Much of what I’m hearing from people in the wake of the presidential election, some of it coming from people who I have always believed to be conservative, is making me question my own ability to see what’s right in front of me. There is the noise coming from people who, long ago, glommed on to Trump and have thereby turned their backs on principled conservatism (e.g., Sean Hannity, Eric Bolling, etc.), but some of what befuddles me is coming from people that I believe are true, down-to-their-DNA conservatives, and it troubles me that I see all of this so differently.
One assertion that is causing me to wonder is that this election result is a sign that the American people expressed their voices at the ballot box after a thoughtful consideration of the state of the nation. Really? These are the same thoughtful voters who set the stage for a Trump vs Clinton general election?
Trump emerged as the nominee by getting more votes than several others who were vehemently anti-establishment, life-long conservatives. He has been a Democrat for most of his adult life, and recently expressed his support for much of the liberal agenda – amnesty, centralized health care and a healthcare mandate to name a few – and has often made hefty donations to Democrats including Hillary. Is it a fact that record numbers of people participated in the Republican primaries. Trump and his acolytes explained that this proved he was significantly broadening the Republican base, in ways that none of the other candidates could have hoped to. But that conclusion really never made any sense. To me, it was obvious that the bulk of surplus voters participating in the Republican primaries were leftists or just reality TV fans, and not people likely to be long-term Republicans or newborn conservatives. A quick look at the election results reinforces my doubt, as Trump earned about 700,000 fewer votes in 2016 than Romney did in 2012. So where did all of these new Republicans go? (It’s also true that Clinton received a majority of the votes, though her totals were about 5 million fewer than what Obama received in 2012.) Trump won because the Democrats nominated a much weaker candidate than the Republicans (for a change) – yes, even weaker than the reality TV guy – and not because Trump made millions of new conservatives.
Myriad posts on social media are attempting to spin the meaning of this election as proof that a thoughtful electorate demonstrated wisdom in supporting Trump in his limping over the finish line. Like many, I’m grateful that we didn’t awaken to a President Hillary, but people – we have a President Donald Trump! I ask – would a wise, thoughtful electorate filled with principled voters have ever come to this?
Yep, we have perhaps saved the Supreme Court for another generation (though history shows that there’s no guarantee of that), and it’s hard to imagine Trump not following through on doing something to slow illegal immigration. But he’s already hedging on Obamacare, and there’s just no telling what he will do in other matters. He’s not a conservative, so he’ll not be guided by any such ideology. All of this makes assigning the capacity for thoughtful consideration to the average American voter a little dubious. There are exceptions, on both sides, but it’s probably true that the average Trump voter would have struggled mightily to recite any of his policy agenda, though he/she could very probably remember something that he said or did on The Apprentice.
I am genuinely trying to see the glass as half-full, but it’s just so clear to me that Trump’s victory is much more likely the result of people liking something they saw of him in one of his reality shows, and nothing loftier than that. There’s nothing wrong with celebrating this for what it’s worth – getting the democrats out of the White House is enough reason to pop a cork – but it’s just unsound to assign attributes like thoughtfulness and reason to an electorate that set the stage for a Trump vs Hillary contest.