I don't think I'm breaking any sort of suspenseful silence here when I say, here and now, that I will never vote for Donald Trump. I will not vote for him in the general election against Hillary, and I would not vote for him in a race for dogcatcher. Heck, I would not even vote for him on a reality television show.
It's not the complete lack of ideological compass that does it for me. I've happily voted for candidates who showed virtually infinite malleability on the issues - Mitt Romney comes to mind - because I believed they'd stay relatively bought once they got into office. I am a pragmatist with my vote even if I have strong ideological beliefs and high expectations.
It isn't the fact that the guy was an activist liberal Democrat (and repeat donor to Democrats, including Hillary Clinton) until about five minutes ago when he decided to run for President. Definitely, that plays a large part in it, but if I believed his conversion was sincere, I could get over it and pull the lever in the end - if, again, I believed that he would remain reasonably true to conservative principles once he was in office.
It isn't the fact that, after running for President for nine months, he still demonstrates a startling lack of knowledge about basic policy issues, particularly foreign policy issues. That's obviously concerning and by this point is illustrative of the fact that he is either uninterested in preparing for himself for the job he seeks to hold or (as I suspect) is incapable of ever becoming prepared.
It isn't the fact that he is obviously temperamentally unfit for the job and, if elected, would be an embarrassment to the Republican Party, the conservative movement, and the country as a whole. It isn't even just the fact that I have real, live concerns that electing Trump would get the United States military involved in multiple completely unnecessary international conflagrations.
His messy personal life is barely even relevant to me; many or even most of history's highest functioning leaders had personal lives that bordered on continual disaster. If I thought Trump were capable of doing the job, I would overlook it.
No, the thing that makes me unwilling to vote for Trump under any circumstances is that the man is rather obviously a genuine authoritarian at heart, based on a lengthy record of public rhetoric dating back to before the Tiananmen Square massacre and continuing through his recent and completely unveiled threats against the press for daring to report the truth about him and his political enemies for daring to disagree with him.
And like most authoritarians who have come before him, Trump shows no indication that, if elected, he would use his authoritarian impulses in any sort of benevolent manner, but would rather resort to regular self-dealing and political retribution against anyone who dared speak out against him. We have seen the damage the IRS alone can wreak in the hands of an unscrupulous President; in the hands of President Trump, no American who dared speak out against him would be safe from government abuses both petty and great.
Nope. Not an America I'm interested in living in. Not a man I can in good conscience support with a vote.
My hope is that someone comes along and puts forth a third party candidate I can believe in, someone who is worthy of my vote. If not, I will either not vote, or will watch to see if Donald can successfully push me into voting for Hillary (he's trying very hard every day but I'm resistant).
"But Leon," say a bunch of people who are interested in the Republican party winning just for the sake of winning. "If enough people take this approach, then Hillary will win!"
I'm sure she will, and that's not my fault. I have no obligation to vote for Donald Trump or anyone else. I never signed a contract to do so, or received any great favor from the GOP that commits me morally from doing so. I find Donald Trump to be unqualified, unfit for office, repugnant, and a tyrant in waiting, so I won't vote for him. The end.
I don't owe anyone a vote. I give my votes to people who earn them.
If you're looking for someone to blame, maybe you should take a look at Trump.
Maybe you should blame Trump for utterly failing to study anything pertaining to foreign policy for nine months.
Maybe you should blame Trump for any number of the insane policy positions he's taken which would make any serious person realize that he is unfit to hold the office.
Maybe you should blame Trump for mocking a reporter for his disability.
Maybe you should blame Trump for being so ignorant of judicial philosophy that he thinks judges sign bills.
Maybe you should blame Trump for repeatedly praising the butchers at Planned Parenthood during the course of this campaign.
Maybe you should blame Trump for his cynical and disgusting manipulation of the fears of the uneducated during the course of the campaign, which both fueled his rise and solidified even marginally decent people in their stance against him.
Maybe you should blame Trump for saying that if he got elected, he'd rewrite the First Amendment so that he could sue the press every time they wrote something mean about him.
Maybe you should blame Trump for his open admiration for the leadership style of every tin-pot despot on the planet.
Maybe you should blame Trump for promising to cut great, classy deals with the Democrats as soon as he got to Washington.
Maybe you should blame Trump for his childish personal insults toward every Republican in the field, while he hasn't said a single word about Hillary Clinton.
Maybe you should blame Trump's voters who overlooked all this and forced Trump as the nominee even though people like me have been saying from the start that we would never vote for him.
Or you could blame me for not voting the way you want me to.
Here's the great irony in all this: the people like Newt Gingrich and Sean Hannity who are lecturing the #NeverTrump folks like to chastise people like Ben Sasse because they say that Ben Sasse just doesn't like the way people voted in the primary. They then invariably proceed to engage in a lengthy harangue, the gist of which is that if you vote the wrong way in the general, you are an evil person.
I have never not voted for the Republican nominee for President since I turned 18 in the long ago. If it happens for the first time in 2016, and Hillary gets elected, it won't be my fault. It will be Trump's. He's the one who failed to earn my vote. And Trump never did anything for me such that I owe it to him anyway.