Though there's still time to stop him, it's now looking increasingly likely that Donald Trump will be the Republican nominee. Some conservatives, such as Erick Erickson and my colleague Tim Carney have outlined reasons why they could never vote for him, so I thought it would be worth spelling out why I couldn't – even in a general election against Hillary Clinton. If any Trump fans tell me, "Well, you people in the Establishment forced the likes of Mitt Romney and John McCain on us, and said we had to hold our noses and vote for them, now it's your turn to hold your noses" – you're barking up the wrong tree. In 2012, after Romney was nominated, I wrote an ebook in which I argued that conservatives shouldn't reflexively rally around him as the nominee – instead I encouraged them to follow their consciences. Without further delay, here are my reasons (in no particular order) why I would vote for a third party conservative if any such candidate emerges, or otherwise stay home if Trump is the nominee. This list will be updated as more reasons come to me.
1. Trump has no actual political record, but his previous political persona is liberal
Typically, a major function of primaries is spent exploring the candidates' records and past statements and comparing them against what they're saying on the campaign trail. The reason is that politicians will say anything to get elected, so whatever they say during the campaign season is among the least important in judging how genuine or committed they are to principles. In Trump's case, he has neither a governing record nor a voting record. So all we have to go on are his past statements. And he has a history of taking extreme liberal positions on issues of core importance to conservatives such as myself, as outlined below, on top of his history of donations to Democrats.
2. He's been a supporter of socialized medicine
In his 2000 book The America We Deserve, Trump described himself as a "liberal" on healthcare and suggested the U.S. should look to Canada's socialist system as a "prototype." During a Republican presidential debate, he said the socialist systems in Canada and Scotland worked well. During an interview on "60 Minutes," last September, he said he thought the government should pay for everybody to be covered. He's sprinkled his speeches with some free market rhetoric about supporting health savings accounts and purchasing insurance across state lines, but he hasn't filled out any of the details. And in the same speeches, he's adopted the liberal position of having the government negotiate drug prices.
3. He thinks government should be empowered to trample on private property rights
Back in November, when I pressed Trump on his record on private property rights, he said it was a "stupid" question and went on to defending government seizing private property from the little guy on behalf of big business. Trump is no stranger to this. In the past, he tried to seize control of an elderly widow's house at a fraction of the price she had been previously offered so he could build a limousine parking garage for his casinos – and he has been unapologetic about it, even on the campaign trail. Property rights are a central pillar of a free society and any notion of human liberty.
4. He will perpetuate the federal government's war on youth
The national debt is growing at an unsustainable level, threatening to put a crushing burden on our nation's youth. The longer we wait to do something, the more dire the tradeoffs, the more punishing tax increases we're likely to see, and the more damage we'll see to the economy. Trump talks about the debt problem, but he has offered no plans for resolving it and would likely make it worse. He is opposed to broad reforms of Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security – the primary contributors to our long-term debt crisis – and has made a laundry list of promised new spending, including on infrastructure projects.
5. He won't respect gun rights
At a time when gun owners are facing a major threat, with Democrats eager to impose more and more restrictions and the deciding Supreme Court vote up for grabs, Trump wouldn't have respect for gun rights. In his book, The America We Deserve, Trump actually chastised the Republican Party for not embracing stricter restrictions on gun rights. "The Republicans walk the NRA line and refuse even limited restrictions," he wrote, and then went on to declare, "I support the ban on assault weapons."
6. Trump doesn't care about protecting the unborn
My colleague Tim Carney expounded on this, laying out why Trump cannot be trusted on this issue, but I'd just add this. Protecting the lives of the unborn has become increasingly important to me as I grow older. A tipping point for me was during the Obamacare debate, when Democrats claiming to be pro-life sold out the life issue to expand the welfare state. That made me realize the importance of making sure that the Republican Party stays a pro-life party, because otherwise there will be no major party standing up for the most vulnerable among us.
7. I don't want Republicanism that's served with an entree of racism and sexism
Trump's political rise has both exploited and fueled white resentment – an idea that minorities and foreigners are threatening the white race's dominance of this country. His 2011 flirtation with running for the GOP nomination was based around embracing the conspiracy theory that President Obama wasn't eligible to be president because he wasn't born in the U.S. – which is at the core a racist theory trying to delegitimize the first black president. His current run for office began by attacking Mexicans for being rapists and was turbocharged by calling for banning Muslims from entering the U.S. He's also tried to degrade women, most prominently with sexist attacks directed at Megyn Kelly and Carly Fiorina.
Though it isn't always fair to tie a candidate to the worst of his overzealous supporters, it is alarming that Trump's movement has stirred up an ugly hornet's nest – energizing white supremacists and unleashing all sorts of hate that I have never before witnessed in the more than a decade I've been covering politics. I spoke to one Trump supporter who told me he didn't just want to expel illegal immigrants, but he wanted to kick out all immigrants and "fry them." I find people much more comfortable than ever heaving anti-Semitic insults and threats at me, and I am not alone – women who criticize Trump are greeted with misogynist attacks, and white Christian critics of Trump are attacked as "cuckservatives," essentially, traitors to their race. If this is what Trump could stir up in a few months during a campaign, I hate to see what sort of racism we'd see emerge from his presidency. Furthermore, were Trump to emerge as the nominee, the Republican Party would effectively have to countenance his racist and sexist campaign act – providing him with an infrastructure, the pageantry of their national convention, and so forth. Going forward, this would damage their brand and ability to advocate for limited government.
8. I don't want to spend more money because of his promised trade war
Trump has promised a trade war with China, even at one point claiming he wanted a 45 percent tariff on Chinese goods. Though he backtracked on that, as he does with many statements, throughout the campaign, he's been an enemy of free trade. A trade war with China and other countries would hurt American consumers, because they'd suddenly have to pay a lot more for goods that other countries could make more cheaply. At the same time, it would hurt American exports, because other countries would retaliate by slapping tariffs on American goods. A past era of trade protectionism helped create the Great Depression, and I wouldn't expect better results this time around.
9. Trump doesn't care about policy
I know that talking about policy isn't very popular these days, but the bottom line is that the only way conservatives are going to stop the nation's march toward European socialism is to present a compelling alternative policy agenda that would pass through both chambers of Congress. Trump's speeches are filled with pro wrestling style boasts about how he'd crush it on policy, but he's offered very little in the way of details. And when he does offer details, he just reveals his own ignorance. For instance, he's been going around saying that if he were to negotiate drug prices, "we can save as much as $300 billion a year." Yet if you combine all of the spending on prescription drugs both by government and the private sector, you only get $297.7 billion.
10. He's a megalomaniac who doesn't understand constitutional limits on executive power
Trump spends an inordinate amount of his speeches talking about his sheer awesomeness. It's tiresome and easy to mock, but it's also a troubling character trait for somebody seeking the most powerful office in the world. During the Obama administration, conservatives have criticized his tendency to bypass Congress and attempt to impose his will through executive action. Trump has made a number of assertions that reveal his ignorance about the limitations of presidential power – such as his vow to give the death penalty to cop killers. This even though the president cannot simply execute criminals and the death penalty is governed by state laws in and its use in specific cases is dictated by courts. Add to this the fact that Trump has had kind words for the leadership styles of autocrats Vladimir Putin and Kim Jong-un.
Trump has built his candidacy on the idea that he'll say whatever pops into his mind without fear. He's attacked a reporter for being disabled, attacked John McCain for having been captured in Vietnam, claimed Cruz stole Iowa only to back off and then claim it again, bailed out of a debate because he didn't like the moderator, repeatedly vowed to sue people, among other examples of his impulse control problems. It presents a troubling picture of how he'll react if he doesn't get his way in Congress or on the world stage.
11. He won't appoint judges who will interpret the Constitution based on its original meaning
The death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has brought a renewed focus to the importance of judicial nominations, with issues such as gun rights, religious liberty and free speech, all hanging by a thread. Trump has conveyed zero understanding of what it means to appoint judges who respect the original intent of the Founders in crafting a government of limited and enumerated powers. His ignorance, coupled with his history of taking liberal positions, and his clear obsession with limitless executive power, does not inspire much confidence. Quite the opposite.