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In the world of op-eds and talking heads a cam­paign is underway to unseat Pres­ident Donald Trump in the Repub­lican primary. In December, the New Yorker put forward former Sen. Jeff Flake, R‑Ariz., who retired with a neg­ative approval rating in his own state, or Michael Bloomberg, if he switched parties again after re-reg­is­tering as a Democrat last October. The Wash­ington Post, an unusual coun­selor for Repub­lican primary voters, shopped Maryland Gov­ernor Larry Hogan and former Ohio Gov­ernor John Kasich as potential insurgent leaders.

For their part, prin­cipled con­ser­v­a­tives ought to oppose a primary chal­lenge to Pres­ident Trump. From a pru­dential view of pol­itics, con­cerned with both the uni­versals and the par­tic­ulars, we may in any given cir­cum­stance per­ceive vir­tuous ends and act so as to best attain them. If one aims to see America well-gov­erned, domestic liberty and con­sti­tu­tion­alism respected, and American power judi­ciously used abroad, then pru­dence dic­tates that a primary chal­lenge to Trump is patent political folly.

Turning to the par­tic­ulars, it is polit­i­cally impos­sible to suc­cess­fully defeat Pres­ident Trump in a Repub­lican primary. While pres­i­dential approval polls abound and are breath­lessly reported, careful exam­i­nation of the most recent and tar­geted data is revealing. On January 27th a Mon­mouth poll found that “43 percent of reg­is­tered Repub­licans would like to see [Trump] face a primary chal­lenge.” However, when Mon­mouth asked the same Repub­licans if they would support names like Sen. Ted Cruz, R‑Texas, or Kasich in a primary bid, Trump won by hefty margins — even among the Repub­licans who pre­ferred a primary chal­lenge! Many Repub­licans may not be entirely sat­isfied with Pres­ident Trump, but the majority of even the most ret­icent Repub­lican voters prefer him to the “viable” alter­native can­di­dates. Prac­ti­cally speaking, a primary against Trump would amount only to a self-inflicted wound, hurting Repub­lican mes­saging and fundraising in a general election. This may explain why HarrisX polling found 91 percent of Democrats support a Repub­lican primary chal­lenge.

Moreover, it is impos­sible to win a general election with anyone but Pres­ident Trump. If we swap horses now, we may end up with a donkey. Like it or not, American pol­itics has changed. The margin of victory against the Clinton machine in 2016 was slim and largely carried by Trump’s appeal to working-class Amer­icans — a group Pres­ident Trump carried into the Repub­lican Party. Hillsdale con­ser­v­a­tives did not win the election for Trump. And yet, Pres­ident Trump listens to con­ser­v­a­tives and staffs his admin­is­tration with them to a great extent — much to his, and the nation’s, benefit.

Some con­ser­v­a­tives may support a primary chal­lenge to obtain a more “pure” can­didate. In reality, any primary chal­lenge to Trump will come from the center. As Kasich’s advisors have no doubt informed him, former Star­bucks CEO Howard Schultz has already staked out the cen­trist position in the general election amid with­ering crit­icism from the left. And given the lack of applause for former Florida Gov­ernor Jeb Bush, a con­ser­v­ative is unlikely to find a preferable can­didate among this crowd. In the end, con­ser­v­a­tives cannot allow the idea of the perfect to become an enemy of the good. Espe­cially if a “perfect” can­didate isn’t among the options.

None of the pre­ceding obser­va­tions are person-worship, an all too common accu­sation — even in this paper — against many who support the Pres­ident. Con­ser­v­a­tives rec­ognize that human beings are fallen. No rea­sonable par­tic­ipant in pol­itics sup­ports a cam­paign expecting a messiah. The same goes for gov­er­nance. Pundits fre­quently comment that Hillary Clinton is no longer on the ballot, but now the con­ser­v­ative beholds even more fright­ening alter­na­tives. Literal infan­ticide and 90 percent tax rates are entering the political main­stream with shocking rapidity. On the other hand, Trump is no longer unknown, as he was in 2016. Of course mixed, Trump’s track record has been pro-life, pro-business, pro-rule of law, and pro-America. That’s a good look for our pres­ident.

Churchill rejoined the Con­ser­v­ative Party when his former party allowed Labour to form a gov­ernment and usher the specter of socialism into Great Britain. While he still had tremendous dis­agree­ments with the Con­ser­v­a­tives, he asserted that “the only way a man can remain con­sistent amid changing cir­cum­stances is to change with them while pre­serving the same dom­i­nating purpose.” Con­ser­vatism has not dumped its prin­ciples for a person over the last two years. America has Pres­ident Trump for four or, I hope, eight years, but it is incumbent on each of us, indi­vid­ually and through insti­tu­tions such as the college, to ensure that its prin­ciples will be both pre­served and aired in the public square for years to come.