OPINION | Against Sanders, Trump is the lesser evil

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IF Bernie Sanders is the Democratic nominee for president, he’ll have to secure the votes of people like me.

He won’t have a chance. A man who sings the praises of Fidel Castro’s Cuba and promises to dismantle the most productive economy on the planet won’t win over America’s moderate middle, even running against an ill-mannered, ignorant and demagogic Donald Trump.

Until 2016 I was a registered Republican. I voted for some Democrats, but mostly Republicans. In 2010 I was Oregon’s Republican nominee for U.S. Senate, challenging incumbent Ron Wyden as a social moderate and fiscal conservative. In July 2016, I wrote an op-ed in Oregon’s leading newspaper urging the state’s Republican National Convention delegates to lead a “revolution of conscience” against Mr. Trump’s nomination. When he was nominated, I changed my registration to “unaffiliated.”

In November I voted for Libertarian Gary Johnson. If I lived in a swing state, I’d have voted for Hillary Clinton. Mr. Trump has been even worse as president than I imagined — less civil, less informed, more demagogic. Yet if Mr. Sanders is the Democratic nominee, I’ll vote for Mr. Trump.

Voting for Bernie Sanders will not be an option for millions of moderate Republican and independent voters, including those in swing states. They may like some of the things Mr. Trump has done, but they can’t abide his rude behavior, narcissism and disregard for the truth. But neither can they accept Mr. Sanders’s socialism with its limitless, unfunded promises.

The president has been even worse than I expected, but I may have to vote for him.

The lesser evil is clear. Most of the harm Mr. Trump has caused, and will cause in another term, will pass when he leaves office. It will take time but civil dialogue can be restored, foreign relationships repaired, tariffs repealed, executive orders revoked, and new people appointed to important positions. Contrary to the “resistance,” democracy and the rule of law are not in peril. Mr. Trump is a product of democracy, and the courts — including judges appointed since 2017 — continue to enforce the law.

If Mr. Sanders’s socialist agenda were to become a reality, undoing it would be nearly impossible. Once created, social- welfare programs are almost never reversed. It is a one-way ratchet to more spending, mounting debt and growing dependence on government at the expense of individual responsibility. Lawmakers have known for decades that Social Security and Medicare are unsustainable without major reforms, but there are no reforms.

Everything government does is funded by the capitalist economy that Mr. Sanders’s proposed policies would deliberately undermine. Some hope that even Democratic congressional majorities would put the brakes on a President Sanders’s agenda. But in an era of unbending party loyalty, moderates can’t rely on that. That’s why people like me may end up pulling the lever for Donald Trump.

Mr. Huffman is a professor and dean emeritus at Lewis & Clark Law School in Portland, Ore.

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