The case for Trump?

|The Volokh Conspiracy |

I have been and remain a never-Trumper. Nevertheless, I read conservative (and even the rare libertarian) defenses of Trump that I see on social media with interest. Of course, the most prominent defense of Trump is that he's Not Hillary. But that's true of more than 200 million Americans who are eligible to be president, so that's hardly a rousing endorsement.

Beyond that, I've come across two themes that Trump supporters focus on, both directly relating to law.

The first is the future of the Supreme Court. Unlike co-blogger Ilya, I think it's very likely that Trump would support justices that Federalist Society types would approve of. He just doesn't know or care much about the judiciary, and therefore is likely to delegate the selection process to underlings who understand how important his issue is to the Republican base (remember Harriet Miers?). So this is a legitimate reason for favoring Trump. I just don't think it sufficient to justify putting a crude, narcissistic ignoramus in charge of the executive branch of government, free to launch trade wars and real wars and to appoint cronies to the executive branch who will abuse their authority for the greater glory of Trump.

This brings us to the second rationale, that while Trump seems to have authoritarian tendencies and has praised President Obama's use of executive orders (though not their content), any abuse of executive authority will lead to a massive backlash in the mainstream media, and even from Republicans in Congress. By contrast, to the extent that Hillary Clinton continues to build on President Obama's lawlessness, the media, favoring Democrats and wishing success for the first woman president, will be as quiescent about her abuses as they have been about Obama's.

I think that those who believe that Republicans in Congress (and Republicans will likely control the House and Senate if Trump wins the presidency) will serve as a significant check on Trump are dreaming. Whichever party has the presidency, members of that party with very few exceptions defend "their" president. And while it's hardly encouraging that prominent Clinton supporters think it's a point in her favor that they expect her to ignore the law to the extent she can get away with it, I expect that the content of her abuses will be similar to Obama's—mostly pushing a progressive agenda, while I fear that given Trump's narcissism and thin-skinnedness, he would more likely use the might of the federal government to target critics. I'm hardly sanguine about the results of a Clinton presidency (and I expect I'll vote for Gary Johnson), but the contrast is between a continued downslide into Third Worldish executive despotism, and a rather predictable headlong leap.