A peculiar argument has begun to circulate on the right: Conservatives who care about the future of conservatism should not only refuse to vote for Republicans who share Donald Trump’s worst traits on November 6, they should support Democrats across the board. Doing so, this reasoning goes, would precipitate major midterm electoral losses for the GOP and force the party to rethink its increasing loyalty to the president.

For the president’s skeptics—a description that applies to us—there is a certain logic to this case. While the Trump presidency has seen gains for conservatives in a few specific policy areas, such as taxes, deregulation, and the judiciary, in many more ways he’s done lasting damage to both the modern American right and the country’s political culture.

Even by the standards of a politician, Trump lies at an alarming pace. He’s taken the existing divisions in the country and, with malice and intention, made them worse. He’s elevated and empowered some of America’s most determined enemies and picked needless fights with some of our closest allies. He not only failed to “drain the swamp,” but the corruption and cronyism of his own people have made it even more fetid. He’s largely abandoned America’s role as leader of a rules-based postwar international order.

Rather than discussions about the urgent need to reform entitlements, our national debate today is dominated by payoffs to porn stars, fiddled tax returns, and conspiracy theories about the motives of political foes. Many people share the blame for this ugly state of affairs, but few bear as much of it as Donald Trump.

Is the answer to punish the president by voting against Republicans? It is true that severe GOP losses would have consequences both broad and specific in Congress. But there’s no guarantee a “blue wave” on November 6 would change the minds of Trump’s boosters in Congress or that Democrats winning the House of Representatives and attempting to impeach Trump would oblige Republicans to acknowledge their folly in allowing such a man to lead their party. It’s as likely they would circle the wagons and tie themselves further to the flailing chief executive.

And it could mean the loss of exactly the kind of conservative elected officials who can help the country through these challenging times. Should conservatives in Wisconsin’s 8th Congressional District vote against Mike Gallagher, a combat veteran with a deep understanding of our most critical national security challenges? Would right-leaning voters in New York’s 21st Congressional District advance conservatism by supporting Tedra Cobb, running on a platform of “social justice” and disarming the police, over Elise
Stefanik, a young, charismatic conservative?

The present-day Democrats are a warning against any notion of sending a message to Trump by depriving worthy Republicans of their seats. Democratic senators acted appallingly throughout the Brett Kavanaugh confirmation, elevating political exhibitionism above even the pretense of searching for truth or arriving at a just outcome. A Democratic takeover of the Senate would lead to a blockade of constitutionalist federal judges. At least 16 Democratic senators have come out for Bernie Sanders’s idea of “Medicare for all”—that is, a full-on federal takeover of the health care industry. Democratic presidential hopefuls are utterly beholden to the political correctness of left-wing activists. In foreign policy, the Obama presidency left his party in a state of moral paralysis, willing neither to back our allies nor confront our enemies.

Many conservatives have sharp differences with the Trump administration on trade, North Korea, entitlement reform, and much else. And the president’s character and deportment are as much a problem now as they were two years ago. But Trump is not on the ballot in 2018, and an empowered Democratic party can be counted on to ride roughshod over every conservative policy aim in the next Congress.

There is no reason for Republican voters to dismiss accomplished conservatives in order to send some nebulous and sure-to-be-misinterpreted message to Trump or the Republican National Committee. Voters, as always, should vote for the best candidate.