be eager to impeach him and put Mike Pence in charge. That was the subtext of the vice-presidential debate, though Mr. Pence himself (probably) didn’t intend it. When it’s my turn, you can all relax. Democrats, obviously, will be eager to help when the task is removing a Republican. Impeachment is Trump-voters’ace in the hole. It’s an abnormal measure, but this is an abnormal year. Impeachment has temporarily dropped out of sight because of special circumstances. Republicans impeached Bill Clinton but got burned in the process; Mr. Obama, as the first black president, was impeachment-proof. Any other president would have encountered serious impeachment talk on several occasions, especially when he ignored Congress and the Constitution and made his own personal treaty-in-all-but-name with Iran. But Mr. Trump will not have Mr. Obama’s advantages—to say the least. Mr. Trump will be impeachment bait. So will Mrs. Clinton. Even some Democrats have had enough. Nothing can stop Mr. Trump from shooting off his mouth, but that’s all right. I want America’s enemies off-balance and guessing. For eight years it’s been Humiliate America season—buzz our ships, capture and embarrass our men, murder an American ambassador—a resoundingly successful attempt to spit in our faces and tell each one of us to drop dead. Thanks, Mr. President. Enough is enough. You know that Hillary is Obama Part III. We can’t let that happen. Parts I and II have brought us close enough to catastrophe. That is the problem for those whose integrity or nobility won’t allow them to vote for Mr. Trump despite their dislike of Mrs. Clinton. There is only one way to take part in protecting this nation from Hillary Clinton, and that is to vote for Donald Trump. A vote for anyone else or for no one might be an honest, admirable gesture in principle, but we don’t need conscientious objectors in this war for the country’s international standing and hence for the safety of the world and the American way of life. It’s too bad one has to vote for Mr. Trump. It will be an unhappy moment at best. Some people will feel dirty, or pained, or outright disgraced. But when all is said and done, it’s no big deal of a sacrifice for your country. I can think of bigger ones.
Mr. Gelernter is a professor of computer science at Yale.