There’s a cancer in the conservative movement and the Republican Party. The carcinogen that kick-started it into high gear is Donald Trump. This cancer leads to the abandonment of conservative principles and values. When Trump first announced he was running for president, I figured his days were numbered once people started seeing through his facade of respectability. The problem is, he never actually bothered putting up a facade. He remained openly the same deplorable person he’s always been and, even worse, his supporters eagerly dismissed his incredibly liberal past, some of it only a few years old, and embraced his bad behavior. I could easily write an almost unending series of columns on why Trump is a horrendous choice for any office, but I’m concerned today about how contagious his attitude and behavior has become.
The first time I heard Trump mention a name in a speech and someone in the audience just shouted out, “Loser!” and Trump smiled like a proud papa, I feared this would only get worse. I wish I’d been wrong. Trump verbally abuses others; his supporters do the same. He objectifies, belittles and devalues women, even going so far to blame one for the bruises she received from a larger man; they do the same and go further, including calling and threatening her life. He encourages physical violence; they comply, punching people and threatening to do worse, including murder. There are more stories almost every day about Trump supporters making death threats to those who hold positions in the GOP and even to delegates if they stand in the way of a Trump victory. Let me say this again to impress the seriousness of the situation: There are people affiliated with the Republican Party through Donald Trump who are threatening to kill people if they don’t get their way! This is not what the GOP and conservatism has EVER been about. It’s what we’re supposed to be standing against as it comes from the left! But it’s ok since Trump said he’ll pay their legal fees, right?
All this would normally be enough for us to condemn a candidate without hesitation. After all, if it was Hillary acting this way, we’d all be calling her a monster…and we’d be right! However, many refuse to judge Trump by our normal standards. Conservatives who usually promote principles and integrity and the truth now turn a blind eye and gleefully jump on that Trump-wagon. National personalities like Sean Hannity, Michael Savage and Ann Coulter sing his praises and run interference for him. Even a local radio personality in my hometown, Kelly O’Connell, seems to have fallen under the Trump spell and is inclined to ignore the ugly truth and repeat the liturgical talking points of the Trump campaign.
I understand that people are angry and frustrated. I am, too. We conservatives have been lied to, used and betrayed by much of the GOP leadership, both nationally and often on local levels. God knows, the Republican leadership in my state is no prize but, when you start viewing the world through the lens of frustration and anger, you start making bad decisions. You start believing that any action, no matter how vile or even illegal, is acceptable as long as it benefits your idea of the ‘greater good’. We see this in the most vocal elements of support for Donald Trump. They overlook his bad behavior and poor treatment of others while also excusing their own bad behavior and poor treatment of others by dismissing the means in favor of their ends: supposedly to “Make America Great Again”. The thing is, justifying our means in pursuit of any goal is not how we achieve any degree of greatness. This is the kind of path that leads to us losing our way, our values and, ultimately, our souls.
I really don’t want Hillary as president but I also have to honestly say that, at least with her, it’d be clear who and what she is. We already know that, if she becomes President, she’ll do everything in her power to add to the damage already inflicted on our nation by Barack Obama, but at least she can’t hide her allegiances or her affiliations. She can be easily identified as an agent of the left, as a voice of the Democrat Party, making it much easier to motivate people on the right, in office and out, to oppose her.
Trump, on the other hand, has cloaked himself in the guise of conservatism and, although it’s a poorly put together cloak, many have enthusiastically accepted it, both his supporters who claim to be conservatives and the mainstream media who are more than happy to equate all conservatives with Donald Trump. Meanwhile, there are those within the Republican Party and the conservative movement who are spreading the lie that we have no choice but to support the GOP candidate, no matter who that is. (It’s ironic because many of these people are decrying perceived disenfranchisement of voters…conveniently only in primaries that Trump loses…and accusing those who oppose Trump publicly of trying to tell them who to vote for while spreading this narrative designed to bully conservatives into voting a certain way.) The problem is that, when we buy into that lie and give our vote out of some sense of party loyalty, or even out of fear of Hillary Clinton assuming the presidency, we give credence to claims that Trump and his hardcore supporters are typical of what conservatives are. For decades, we have constantly fought against accusations from the left that we are racists, sexists, homophobes and rich old white men who don’t care about anyone or anything beyond the bottom line. By lending our support, no matter how grudgingly or marginally, then, fair or not, we place ourselves under the same umbrella of elitism, bigotry, misogyny that fits Trump so well. Every accusation thrown at us will suddenly stick better than ever because of our guilt by association with a GOP headed in many ways by Donald Trump and guilt by complicity for actively choosing to give him our votes to help place him there.
And don’t delude yourself into believing he will magically become “presidential” upon winning the White House. He has spent his entire life indulging in his base nature and he’s a little too old and set in his ways to change just because he’s sitting in the Oval Office instead of some building with his name emblazoned on it. Those of us who either give in to pressure or allow ourselves to be conned by this snake oil salesman and support Trump in any way will find ourselves measured and judged based on his behaviors. It may not sound fair, but that’s the way it works. We are all defined by what we do and who we associate with much more than we are by our words alone.
I don’t care so much these days who the candidate is or what letter he puts by his name as much as I care about what kind of person he his and what he places value on, because we must stand firm on our principles and values more so today than ever. That’s what creates the solid foundation of integrity and consistency upon which we build our character and identity as individuals and conservatives. Make no mistake, the only way for a true conservative to actively support Trump is to ignore, devalue and abandon conservative principles and values. In doing so, our foundation weakens and cracks and ends up being more like dirt than rock…and you know what happens when you build your house on shifting sand.
Our foundation as a nation has already been eroded badly over time by both the overt efforts of the left and the lukewarm response of some on the right, especially the Republican Establishment and many Republicans holding elected office. Can that foundation be repaired? I certainly hope so but, either way, it’s more important than ever for us to protect and strengthen our foundations as individuals and to encourage the same in others who we can positively influence. Think about this in terms of your children, as they are the people you have the largest amount of influence over. If you’re planning on supporting Trump, think carefully first and ask yourself: What would you tell your children if they ask at some point if you supported him? Can you honestly tell them that he valued the things you value or that he acted in a way that you want your children to act? If not, then do you want to tell them that winning is more important than what you normally claim to value and what you’ve tried to instill in your kids? Be aware: You won’t have to say it at that point. Your actions will have shown what’s in your heart and, like a smoker who lectures their kids about not smoking and then is horrified when they catch them lighting up, your surprise, should they embrace bullying, launching verbal attacks on others, winning no matter who they hurt and an attitude accepting of thuggish, violent behavior, will be way too little, way too late.