Andrew Klavan of PJ Media observes that conservative “NeverTrumpers” tend to be younger than conservatives who are willing to bite the bullet and vote for Trump. He speculates that this is because “for the young, there very much does seem to be a future in which the conservative movement can rebuild no matter what damage Hillary wreaks on the nation.” For the old, “this may not be the last election…but we can see the last election from here.” Thus, it will be harder to keep hope alive during a Hillary Clinton presidency.
An interesting theory. For me, though, the main merit in Klaven’s column resides not in his speculation about the Trump generation gap, but in his plea for mutual respect, or at least civility, between the two points of view.
Klavan says of the choice conservatives face in November:
[F]or me this is a hard decision. And the thing about hard decisions is: they’re hard.
They do not allow for stridency. They are not conducive to smashing your fist into your palm and slinging names at people who disagree with you. They force you to respect the other good men and women who are wrestling with their consciences in a difficult moment.
There are also pragmatic reasons to be respectful:
[N]o matter what happens — whether current trends continue and Trump is buried beneath a flaming landslide or whether an election year of anomalous surprises delivers yet one more — conservatism will certainly be finished forever if we on the right remain at daggers drawn in the aftermath.
Angry charges that our fellow conservatives “sold out,” or “stabbed us in the back,” are nearly always absurd. Most of us are just trying to figure out what’s right for the right. When the choices are impossible, reasonable people may disagree.
The choices aren’t “impossible,” but all of the options are, for many conservatives, quite unattractive.
A little respect for differing opinions among conservatives young and old may help us rebuild from whichever no doubt ruinous disaster is about to come crashing down on top of us.
But what about conservatives who backed Trump during the primary season, thus forcing the rest of us to have to choose among highly unattractive options in the general election? It will be impossible for me to respect their decision to support Trump at that juncture.
We can, however, respect some of the opinions behind the decision — disgust with illegal immigration and with political correctness, for example. And even if we are not ourselves populists, we can respect the populist impulse, while rejecting excessive manifestations.
In the last half of the 19th century, it was not uncommon for elections to ruin old alliances and friendships. The best (but not the only) example is probably the 1884 election, when the Republican nominee, James Blaine, was viewed as the embodiment of political corruption. Generally speaking, young Republican leaders and intellectuals were “NeverBlaine.” Older Republicans tended to hold their nose and support the man from Maine.
We haven’t seen intra-party animus of comparable intensity in a very long time, arguably not for more than a century. We’re bound to see it now. But the less of it we see, the better.