Two Little Words

The American Conservative 2020 Presidential Symposium

George Liebmann
Means are more important than ends in the politics of free countries. As a bookseller’s son I had no difficulty in the last election in deciding that I would not vote for Donald Trump. I supported Johnson.

Trump identified concerns: opposing “liberal imperialism” and its attendant refugee flows abroad; realizing that America’s lack of a rebatable VAT tax rendered trade agreements disadvantageous; facing fear, manifest in the 1850s and 1920s of too-sudden immigration; and curbing Supreme Court usurpations.

His deregulatory and tax initiatives produced economic benefits, including unappreciated relief for the poor through expansion of the standard deduction and tax credits. The Democrats offered Red-baiting without Reds, sexual license, delay of coronavirus relief measures, partisan impeachment, and over-exploitation of race. The New York Times has done as much to debase discourse as Mr. Trump.

But there is no more benefit that can be derived from another Trump victory. He has been undone by Caesarism. From exaggerated inaugural crowds, exclusion of persons with valid passports, efforts to extract from the F.B.I. director the personal oath of Hitler’s generals, the Roger Stone pardon, concealment of tax returns, failure to adhere to debate rules, and impugning of the election’s outcome, it is clear that Suetonius’s Lives of the Twelve Caesars provides a better guide than the Federalist Papers to the course of a second Trump administration.

Trump was right that some of the Charlottesville demonstrators, like George Orwell and President Macron of France, thought it wrong to destroy public monuments, and in seeking to regularize relations with Russia, one of Franklin Roosevelt’s “five policemen” of world order.

Democratic extremists will be no more successful than FDR in “packing” the Supreme Court. There is growing “liberal” appreciation of the benefits of federalism in law enforcement, and opposition to the closing of schools and “defunding the police.” Biden may foster needed youth employment programs, reforestation and flood control, and tax changes to curb enormous fortunes.

There is one overriding issue. We cannot have an unstable president whose thoughts have now turned to encouragement of armed paramilitary groups to reinforce his political position, telling them to “stand by.” Those two little words should doom the Trump presidency in the minds of all responsible Republicans.

George Liebmann, a Baltimore lawyer, is the author of numerous works on politics and history, most recently America’s Political Inventors (Bloomsbury, 2019)

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