Beginning with Ronald Reagan, I have voted Republican in every presidential election since I first became eligible to vote in 1980. I worked in the Reagan and George H. W. Bush administrations and in the White House for George W. Bush as a speechwriter and adviser. I have also worked for Republican presidential campaigns, although not this time around.
Despite this history, and in important ways because of it, I will not vote for Donald Trump if he wins the Republican nomination.
Mr. Trump’s virulent combination of ignorance, emotional instability, demagogy, solipsism and vindictiveness would do more than result in a failed presidency; it could very well lead to national catastrophe. The prospect of Donald Trump as commander in chief should send a chill down the spine of every American.
For Republicans, there is an additional reason not to vote for Mr. Trump. His nomination would pose a profound threat to the Republican Party and conservatism, in ways that Hillary Clinton never could. For while Mrs. Clinton could inflict a defeat on the Republican Party, she could not redefine it. But Mr. Trump, if he were the Republican nominee, would.
Mr. Trump’s presence in the 2016 race has already had pernicious effects, but they’re nothing compared with what would happen if he were the Republican standard-bearer. The nominee, after all, is the leader of the party; he gives it shape and definition. If Mr. Trump heads the Republican Party, it will no longer be a conservative party; it will be an angry, bigoted, populist one. Mr. Trump would represent a dramatic break with and a fundamental assault on the party’s best traditions.
The Republican Party’s best traditions, of course, have not always been evident. (The same is true of the Democratic Party, by the way.) Over the years we have seen antecedents of today’s Trumpism both on issues and in style — for example, in Pat Buchanan’s presidential campaigns in the 1990s, in Sarah Palin’s rise in the party, in the reckless rhetoric of some on the right like Ann Coulter.
.....I will go further: Mr. Trump is precisely the kind of man our system of government was designed to avoid, the type of leader our founders feared — a demagogic figure who does not view himself as part of our constitutional system but rather as an alternative to it.
.....No votes have yet been cast, primary elections are fluid, and sobriety often prevails, so Mr. Trump is hardly the inevitable Republican nominee. But, stunningly, that is now something that is quite conceivable. If this scenario comes to pass, many Republicans will find themselves in a situation they once thought unimaginable: refusing to support the nominee of their party because it is the best thing that they can do for their party and their country.
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