Carmela Soprano: What we say in here, stays in here, right?
Dr. Krakower: By ethical code, and by law.
Carmela Soprano: His crimes... they are... organized crime.
Dr. Krakower: The Mafia!
Carmela Soprano: Oh Jesus.
[wipes tears from her eyes]
Carmela Soprano: So what? So what? He betrays me every week with these whores!
Dr. Krakower: Probably the least of his misdeeds.
             - The Sopranos, “Second Opinion

Tuesday is Election Day. I’m not going to tell which candidate deserves your vote. I’m not going to issue an endorsement. As former presidential aspirant and current U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) said in 2016, you should vote your conscience.

And it’s a tough choice. If you vote for the Democratic candidate, you’re enabling the promotion of  liberal policies such as tax increases, more liberalized abortion laws, environmental regulations that will hurt the economy, and more liberals on the courts. You should be completely aware that this is what is coming if former Vice President Joe Biden becomes president.

On the other hand, the Republican choice is President Donald Trump.

With Trump you’ll get advocacy for lower taxes (and corresponding budget deficits), a pro-business regulatory environment and, as he has proven, you’ll get a judicial selection process that is thankfully subcontracted out to the Federalist Society. 

Unfortunately you’ll get a chaotic foreign policy that is run for the president’s personal benefit. You’ll get the continuing corruption of a petty kleptocrat You’ll get sheer incompetence in confronting the Covid-19 virus (which will not magically go away after the election), if not intentional reckless disregard. You’ll also get a continuing destruction of any common political culture to the point where opposition officials have to fear for their lives. Given how Trump is concluding the campaign, the next four years are likely to be more about score-settling than public policy.

Carmela Soprano: He’s a good man. He’s a good father. 

Dr. Krakower: You tell me he’s a depressed criminal, prone to anger, serially unfaithful. Is that your definition of a good man?… You must trust your initial impulse and consider leaving him. You’ll never be able to feel good about yourself. You’ll never be able to quell the feelings of guilt and shame that you talked about, so long as you’re his accomplice.

When Trump was elected in 2016, I admit to a little frisson brought on by the wailing and gnashing of teeth by the Democrats. After all it was, as National Review’s Rich Lowry has described Trump, a giant middle finger to the political left. After the left’s temper tantrums in Wisconsin over former Governor Scott Walker’s reforms, there was certainly a bit of joy at seeing the left so deflated. One of my favorite Saturday Night Live skits will always be Dave Chappelle and Chris Rock attending the election watch party. I understand the “own the libs” schadenfreude.

I wrote at the time, we should criticize the president when he’s wrong and praise him when he’s right. I’ve done that. Some of you have been angry with me while others agreed with me. 

But we’re now four years into this big “f-you” to the left. We’re seeing the results. And now we have a choice.

Carmela Soprano: My priest said I should work with him, help him to become a better man.

Dr. Krakower: How’s that going?

For me, personally, there were three points in the Trump presidency that made a vote for him impossible. Any one of them would have been sufficient grounds to not vote for the man, to not be complicit in what Trump has done to the country and to the conservative movement that I have supported for over 30 years.

The first was when Trump said of four congresswomen, “Why don’t they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.”

When I heard what the president said, I thought the report must’ve been in error. Certainly no president would ever speak in such overtly racist terms. Regardless of where they were from, and three were born in the United States, no president should speak that way about anyone. It’s racist and un-American. Yet Trump did, and so many loved him for it.

The second point was Trump’s willingness to use our relationship with Ukraine to try to leverage political dirt on a potential rival. No matter how much the president tries to explain away “the perfect call,” which was only perfect if the president was a Mafioso, it amounted to extortion of an ally for the president’s personal political gain. 

The excuses that “no crime was committed” or that Trump learned “a pretty big lesson” from being impeached are absurd. What the president learned is that he can get away with trying to use America’s foreign policy apparatus for his personal benefit, such as when Trump tried to get Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to say something critical of Biden. There are no consequences, no limits, as long as the action serves the personal interests of Trump.

Behavior like that is not what we should expect of the President of the United States. It’s the behavior of thugs like “Baby Doc” Duvalier.

But if there was a moment that truly encapsulated the evilness of a Trump presidency, it was the day his administration decided to use tear gas and rubber bullets on peaceful protesters in Washington D.C. so he could have a photo op at a church that, moments before the attack, was actually hosting the protesters.

“We long ago lost sight of normal, but this was a singularly immoral act,” Brendan Buck, a longtime former Hill aide, said to the Washington Post. “The president used force against American citizens, not to protect property, but to soothe his own insecurities. We will all move on to the next outrage, but this was a true abuse of power and should not be forgotten.”

Of course, these horrible acts are just part of the daily flow of outrages that pour out of the Trump Administration on a daily basis. There may be different crimes and corruption that stand out to you as the ones that shouldn’t be forgotten.

On the other hand, all of these things and more might be forgiven in some sort of transactional exercise that somehow the other side is worse, either for you personally or for the country. Such an exercise might justify a vote for Trump.

I also realize that I could make a reasonable case that conservatives would be better off in opposition to Biden rather than have conservatism continue to be corrupted by Trump. But this isn’t about tactics. This is about a moral choice you will make when you vote.

Dr. Krakower: You, you’re not listening. I’m not charging you because I won’t take blood money, and you can’t, either. One thing you can never say is that you haven’t been told.

As I said at the beginning, I won’t tell you to vote for Biden. I won’t tell you to vote for Trump.

But like Carmela Soprano, who was shopping for someone to somehow justify her continued dependence upon a husband in organized crime, you cannot evade the moral consequences of the choice you make. No matter how bad it gets in the next four years, you can never say you haven’t been told.