Meditations on a Trump Rally in My Home Town

I live in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.  This evening, Donald Trump is making a campaign appearance here.

In years past, I have attended events for Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, George W. Bush, John McCain, and Mitt Romney.  This time, I’m staying home.

This election year has shed light on many things.  I consider myself a man of principle, but not an ideologue.  I can bend to advance the greater good.  It’s not my way or the highway.  I could accept men like Bush, McCain, and Romney as Republican nominees even though they were less than ideal choices.  This year, I could have accepted Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush, or even John Kasich instead of my preferred choice, Ted Cruz.  I wouldn’t have liked it, but all these men are superior candidates to Hillary Clinton.

There comes a time, however, when we are asked not to bend, but to break.  2016 is that time.

Donald Trump, to the extent he has policy differences with Hillary Clinton, is often to her left – on trade and foreign policy in particular.  In other respects, he is the same – on entitlements, government spending, and character, for example.  With regard to civil liberties, he is worse.  Not even Hillary proposes using government power to punish newspapers for criticizing public figures.  Not even Hillary supports throwing little old ladies out of their homes so people like Donald Trump can build parking lots for their casinos.

How, then, could I ever justify casting a vote for Trump?  Beyond some kind of juvenile team sports us vs. them rationale, I can’t.  Winning at all costs isn’t why I became interested in politics.  I actually care about individual liberty and freedom.  This isn’t a game.  Winning has to accomplish something.  And, yes, it’s necessary to win to accomplish things, but what does winning accomplish with Donald Trump?

Nothing positive.  We get to attach a Republican label to a lot of objectively awful human being with awful policy prescriptions who will make our lives worse, and he brings a lot of objectively awful human beings along for the ride.  We damage not just the country, but conservatism as a whole.  The Republican brand already has problems with wide swathes of the American public.  After Trump, it would be toxic.

That’s not winning.  It’s losing.

2016 has also illuminated the dark corners of the movement.  People who are “on our side” for all the wrong reasons.

Let me put it this way:

If you believe we should reform entitlements like welfare because it’s dehumanizing for people to be dependent on government for their livelihood, it shackles their god-given talents and abilities, and provides a disincentive to self-improvement, you’re on my side.  You’re like me, a person of principle.

If you want to cut welfare because you don’t want money taken out of your paycheck to support a bunch of deadbeat [racial epithets], you were probably an enthusiastic Trump supporter from the moment he called Mexicans rapists and murderers.

Trump has exposed people who identify as Republicans not because they care about individual liberty or limited government, but because they hate.  They hate liberals, people on government assistance, illegals, minorities, elites, and anyone else they blame for their own miserable lives.  They’re angry, and they glommed onto Trump, who blew all the right dog whistles and offered all the easy answers.  It didn’t matter if anything he said made sense.

To our shame, we knew these people were there, and we tolerated them because they voted the “right way.”  Now, this tumor has metastasized.  It’s time to excise it.  Such people have no place in our movement.  Their attitudes are antithetical to enlightened liberal (small L) government.

I won’t claim to be a saint.  I get angry.  I get frustrated.  But I don’t hate any of these people.  They aren’t on the “other side.”  They are fellow Americans.  They are fellow human beings.  I feel angry about a corrupt, bloated federal government that takes advantage of so many people.  I am frustrated so many politicians attain power by promising great things to the weak and vulnerable while delivering so little.  I feel sad that millions of Americans will never achieve their full potential because government plays pusher for the most addictive drug of all: dependence.  I’m sad so many are content with less than they deserve.

I want to lift these people up and make their lives better.  I want all our lives to be better.  I don’t want to use government as a weapon to punish people.  We have enough of that already.  I want government out of the way so our country can rise, person by person, family by family, and community by community.  This is America, dammit.  We should dream big.   We should aspire to more than equality.  We should aspire to more than a government check. Our goal should be nothing less than greatness.  Not every person will get there, but the pursuit should be ours.

We have slipped so far.

I started this diary entry because I’m sad about being so alienated from the Republican Party that I’m staying home tonight instead of joining my fellow Republicans at a campaign rally for our presidential candidate.  Tonight’s campaign rally should be a happy event.  It should be something to look forward to.  In a normal year, it would be.  This year, it’s not.  It’s something to stay away from.  It’s an ugly event or an ugly candidate, and I want no part of it.

2016 sucks.

Well, it sucks from a political perspective, anyway.  There’s a lot for me to be happy about on the home front with my family.  There are positive things happening in my local community.  I’ll take that, and I’ll go so far as to say these things are more important than Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.  Real change starts locally, anyway, so that’s where we should all focus.

Think: what has the most direct impact on your happiness?  Is it the federal government?  No, it’s your family.  After that, it’s your job.  Beyond that, it’s local government: your school board, your city council, county board of directors, etc.  Get involved and stay involved.  Make yourself informed about the local issues.  Really informed.  Be a positive force.

Anger is easy.  Bitterness is easy.  But we don’t need a president to be great.  We don’t need a government to be great.  We can do it on our own.  So let’s do it.