I have taken a real interest in the debate among libertarians and classical liberals (as well as conservatives) over whether to support Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. In the past, libertarians and classical liberals (who I will refer to simply as libertarians for ease of exposition) have tended to split between supporting the Republican nominee and the Libertarian Party nominee. Yet, if libertarians were forced to choose between the Republican and Democratic nominees, my sense is that the great majority would support the Republican.
These days the matter is different. Libertarians like Donald Trump much less than they like the usual Republican nominees. Unsurprisingly, then, many more of them are considering voting for the Libertarian Party nominee. But interestingly many of them, when pushed on the issue, say that they prefer Clinton to Trump.
Here are some of the main views of the two camps. Those who favor Trump over Clinton believe that another Democratic Administration would be very bad for the Republic. Another 4 or 8 years, after 8 years of Obama, would be disastrous. They argue that concerns about Trump’s corruption and authoritarianism are no greater than concerns about a Clinton Administration. Moreover, the media will be scrupulous about identifying wrongdoing by a Trump Administration, whereas it will cover up that wrongdoing by a Clinton Administration.
Those who favor Trump also argue that executive and judicial appointments are a strong reason to favor the Donald. While it is unclear how good his appointments will be, we know that Hillary’s appointments will be bad.
Those who favor Clinton believe she would be a less risky President. She is more of a conventional politician who would follow ordinary political norms. Even if she is more likely to be a bad President, she is less likely to take some disastrous action.
The Clinton preferrers contend that even if Trump would be slightly better than Clinton, the Republicans would be forced to own those actions. A Trump Presidency would undermine and transform the Republican Party for a generation.
Finally, those who favor Clinton point to how ignorant Trump sounds about government. My guess is that this is both a concern about how well Trump will actually govern and a reaction to Trump’s comments on a political asesthetic level. (That said, this argument needs to be tempered by the fact that Trump has successfully run a large business empire and has dominated a political election cycle against more experienced politicians. So he is obviously very smart.)
These are strong arguments on both sides. Not a happy choice. One can always avoid the choice – especially if you live in a strongly blue or red state – by simply voting for the Libertarian candidate. But the real issue is who you prefer – Trump or Clinton.