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The Purpose of Trump and DeSantis

Left: AP Photo/Lynne Sladky; Right: AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Several issues hitting the newswires at the same time all implicate, in my view, the same core issue, indeed the foundation of our being. Of course, I’m referring to purpose. What is our purpose as a species? What is my purpose as a husband or a father? As a leader in my community? What is the purpose of a great company—or a great country?

A few days ago, the news hit that Ron DeSantis and Gavin Newsom are apparently going to debate, even though one of the men isn’t running for president, and the other is presumed to be losing very badly. On Twitter, oops, I mean X, you can hear the Trump supporters chirp that it’s a sign of desperation by DeSantis and yet another example of his campaign running amok. A few, but only a few, DeSantis supporters think it’s an unnecessary risk with no real upside. The majority of DeSantis supporters, on the other hand, come down on the issue like I do, which is to say, are you kidding me? Yes, he should debate Gavin Newsom, the guy presiding over the failed state, the once great state, the Golden State. The state I was born in, grew up in, and continue to live in. I’d move to Florida, but I’m afraid of iguanas.

Another story hit the wires on the day I’m writing these words and has to do with Ron DeSantis’s refusal to believe Trump’s claims about 2020. In other words, he doesn’t believe the 2020 election was stolen. For a Republican presidential candidate in 2022 to have said as much as that is tantamount to a pastor at Calvary Chapel saying he doesn’t believe Christ rose on the third day.

The other issue on the minds of Republicans and non-Republicans is the burning question, Will he? Or won’t he? Will Donald Trump join the other candidates on the debate stage later in August? Trump has so far suggested he ought not to because it might put his campaign at risk, so why do that when he’s so far ahead? What if he says something stupid (cough, gag, spit), and suddenly, he’s not so far ahead anymore? Or maybe he’s just thinking, why grace the smalls with the thermonuclear importance of Mr. Big? Not to be confused with “The Big Guy”…

All of these stories raise the same fundamental question. What is the purpose of a presidential campaign? Or a great political party? What is even the purpose of a political campaign, for that matter? Well, I would quote no less a Republican authority than Jack Kemp, who said, “The purpose of a great political party isn’t simply to defeat the other party; the purpose of a great political party,” according to Kemp, is to “provide superior leadership and superior ideas.” Jack was an idea guy. He often said ideas rule the world. I agree with Jack on that.

Does anybody honestly deny the fact that ideas rule the world? Bad ideas and good ideas. Bad ideas like communism, to name one, have ruled the world, and great ideas like free-market capitalism and democratic capitalism—notice the small d and the small c, have also ruled the world.

When a candidate for president is running on a platform that centers on them thinking they were mistreated in the past and therefore must be given another opportunity to serve, it seems to me that it comes down to them not understanding the purpose of a presidential campaign or a political party. Or the purpose of a president, for that matter. Because, let’s be clear, the purpose of a president isn’t to edge out other potential presidents. The purpose of a great president is to provide superior leadership for the country. Their purpose is to provide superior ideas and execute and implement those ideas so they’ll accrue to the overall benefit of the country, the nation, and indeed, as a benevolent nation, the entire world. And no, that isn’t “globalism.”

The president shouldn’t be partisan. But let’s be partisan for a minute and discuss the Republican Party. What is the purpose of the Republican Party? It seems to me that the Republican Party’s purpose is also to provide superior ideas. And those ideas should focus on the family. Which is also to say focus on the economy. The family and the economy are inextricably linked. In fact, the word economy comes from two root words, one Latin and one Greek, which, when combined, mean the “laws or customs of the family.”

A political party should focus on offering the country superior ideas that, when implemented, accrue to the tremendous benefit of our families. What are some of those ideas? I’d start with lower taxes. The importance of increasing families’ take-home pay cannot be overstated. It makes the difference between paying certain bills on time, putting food on the table, and responding to family emergencies. And then there are more elaborate things, such as buying a nicer car, a bigger house, or a longer vacation. Or it can mean sending your kids to the best schools and colleges.

But a political party mustn’t lose sight of the main goal of any party, which is to create a “Big Tent.” A wider, broader, and more diverse Tent. And only a party whose message resonates with every class, race, religion, gender, and even profession will ever become a big Tent party. A political party that understands why you can’t move ahead by leaving anybody, or even a single person, behind has the seeds to be a great party. This is the story of the Good Shepherd, who left the 99 sheep to save the lost one. By doing so, he proves his love to the 99 by proving his love to the one. A political party that represents the narrow interests of one group or groups of people as opposed to all groups of people is soaked in cynicism, pessimism, and, well, Elitism.

So whether or not the 2020 election was stolen, irrespective of whether or not DeSantis and Newsom should debate based on which candidate it helps more, or whether Donald Trump shows up in Wisconsin on August 23rd to debate his challengers on Fox News, won’t change the fact that managing a particular political situation effectively or ineffectively isn’t a replacement for providing superior ideas and leadership.

Political moments can be transformational, but nothing is more transformational in politics than the power of great ideas and responsible and effective moral leadership. If you get those things right, everything else falls into place, as the history of our country reveals so loudly. Think 1776, 1865, the Louisiana Purchase, Industrial Revolution, Space Exploration, and Ending the Cold War. Each of those transformational times was built upon superior ideas and leadership. And they didn’t just accrue to the advantage of one political party but the entire country. And that is the whole purpose.

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