Op-ed: Conservatives must not vote for Trump in November

Jack Elbaum is an incoming freshman majoring in international affairs and economics.

I’m a conservative no matter what way you slice it.

I believe in free markets, free trade and protecting our Second Amendment rights. I want the government to cut spending, I want the United States to take an active role in world affairs. I love America despite all of its flaws – and those flaws are on full display right now.

If this were an ordinary moment in America, those beliefs would put me squarely in the Republican camp and with the 85 percent of Republicans who support our Republican president – but this is not a normal time in America.

That is why this election cycle, the first one where I will finally have the ability to vote, I cannot stand with the incumbent president of the party that should represent me. Sorry, Donald, but you don’t have this conservative’s vote.

This is not a popular position within the Republican party, but, nonetheless, I urge my fellow conservatives to stand with me, and with our foundational principles, by refusing to vote for Trump in the election.

The kind of conservatism that I believe in is one that embraces freedom but is responsible with it, one that projects strength while not exerting it and one that loves our country without letting it blind us to the issues staring us in the face right now. As our country continues to deal with some of the worst crises that we have had to face in recent history, now seems like a perfect time to reexamine what conservatism really is and if Trump embodies it or not.

Whether it is on issues of fiscal responsibility, foreign policy or personal standards of morality, the president fails his conservative base on every front.

If you are a fiscal conservative, it seems reasonable that a man who has run larger deficits than former President Barack Obama during every year of his first three in office would not be the presidential candidate for you. The debt that has been created by Bush and Obama is being exacerbated at an exponential rate by our current president.

In 2010, the year that Obama’s deficit was greatest, he ran a deficit of $1.5 trillion. That is clearly unacceptable, but it pales in comparison to the $3.7 trillion and $2.1 trillion deficits Trump is projected to run in 2020 and 2021, respectively. The lowest deficit Obama ran during his tenure as president was $442 billion in 2015, while the lowest deficit Trump has run is $779 billion. However, damaging the legacy of Obama was on issues of fiscal responsibility, Trump may be even worse.

As far as foreign policy, Trump acts as if he is a strong man. He loves to threaten Kim Jong Un with our nuclear arsenal and he talks a tough game on Middle East policy. But Trump’s legacy will be one of bowing down to dictators, erasing vast amounts of U.S. influence in the Middle East and scaling back on America’s role in the world. The harshest critics of Obama’s foreign policy could not come up with anything scarier than Trump’s. He has pulled out of Syria, allowing the Kurds to be attacked and ISIS to rebound. He has agreed to pull out of Afghanistan, letting the Taliban be the ones to police terror even though they themselves are a terrorist organization. And he has allowed the United States and our allies to be attacked by Iran with little pushback. The killing of Qasem Soleimani was important, but after two years of letting Iran walk all over us, he had to respond at some point.

For religious conservatives – and really any moral person – the personal standards of morality that Trump lives by are absolutely grotesque. His record on how he views women is pretty clear. And while he may not be a racist or an anti-Semite, he has said his share of racially insensitive and casually anti-Semitic remarks. Beyond his words, what does it say about the leader of our country when he has cheated on every single one of his three wives, including First Lady Melania Trump?

More importantly, when his leadership is needed and our country is in crisis – as it is right now – he reacts in a way that should trouble all of us. In response to the police killing of George Floyd, Trump raised tensions rather than eased them and he did not even attempt to signal to the American people that he stands with them.

It should go without saying, but this is not the kind of person we can trust leading our country. Trump may be a Republican, but he is no conservative.

November is coming whether we like it or not. This election will be defining for the conservative movement. Will we embrace Trumpism and a new type of populist conservatism, or will we stick to the vision that our founders had in 1776? I have a feeling that we may choose the former, but, for the sake of the country and our conservative movement, the latter is what is needed now more than ever.

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