The Day

Trump vs. Biden? For many, it would be a gut-wrenching choice

- By GARY ABERNATHY Gary Abernathy, a contributi­ng columnist for The Post, is based in the Cincinnati region.

Former Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, who is considerin­g a run for the 2024 GOP presidenti­al nomination, made news recently when he told radio host and Post contributi­ng columnist Hugh Hewitt that he would grudgingly support Donald Trump if the former president wins the GOP nod.

Later, Hogan — who claimed in 2020 that he wrote in former President Ronald Reagan rather than vote for Trump — somewhat confusingl­y walked back his comments, saying he would “not commit” to supporting Trump but “would support the nominee, who he doesn’t think will be Trump.”

Clear as mud. But the exchange reflected a dilemma many Americans will wrestle with if Trump prevails in the Republican primaries.

Trump haters will ask, “What’s to wrestle with? How could anyone consider supporting someone who tried to subvert democracy and steal an election?”

It’s only that cut-and-dried if Trump’s election demagoguer­y disturbs you more than the consequenc­es of President Joe Biden’s embrace of his party’s far-left shift. I’m extremely disturbed by both of these things, but as a conservati­ve, I don’t have to wait until 2024 to know that even if Biden doesn’t run, the Democratic nominee will be a political liberal sinking us further into a socialist-style abyss. I’ll almost surely vote for the GOP nominee. Does that hold true even if it’s Trump? Fair question.

Throughout his presidency, Trump often frustrated me with his pugilistic demeanor and his generally outlandish behavior. None of it threatened my support, because I don’t look to politician­s for their manners. I care about results.

I never was and never will be a member of the “Never Trump” brigade — a collection of entitled Republican­s angry since 2016 that their party was wrested from them by a Trump-led grass-roots movement (which I cheered on). But Trump’s refusal to accept his 2020 election loss and the events of Jan. 6, 2021, led me to conclude he had disqualifi­ed himself from seeking office again and to declare that the GOP should break with him.

Imperfect political choices often conflict with high-minded ideals, however. When talking lately with other disenchant­ed former Trump supporters, the question arises, “What if he wins the nomination?” A deafening silence usually ensues. “The only patriotic thing to do,” many will insist, “would be to vote for Biden.” But it’s hardly so simple.

I stridently oppose the big-government vision Biden has somewhat surprising­ly championed as president and reiterated in his State of the Union address. I chafe at Biden’s war on affordable fossil fuel while the government props up “clean” alternativ­es with subsidies and tax incentives. I cannot vote for a candidate who wants to infringe further on the Second Amendment and thinks abortion rights should be codified. While I support making legal immigratio­n easier, I consider Biden’s lax approach a dangerous derelictio­n of his duty to secure U.S. borders.

Therefore, I can’t join Republican­s like Hogan who in 2020 wrote in a name or cast their ballot for a third-party candidate, which might have assuaged their conscience but in reality did little but help elect Biden and pave the way for a massive government expansion that historians have compared to both the New Deal and the Great Society. If it comes down to Trump-Biden again, our duty as citizens is to make the hard, even uncomforta­ble, decision, not to waste our franchise on a “protest vote.”

A Trump-Biden rematch would leave me no practical choice but to decide between the man who rejected a legitimate election outcome, and could well do it again, but will pursue social, economic and border policies I strongly support while putting conservati­ve judges on federal benches; or someone whose progressiv­e policies and initiative­s on issue after issue will, from my perspectiv­e, inflict lasting damage on the country.

Democrats, too, would be wise to find another candidate. As reported in a recent Post-ABC News poll, “Neither Biden nor Trump generates broad excitement within their own party.” But in a hypothetic­al rematch, according to that same poll, 48 percent support Trump and 45 percent back Biden, within the margin of error — with independen­ts favoring Trump by a shocking 50 percent to 41 percent. Millions of Americans — far beyond Trump’s base — are unhappy enough with Biden that they’re willing to consider taking another chance on Trump, in spite of everything.

Is this really the vapid choice we’ll face? I hope not, and I remain optimistic that GOP primary voters will settle on someone other than Trump. In my next column, I’ll describe the kind of candidate the GOP should nominate — someone who not only excites Republican­s but also can inspire a broad cross-section of Americans.

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