Saturday, February 27, 2016

Eating Trump

When I was a kid I read a book called "How to eat fried worms". The story was pretty simple. One kid bet another that he couldn't eat 50 worms. With the winning of a mini-bike at stake the protagonist of the story commences to eat a worm a day in his quest for his prize. The bulk of the story consisted of our hero finding creative ways to eat his daily worm, from nose-holding to seasoning, to frying. Though he never developed a taste for worms, the story did end happily with a mini-bike ride into the sunset.

In every election since Ronald Reagan's last campaign I have had to hold my nose to vote for President in the general election. In some elections I've had to hold it tighter than others. In some, boiling in oil might have made the candidate more palatable. You can't really know until you try. John McCain was by far the most difficult. In each of these election cycles there were plenty of folks playing the shame card to secure my vote for the RINO du jour. While I decided in every case to cast my vote for the GOP nominee, those attempts to shame me into doing so were not constructive.

The RINO parade that we've been subjected to for the better part of three decades has at least been quantifiable. I knew what John McCain was. I knew where I disagreed with him, and I knew the areas in which he held contempt for me and the principles that I hold. "Hobbit" is not the worst thing that I've ever been called. No one pretended that McCain's record was irrelevant. Conservatives didn't make excuses for him. There was an underlying consensus that grassroots conservatives would have the task of holding him accountable if he were to become President. While each vote that I cast for a RINO presidential nominee represented a compromise, I never pretended that a candidate was something that there was no evidence to support. And I never had a sense that electing one of these candidates would deal a serious blow to the conservative movement that I've invested myself in.

Donald Trump is an entirely new species of RINO. I have nothing in common with Trump. Politically, philosophically, and morally, Donald Trump represents the antithesis of everything I want to see in a presidential candidate. That's not a good starting point. I have thought more about my ability to vote for Trump in a general election than I have for any other candidate. I am astounded at the number of conservatives that accept Trump's campaign conversions on nearly every issue. Politicians never surprise me, but I have to admit to being shocked at the acceptance we've seen for Donald Trump among grassroots conservatives. A traditionally consistent idea within the conservative movement has been to not make excuses for politicians - to maintain a healthy suspicion even of candidates that we like. That has gone out the window with Trump. He requires his supporters to make excuses for him in every aspect of his life. In large numbers, conservatives and Christians are lining up to do so, and for the life of me I can not understand why.

Donald Trump's campaign is a fraud. He holds out a wall in one hand to get people excited, while holding amnesty in the other behind his back. He takes every side of an issue, and points to the most convenient position when his opponents point out another. He lies about his opponents and calls them liars. To call his statements on policy "vacuous" is an act of generosity. When pinned down on a topic that he can't defend, he attacks the questioner, or simply insults the first thing that comes to mind. And lots and lots of people lap it all up. The reason that I am so crestfallen over Donald Trump's success is that it reveals a fundamental weakness in the grassroots movement. I have long held the conviction that the grassroots conservative movement is the single best hope for correcting the course of the nation. Donald Trump's grassroots appeal has diminished that hope and driven me to my final decision regarding candidate Trump.

The #NeverTrump hashtag is apparently trending today. It's certainly trending with me. I can't participate in a fraud. I can't pretend that some good will come from putting my support behind a man that is dishonest in every aspect of his campaign, is dishonest about his opposition, holds contempt for all of us who aren't willing to excuse his shortcomings, and bullies everything that gets in his way. I'm not interested in making Donald Trump the face of a conservative movement which he has demonstrated no allegiance to, or even affinity for.

Alexander Hamilton once said: "If we must have an enemy at the head of government, let it be one whom we can oppose, and for whom we are not responsible."

So we are left to seriously wonder if winning with Trump is actually in the best interest of the conservative movement. The TEA party movement has been on the scene for nearly a decade. After striking gains in 2010 and 2014, do we really want to turn the keys of the movement over to Donald Trump? Like it or not, as the "anti-establishment" candidate, the TEA party movement will own Donald Trump. In our national political dialogue, Trump's brand will stick to conservatism like stink to a skunk. Is this someone that we want to be responsible for? Will a Trump presidency add to or subtract from the state and national election gains that the movement has made in the past few years? A conservative movement that stands in unified opposition to Hillary Clinton, or Bernie Sanders, is a healthier movement than one fragmented and fundamentally re-branded over ties to a liberal anti-establishment RINO.

For me personally, this is about more than deciding to make one more political compromise. This is about making a choice to assault my own values to support someone that represents everything that I oppose in politics on the complete gamble that all of my instincts about Donald Trump are wrong. If he becomes President, how likely is it that the conservative movement will become divided between his supporters and his opposition?  How likely is it that we will see the conservative movement gerrymandered into something feckless and undefineable? The vote shamers need to understand that voting for Trump is not the same as voting for previous RINOs. This is one worm I just can't get down.

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