The Lost Opportunity?

Oh, what might have been if not for a few items…

Here is some breaking news: based on exit polls, at least half of the nation really does not like Donald J. Trump. In fact, it is likely fair to say that many of them simply hate the man.

Here is a little more of the shocking developments: our nation, despite the apparent failure of the 45th President’s bid for re-election, remains a highly divided country. African-Americans are still behind the curve economically and academically, with the pandemic pushing the achievement gap even wider.

People will celebrate the “Fall of Trump” in mainstream media and streets around the nation alike. However, with the return of the Obama-era policies comes a possible loss of the much-needed shift in American politics that we started experiencing post-2016.

Let’s be clear: when is the next time we believe that a New York Republican will gain prominence and influence within the GOP and the national body politic? Vice President Nelson Rockefeller’s rise was well over 40 years ago. Do we think that we will likely see another big city Republican become such a policy influencer at the national level anytime soon? There is a loss for us all when a big-city Republican with small-town appeal is no longer positioned to blend those experiences together into policies that – if articulated and implemented correctly — could work across the board.

When is the next time we believe that a Republican firebrand will so boldly push to make items such as school choice, criminal justice reform, and opportunity zones free-market staples? These were not necessarily items that were as deeply entrenched in the conservative playbook as deregulation, tax cuts, and bolstered military preparedness – and yet, post-Trump, we heard much more about these neighborhood-centric policies than we did just 4 years ago.

When is the next time a Republican presidential, gubernatorial, or mayoral candidate will fight as openly to connect with the African-American community past the symbolic events during MLK Weekend and Black History Month? Past the questionable tone and rhetoric lays a foundation of accomplishments with HBCUs and other investments into Black communities that resulted in an increase in Black voter turnout for President Trump – a reality reviled by New York Times columnist Charles Blow.

https://twitter.com/CharlesMBlow/status/1323975456668979200

Despite Georgia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Arizona, and Wisconsin “flipping blue” in 2020 (as of the publishing of this article), when is the next time a Republican presidential, gubernatorial, or mayoral candidate within the cities and regions of these states sees these voters “flipping red”?  With the interconnectivity of our society (i.e., both our national fabric as well as our geo-economic community), rural America and urban centers are intertwined more than ever before. And yet, each dynamic votes rather differently. As “emerging constituencies” continue to make their impact felt in statewide and national elections, the ability to govern with the necessary balance to make our republic successful and prosperous likely comes not with Democrats riding the wave of traditional voters, but with Republicans that are capable of building bridges between diverse communities and the traditional principles that have made America great.

Analyze the hows and whys as you will, but the lost opportunity of the Trump Presidency and this point (and the Trump Era should it recede as of the results of this past week) comes from the under-utilized avenues for policy expansion, voter inclusion, and constituency buy-in that the game-changing Trump win of 2016 should have ushered in at a higher rate. For all of the missteps on Charlottesville, flip-flops on policy issues including the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and Twitter woes, Donald Trump’s rise presented the GOP an opportunity to blend together the power and energy that the Tea Party Movement had in its heyday (i.e., 2009-2012), the power that social media affords the emerging voices of thought leadership in modern America, the arrival of new faces (and backstories) within the conservative movement, and the rapid responsiveness for policies, viewpoints, and effectiveness that Americans demand today.

And – sadly – it was lost, buried in many ways under a national collection of superficial political arguments, unnecessary grandstanding, media heavy-handedness, leadership self-sabotage, and an unwillingness to work with partisan opponents as fellow Americans. The opportunity to morph American politics into a dynamic where new alliances could be formed based on policy interests and not historic voting trends is apparently lost, sliding back with the anticipated presidency of a man that has been in Washington longer than a sizable amount of the nation (and a significant portion of his voting base) has been alive. The new direction of political thought – driven by leaders that are truly comfortable thinking and acting outside of any pre-constructed “box” – seems to be have been squandered.

Yes – to many, the Trump Presidency symbolized a lot. Yet, based on some of the odd dynamics that played out over the course of the past four years, there was so much there for it to have ushered in — so much more. Even if this moment ends up personifying what was lost this November, it is incumbent upon us – as conservatives and overall, as Americans – to not lose out on the lesson. There is so much more for us to do, to transform, to overcome, and to lead, even if the political anomaly of our lifetime transitions from leadership.