I’ve been catching up on my political podcasts while doing dishes and laundry (and catching up on neither of those). It’s been easy to fall behind lately, for one reason or another. Sometimes it’s cute to listen to a couple of conservative pundits talking a few weeks ago about how there’s still hope for the Republicans this year, and sometimes it’s too painful. Yesterday I was listening to Thomas Sowell give the case for voting for Trump, even though he’s patently unqualified. Thomas Sowell is undoubtedly smarter than I am, in more ways than one, but he has a giant blind spot when it comes to the lesser-of-two-evils saga that is Clinton vs. Trump.

Sowell’s argument (at least at this particular time) was that this election is like being in an airplane that’s about to crash. If you jump out of the plane, any number of things could happen: your parachute could fail to open, you could land in the middle of the ocean and drown, you could land in the middle of an inhospitable landscape and die of exposure or wild animal attack or whatever, etc., etc. None of it looks good. Your chance of survival is slim. But if you stay in the plane, you’re definitely going to die. According to Sowell, voting for Hillary is staying in the plane, whereas voting for Trump is jumping out and hoping for the best.

This argument has a certain logical appeal, if you’re a conservative (or if you just think Hillary is really, really horrible). It’s similar to the argument I hear most often from people who claim to find Trump distasteful but feel they have no choice but to vote for him because Hillary would be worse. But this argument disregards the following:

a) Donald Trump lies.

b) Donald Trump reneges on his promises.

c) Donald Trump has no particular loyalty to conservative principles or to the Republican party.

Those three things are facts. They’re as certain as death by plane crash. They have been amply demonstrated over his many years in business and public life. They aren’t worth trying to dispute. Most reluctant Trump-supporters will admit that voting for him is purely a gamble–it’s jumping out of an airplane–but no matter how dire the possibilities, the gamble still beats what they (claim to) know will happen if Hillary becomes president.

The problem, though, is that we’re not electing a dictator (regardless of what Trump would like to believe). We still have three branches of government, with the accompanying checks and balances and whatnot, and Congress still a) makes the laws, b) confirms Supreme Court appointments, and c) overrides presidential vetoes. (They do some other stuff too, but you get the picture.) No president–not even a President Trump–can just do away with Congress.

Not that no one has ever tried, of course, but Congress remains stubbornly with us nonetheless. At least for the time being.

So what are we sure would happen if Hillary became president? Well, it would depend a lot on which party controlled Congress. If the Democrats take back the Senate (which seems plausible) and the House (which doesn’t), perhaps she’ll be able to do quite a bit of damage, as far as conservative Republicans are concerned. But as long as there are Republicans in both houses of Congress, and certainly if there is a Republican majority in either house, she will face significant opposition. She’ll probably be as ham-strung as Pres. Obama has been the last seven years. No, Pres. Obama hasn’t been nearly ham-strung enough for some people’s tastes, but he’s certainly accomplished less than he wanted to, and less than his supporters wanted him to. Most importantly, Republicans in Congress have provided arguments against his agenda. Pretty crap arguments in a lot of cases, but still–there was opposition, opportunities to articulate conservative principles as an alternative (even if they were sometimes–and spectacularly–squandered).

There’s no reason to think things would be different with President Hillary Clinton, unless you think Hillary is magic. (Most Republicans don’t believe Hillary to be magic.)

On the other hand, let’s say Donald Trump becomes president. Unlikely and gross, but just for the sake of argument, let’s say he does. If Republicans don’t control both houses of Congress, Trump is going to have a tough time enacting a conservative agenda, even if he’s inclined to do so. And there’s no indication that he is so inclined. Quite the opposite, in fact. Without Republican majorities to worry about, Trump will be free to cut whatever deals he wants with Democrats, and there’s no reason to think those deals would be anything close to what Republicans would want. (Obamacare, after all, was nothing close to what Democrats wanted. Chew on that for a bit.)

Trump is not himself a conservative. He doesn’t care about what conservatives want. He doesn’t care if the Supreme Court tilts right or left. Why would he? The argument that he would surround himself with “good” advisers is pretty weak, considering that Trump repeatedly ignores the advice of people working on his campaign. He’s too arrogant and narcissistic to take advice as a candidate. Why would he suddenly humble himself if he became leader of the free world?

And here’s the clincher: there’s also no indication that Trump wants a Republican-controlled Congress. He’s pissed beyond reason that Republicans are pulling their support in the wake of these proliferating sex scandals. To him, party loyalty is a game that he plays to make people dance for him. He toyed with supporting Paul Ryan’s and John McCain’s primary challengers, even after Ryan and McCain had endorsed him, just because he liked feeling powerful. And now that Ryan has (sort of) abandoned him (without actually rescinding his endorsement), Trump wants to punish him. He wants to punish everyone who’s been insufficiently enthusiastic about supporting a sexual predator for president. He wants Ryan to lose, and he wants other Republicans to lose. He’s happy to encourage his supporters to vote for him and against Republicans down ballot. He doesn’t care about a conservative agenda. He doesn’t care about a Republican agenda. The only agenda he cares about is his own, and if you think that will change once he becomes president, well, as Sarah Palin once said, you’re living on a unicorn ranch in fantasy land.

There’s a worse-case scenario, though, in my opinion. Let’s say Trump becomes president and the Republicans retain majorities in the House and the Senate. This seems the unlikeliest of all scenarios, but it’s the scenario Thomas Sowell and other Republicans are pulling the ripcord for. Republicans have not stood up to Trump as their presidential candidate. Why would they stand up to Trump as their president? Paul Ryan felt he had no choice but to support his party’s candidate if he wanted to remain Speaker of the House. Is he suddenly going to stop wanting to be Speaker of the House when Trump is the Republican president? I mean, I know he initially said he didn’t want the job, but apparently he’s gotten pretty attached to it. The time to give it up would have been July, not January 2017 or later.

Republicans will be expected to support their president (just as Democrats were expected to support President Obama), and it won’t matter that Trump’s agenda bears no resemblance to theirs, any more than it matters now. Once Trump is elected, he’ll have no reason to even pretend to care about what conservatives think. (And I don’t think he’s doing such a hot job of pretending now.) Conservatives will have to pretend to care about what he wants and support whatever crap thing he wants to do because, apparently, what these guys care about the most is preserving their own power, and if Trump helps them do that, they’re not going to go against him. (No matter how many women he gropes.)

What this means is that what would be present in a Hillary Clinton presidency–conservative opposition to the president’s scary, scary agenda–would not be present in a Trump presidency. And there is zero reason to believe that Trump’s agenda would be less scary or authoritarian than Clinton’s. (In fact, it could be worse, for all we know. Worse than burning alive in a plane crash? Maybe!) The GOP as a vehicle of conservative policy is already more or less dead, as far as I’m concerned, but with a Trump victory, it would not be just merely dead, but really, most sincerely dead.

So in other words, stay in the plane or don’t stay in the plane, but don’t kid yourself about what’s possible versus what’s probable.

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