Conservatism is failing the Kobayashi Maru exercise. Badly.
It’s a Star Trek thing. You know, the unwinnable game, the unbeatable scenario? The Kobayashi Maru exercise is a Starfleet final exam in which every possible outcome leads the failure of a mission and the loss of some or all of the people involved. The purpose of the test is to force potential captains to recognize that sometimes in life there is no solution that involves you getting what you want.
To be a captain, a leader, it means you will have to face bitter defeat, make heartbreaking choices, and accept compromise instead of playing only to win regardless of the cost. The Kobayashi Maru is a damn good test, because anyone who is arrogant enough to imagine that they could be leaders of men, must be wise enough to acknowledge that you can’t always get what you want. To try only ensures that you will fail. And when leaders fail, those they lead pay the ultimate price. Leadership is a heavy burden to bear and before assuming the mantle, it’s important to understand just how heavy it is.
James Kirk cheated on the Kobayashi Maru exercise. He reprogrammed the computer to give him the option to win and received a commendation for original thinking. That’s the kind of awesome that we as exceptional Americans love to see in our heroes. We admire the unrepentant bulldog who never gives up, never gives an inch, takes no prisoners, who defends every blade of grass on the football field and takes on all comers with bare fists and beats em all down. But real life is not lived by Hollywood action heroes or fictional spaceship captains.
Real life involves constant compromise and biting your tongue and picking your battles. It involves innumerable wars that are not worth waging because the costs are too high and you have to conserve your resources. Some chances aren’t worth taking, some arguments aren’t worth making, some opportunities are best walked away from. Sometimes you settle for the second and third and fourth best options even when you hate them because you just can’t do better.
You can’t cheat your way through real life. It isn’t a simulation that you can easily trick. It’s full of real people who ALSO want to win everything all the time and to always have their way and are working just as hard as you are to attain those goals. A world where everyone went to the mat over everything all the time accepting only unconditional victory in every case would be horrible.
There is a large and vocal set of small government conservatives and libertarians who think it is crazy terrible to try and work with Trump and his supporters. On anything. They would prefer to maintain a doctrine of purity and construct thickwalled towers of dogma and ideology in which we can all huddle together and argue about the gold standard and how many illegal immigrants can dance on the head of a pin until such a time as Rand Paul achieves the next level of human evolution and ascends to the heavens to usher in the glorious new conservo-libertarian dawn.
The problem is, nobody else wants that. We can’t win. I hate it that we can’t win, but we cannot win. Most Americans do not want smaller government. It’s just a fact. We can hold our breath until we turn blue and fall down and roll around on the floor for a while slobbering all over the place but they’ll just step over us on the way to the freebie trough. And the more freaked out and dogmatic and ideological we are, the more people are going to ignore what we have to say. If you don’t believe it, take a look at the joke that once was the far left. Nobody cares about anything they have to say any more, they’ve made themselves utterly irrelevant. Even people who mostly agree with them have turned away.
Conservatives, libertarians, we won’t accomplish anything – not politically nor culturally – with a purity doctrine. We’ll only hasten our own demise and everyone else’s that much faster. In order to maintain what little influence we have over the course of human events, we MUST stay realistic. We have to set attainable goals and work towards them rather than holding out for an ideal scenario which will never come to pass. We have to embrace pragmatism.
Political pragmatism is an algebra equation. With any president short of the fabled Electable-Libertarian-Unicorn-Who-Exists-Only-In-Ur-Dreams, there will be gains to civil liberty/smaller government, and losses to civil liberties/smaller government. One has to balance both sides of that equation to really know what you’re getting.
One of our (viable) options was Hillary Clinton, who I believe would have been a substantial net loss on just about every front – not only would she have done nothing to advance the cause of liberty or shrink government, she’s a warmonger, she supports the crooked and racist criminal justice system, she doesn’t mind if people are being forced to bake cakes and pay for other people’s birth control and buy health insurance they don’t want, she salivates at the idea of people forced to give up their guns and their homeschools, she wants to pour gobs more money into the failing education system and empower colleges to declare people guilty of thought crimes and sexual assault without due process.
Clinton was being supported by a thoroughly corrupt and deceitful media. Her supporters are Puritanical bullies and busybodies that intend to police every aspect of your life and mine. They would have not only continued the culture war being waged against conservative values, but they would have advanced it. We KNOW these things and many others are true because we have her history and her record and that of her party and followers to prove it. President Hillary Clinton would have been a huge loss for the cause of liberty with no offsetting gains. And nothing I, or Rand Paul or Ted Cruz or Evan McMullin could have said or done would have had ANY influence on her presidency or the beliefs of her supporters. As a personally conservative, politically libertarian person, I was utterly powerless in the face of a Clinton presidency.
Our other option was Donald Trump, the dark horse. He may be terrible for civil liberties and small government in some ways, but at the same time, possibly better in others. At the least, the Supreme Court is safe. On cultural issues, a politically incorrect Trump presidency, despite its cringe-inducing crassness, is almost certainly better than 4-8 more years of direct liberal assault against traditional values. Additionally he’s a huge thumb in the eye of the media and Hollywood-types who are, of course, the main traditional-values-assaulters. Even in the worst case (realistic) scenario, Trump is a break-even in my mind. Maybe worse on some things, but countered by the things he’s better on. And the issues on which he is – hypothetically, since we truly don’t know his intent – the most objectionable, he is largely powerless to act, thanks to the checks and balances of our political system.
On balance, if you can hold back the bile long enough do the math, Trump is better. And perhaps it’s naive of me, but I do believe that conservatives and libertarians have some sway over the beliefs of his supporters and upon his presidency. If we play our cards right, our voices could be heard and listened to. Certainly by our Senators and Congressmen and our state lawmakers if no one else. Even if Donald Trump is operating out of sheer self-interest, he knows that he needs our support and that of our legislators, and thus we have some influence over policy. It’s going to be a hard road, to be sure, but we aren’t powerless and wandering in the wilderness like we would have been in a Clinton administration.
Of course, this all goes away if we decide to throw a purity politics temper tantrum and refuse to work with the guy because he isn’t perfectly perfect. He’s objectionable. We all know that he’s objectionable, what is the point of dredging it up over and over again? He’s rude, and terrible, and has no experience. He’ll make mistakes, a lot of them. Some of his supporters are hooligans. But does it make the them go away if we isolate and demonize them? Does it make Trump go away and John Kasich president? What does a rigid adherence to dogmatic purity accomplish other than alienating an awful lot of people, who unlike the majority of Hillary supporters, are people we could possibly influence with our message?
I personally did not vote for Donald Trump, I have no love for the man at all, but Trump is what we have to work with. If you’re poor and hungry, you don’t go to your cupboard and see a packet of ramen and refuse to eat because it’s salty and gross. You choke it down because it will sustain you for a little longer and then you get to work to better your position in life so that hopefully, in a few months or years or decades, you’ll have something other than ramen in your belly.
In the here and now, this minute, we have to WIN. We have to stop the march of progressivism. Period. It’s not an option. We win now or we lose forever – at least for the duration of our lifetimes, and probably our children’s and grandchildren’s as well. They’re taking over and they will settle for nothing less than the complete annihilation of the American way of life. Strong words, I know, but I’m not sure we have the luxury of pretending any longer that their agenda is anything short of that. They’ve showed their hand. They want classical philosophers out of the colleges and dudes in women’s bathrooms and pedophilia to be recognized as a valid lifestyle choice. They want gun control and population control. They want control, period. They aren’t going to stop because we play fair and are nice to them.
We have to stop them. And we also have to prevent Donald Trump from crazying us into oblivion. To do that we have to build bridges to demographic islands that we’d probably never go on vacation. Building these bridges is job one, before we get caught up in if-onlys and daydreams of better candidates and squabbles between barely different factions about what the cherry on top of the conservative sundae ought to taste like. We don’t have a conservative sundae!! We’re subsisting on ramen here!
Look over at the left, friends, see that infighting and squabbling going on? How they can’t seem to quit scratching and clawing at each other long enough to get their sh– together? That’s us. We’re more polite about it (slightly) but it’s still us. It’s not time for wonkish debates about tariffs and crony capitalism. No one agrees with us. Focus on the change we can affect instead of arguing over pipedreams. Stop wasting energy trying to pin down the fine details of goals that are utterly unattainable.
Reprogramming is not an option. There is no way to beat unbeatable scenario. The rules are what they are. We can #NeverTrump from now till oblivion but the reality is, the dude won when we could not win. We gotta win before we can start dictating the terms of our victory. If I had a magic wand, of course I’d prefer things to be my way. But I don’t, and we lost. Until we win, we have to compromise. Compromise is what America is all about.
Rejoice, because we could not have compromised with Hillary. We can with Trump, but we have to be willing to bend a little. Or a lot. Maybe as much as we can without snapping in two. But that is what the job is requiring of us. Flexibility. Now what can we do within the confines of reality, to get as much as we can of what we want?
Personally, I don’t intend to go down with the ship – at least not without saving as many of my people as I can. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few and they sure as hell outweigh my feelings of butthurt over my late, lamented, bastardized principles.