The Conscience of a Young Conservative

I am a young conservative. I am — mostly — a Republican. I am not voting for Donald Trump.

Perhaps I can decide this simply because I have the luxury of voting in a state where my ballot, realistically, doesn’t matter. Perhaps I would feel differently if I was the omnipotent decider or a member of the Electoral College or, even, a swing-state voter. But I’m not. So I don’t.

So what are my problems with Trump? I don’t even know where to begin. Because presidential candidates don’t have access to the information they’ll have as president, there is something to be said about not evaluating them based on their proposed policies and plans, instead focusing on their judgment and character as a leader. Since Trump’s “policies” are non-existent (his secret anti-ISIS plan), fantastical (tax proposal), or change every few news cycles (immigration), I won’t even try to keep up with his latest missteps, flip-flops, or miscues. I’ll leave my policy complaints for after Election Day and, today, focus on the fundamental, foundational problems of his candidacy.

For starters, the entire rationale for his campaign — that he is a “successful businessman” whose “whole life has been about winning” — is a lie. The biggest, most significant win Trump has ever had was the birth lottery.

Trump is rich. True. But successful? Not so much. Today, Trump is wealthy despite himself, not because of himself. Trump started with a hefty trust fund from his father…then he promptly lost $1.5 million (adjusted for inflation). The next year, he lost $11.2 million before getting a $7.5 million bailout from his father. In short, Trump’s personal wealth is due to the depth of his inheritance — not because of any great business acumen.

Outside of his personal life, his businesses have similarly suffered. Trump has admitted — and even bragged — that his businesses have declared bankruptcy numerous times (more than any other major US company in the last 30 years and most recently in 2009). If you think he should be excused — or praised — for taking “advantage of the laws of this country,” then I’m sure you feel Congress should also be excused for using the laws of this country to vote themselves pay raises and Obamacare exclusions.

To be fair, bankruptcy isn’t always the fault of the head honcho; but neither are successes always due the head honcho’s prowess. Trump can’t have his cake and eat it, too; either he takes credit for the successes and failures of his companies or he gets credit for none of them. It is true that risking spectacular failures is often the cost of being successful. But it’s worth noting that most of Trump’s biggest, most visible successes aren’t actually his; today, his empire primarily focuses on plastering his name on things he doesn’t own and didn’t build.

Although the 24-hour news cycle has long since moved on from this scandal, it is worth remembering one of his especially noteworthy and particularly heinous enterprises: Trump University. This entire desperate venture — or “scheme to defraud” as the judge called it — was predicated on preying on young, impressionable, eager would-be college students. Is this the moral fabric we want in a leader?

We can’t know for sure because Trump still refuses to release his tax returns, but outside estimates of his wealth place his holdings between two and four billion dollars. Trump, however, insists his net worth is at least “TEN BILLION DOLLARS.” Whatever the true value of his portfolio, it’s still a tremendous amount of money; but here’s the kicker: he would be much richer today had he stopped making deals and just put his father’s money in an average stock market index. I apologize in advance for the mixed metaphor, but if I wanted a leader who only raved about how great things were while Rome burned, I would move to North Korea. Instead, I would rather have a president interested in building, developing, and managing a greater America — not one that just rants about how great everything is as he drives us to the cliff of bankruptcy.

So let’s be clear about his raison d’etre — he’s not a successful businessman; he’s a predatory, mediocre heir who would likely be living in rent-controlled housing if not for starting off with his father’s tremendous wealth.

But more worrying is his character as a leader. His thirst for controversy makes him say really dumb things; his allergy to being wrong forces him to lie when challenged. He regularly outright lies to save face — even when video evidence proves him wrong. He brags about bribing politicians.

Numerous statements have shown he either fundamentally misunderstands the Constitution or wants to systematically dismantle it. Many have responded to this by saying that while he may not be the best or smartest leader, he’ll surround himself with good, smart people. This is plausible, but unconvincing — for months, he surrounded himself with “good” people like his right-hand man Paul Manafort, formerly employed by Putin protégé and Ukrainian murderer Viktor Yanukovych. The good people that Trump did hire didn’t last long. This last month with his newest set of campaign managers has done little to calm Trump or make him consistent; despite this latest iteration of window dressing, I have a feeling Trump will continue to rely on his primary consultant: himself.

As if his character weren’t worrying enough, he is absolutely disqualified for the most important job as Commander-in-Chief. He belittles veterans’ sacrifices. He disrespects fallen heroes’ families. He claims to support veterans’ organizations but actually donates more money to the Clintons than to veterans. He denigrates the military he wants to command by believing that a private prep school gives him the license to say “I felt like I was in the military in a true sense” despite dodging the opportunity to actually serve in the military five times.

He is unworthy of Americans’ sacrifices and incapable of the stable, steady leadership required of the leader of the free world.

To be fair, America survived the Buchanan, Harding, and Carter presidencies; I don’t think a Trump presidency (or a Clinton one, for that matter) will be enough to stop this great experiment. I’m confident that a gridlocked Congress, an unwieldy bureaucracy, and constitutional-minded civil servants will be sufficient to keep Trump from dangerously or radically changing American policies (just ask Obama about gun control or Guantanamo). Still, though — maybe I’m being silly, but “He won’t be a completely unfettered disaster” doesn’t sound like a great reason to vote for anyone.

You may appreciate that Donald Trump is an “honest crook;” I prefer not to vote for a crook at all. Speaking of crooks, for those that are, by this point, screaming “But Hillary’s just as bad/worse!” — I agree. Just so there’s no confusion, I am not voting for Clinton, either. Nearly every single problem I have with Trump, I also have with Clinton — plus an extra few pages to boot.

To those shouting that not voting for Trump is a vote for Clinton, I say: balderdash. First, this is purely false; every ballot I’ve ever filled out has said “Fill in the box…of your choice” — I have never filled out a ballot that asked me to “Fill in the box…of whom you are voting against.” This year’s ballot is no exception. Second, this is a mathematically tenuous argument. Finally, and most importantly, this is a morally bankrupt appeal. Yes, someone holding a gun to your head is a bad situation; no, you shouldn’t slit your throat to prevent them from killing you. Yes, driving off a cliff is terrible; no, you shouldn’t stick your head through a noose to keep from falling to your death. I hate to invoke everyone’s favorite boogie man, but Hitler was defeated, in part, by Stalin; that didn’t make Stalin a good leader or moral person.

To those who have searched deep, studied the candidates, and made a conscious, informed decision to support Trump, I quizzically respect your decision. To those who have performed the Rio-worthy mental gymnastics necessary to justify Trump as a true Republican, staunch conservative, and God’s chosen lifeboat, I applaud your efforts (and I imagine the Russian judge will award you the gold).

I would love to have an imperfect, flawed, less-than-ideal candidate to hold my nose, close my eyes, and vote for. But this year, I can’t follow the lemmings; I have to follow my conscience.

Micah Ables is an MA candidate studying Government — Diplomacy and Conflict Studies. All ideas and opinions presented in this article are those of the author and do not represent official statements by any organizations or government entities.