Trump and down ticket elections

By Richard Nelson

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January 20, 2016

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In the New York Times today, Peter Wehner wrote a fascinating article laying out why he could never vote for Donald Trump. Highlighting the rancor, narcissism and overall vindictive rhetoric of Mr. Trump, Wehner paints an image of a candidate that he could not in good conscience cast his vote for the Presidency. Whether or not one agrees with Wehner, a potential implication of this position might be that one should abstain from voting all together. I think this is a mistake and is not within the spirit of conservatism.

As philosopher Roger Scruton has said, conservatism starts from a sentiment that all people can readily agree upon. The sentiment that good things are easily destroyed but not easily created. This creative activity finds some of its place in everyday political drama, but more often than not it finds its home in legislation. While national politics get the cameras, pundits and opinion pages, it is on the local and state level where effective change often takes place. Conservatives would do well to focus as much energy and attention on the local level as they (rightly) proportion to the national level. It is not an either-or, but rather a both-and proposition. Change that starts closer to a grassroots level is likely to stand the test of controversy because it is grounded in people caring about their homes, a far more personal connection that their nation. An awareness of such a relationship means ensuring that when the top of the ticket is ghastly, we do not let that spirit of disinterest make its way down the rest of the ticket. It is likely you’ll feel the pinch of a local magistrate before you feel the pinch of the federal government. 

“Down ticket” elections are just as—if not more—important than federal elections, and conservatives would do well to remember this if we are left with the less-than-ideal scenario of a general election with Donald Trump at the top. 

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Director, Commonwealth Policy Center