by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Why exactly did nearly half the country vote for Donald Trump?
Why also did the arguments of Never Trump Republicans and conservatives have marginal effect on voters? Despite vehement denunciations of the Trump candidacy from many pundits on the right and in the media, Trump nonetheless got about the same percentage of Republican voters (88–90 percent) as did McCain in 2000 and Romney in 2012, who both were handily defeated in the Electoral College.
Here are some of reasons voters knew what they were getting with Trump and yet nevertheless assumed he was preferable to a Clinton presidency.
1) Was Trump disqualified by his occasional but demonstrable character flaws and often rank vulgarity? To believe that plaint, voters would have needed a standard by which both past media of coverage of the White House and the prior behavior of presidents offered some useful benchmarks. Unfortunately, the sorts of disturbing things we know about Trump we often did not know in the past about other presidents. …
… 2) Personal morality and public governance are related, but we are not always quite sure how. Jimmy Carter was both a more moral person and a worse president than Bill Clinton. Jerry Ford was a more ethical leader than Donald Trump — and had a far worse first 16 months. FDR was a superb wartime leader — and carried on an affair in the White House, tried to pack and hijack the Supreme Court, sent U.S. citizens into internment camps, and abused his presidential powers in ways that might get a president impeached today. …
… 3) Trump did not run in a vacuum. A presidential vote is not a one-person race for sainthood but, like it or not, often a choice between a bad and worse option. Hillary Clinton would have likely ensured a 16-year progressive regnum.