Chris Keane/Reuters
Glenn Beck speaks during the National Rifle Association's 139th annual meeting in Charlotte, N.C., in 2010. Mr. Beck said Hillary Clinton is the 'moral, ethical choice,' but will vote for the Constitution Party candidate, Darrell Castle, instead.

Glenn Beck on Trump: Another gradation of the not-quite-endorsement

Glenn Beck has further distanced himself from Republican nominee Donald Trump but, like many prominent conservatives, he's not ready to endorse Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

Conservative radio host Glenn Beck believes Hillary Clinton is the “moral, ethical choice” between the presidential candidates of the two major parties. But he won’t vote for her.

He will cast his ballot for Constitution Party nominee Darrell Castle, Mr. Beck said in an interview with Vice News Monday night.

“I will tell you that it has crossed my mind ... to vote for Hillary,” he said. “I can’t do it because she’s just – she’s just a horse of a different color.”

Beck is part of a long list of prominent Republicans who, while they will not vote for Donald Trump, have come up with subtle ways to informally unendorse him or endorse Mrs. Clinton.

Political scientists and theorists say this lack of concrete endorsements or anti-endorsements has occurred because such an action is a definitive statement about a candidate’s character, one many Republicans don’t want to make.

“One is a relative judgment. One is an absolute judgment: 'I endorse Trump because I think he would be a good leader,' ” says James Campbell, a political scientist at the University at Buffalo, a conservative Republican, and the author of “Polarized: Making Sense of Divided America.” “A vote simply should be a choice between political leaders. An endorsement is saying there is something admirable about the person you are endorsing.”

Beck has been a loud, disdainful voice against a Trump presidency throughout the election. Yet, after the release Friday of a 2005 video of Trump making misogynistic comments about a woman on the set of “Access Hollywood,” Beck wrote on Facebook that a Hillary Clinton presidency might not be so bad.

“If the consequence of standing against Trump and for principles is indeed the election of Hillary Clinton so be it,” wrote Beck. “At least it is a moral, ethical choice.”

Two days later, Beck told Vice News he considered voting for Clinton, but won’t.

“[T]hey’re both bad,” said Beck. “I think under Hillary Clinton, the nation – most likely – can become just run by oligarchs. I think under Donald Trump, he’s so unstable, I wouldn’t put anything past him. I don’t know what our party looks like.”

Other conservatives have approached it differently.

Following the release of the lewd video, some Republicans didn’t formally unendorse Trump. But they didn’t defend him either. Paul Ryan, the nation’s top elected Republican, told fellow lawmakers Monday he will no longer campaign for or defend Trump, but didn’t withdraw his endorsement of the nominee.

And there was Sen. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas. The former presidential candidate endorsed Trump only after he urged delegates at the Republican National Convention to “vote your conscience,” effectively distinguishing himself morally from Trump.

The list of Republican leaders who oppose Trump is in at least the dozens, according to an active tally The Atlantic magazine created Monday. On it, however, are only three Republicans who have formally endorsed Clinton. They are Larry Pressler, a former three-term senator from South Dakota; Christopher Shays, a former congressman from Connecticut; and Donald Gregg, Vice President George H.W. Bush’s national security adviser, and former ambassador to South Korea when the elder Bush became president.

Nancy Spalding, a political theorist at East Carolina University and a conservative, tells The Christian Science Monitor in a phone interview that Republicans are reluctant to endorse Trump because to endorse him would be to associate yourself with his values and character.

One exception is prominent members of the Christian conservative movement, who, as Linda Feldmann wrote for the Monitor, “have stood by him even as they express revulsion over his actions.” 

Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, which hosts the annual Value Voters Summit in Washington – a major conference of social conservative activists – said in a statement that his support for Trump in the general election “was never based upon shared values rather it was built up on shared concerns.”

Gary Bauer, founder of the Campaign for Working Families PAC, said in a statement said the “grossly inappropriate language” in the 2005 Trump video “does not change the reality of the choice facing this country,”.

“Hillary Clinton is committed to enacting policies that will erode religious liberty, promote abortion, make our country less safe, and leave our borders unprotected,” said Mr. Bauer, a veteran of the Reagan administration and a GOP presidential candidate in 2000. Mrs. Clinton will continue economic policies that are “destroying” the American working class and middle class, he added.

Erik Tillman, a political scientist at DePaul University, tells the Monitor the Never Trump, Never Hillary phenomenon among some Republicans is also part of the widening partisan gap in this country.

“For many Republicans, it’s just something they can’t conceive of doing,” says Dr. Tillman.

If the situation were reversed, and Democrats were faced with a similar candidate, he adds, they might act the same.

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