Four years ago during the 2016 presidential election, I stood in the “early vote” line with my mind firmly made up.
I was voting for Republicans down-ballot, but there was no way in hell was I voting for Donald Trump. I’d never understood the party’s fascination with him, and I had no intention of voting for him just because he had an “R” by his name.
During the 2016 GOP presidential primaries, I made clear where I stood on Trump. I viewed him as an inauthentic Republican. In my view at the time, there was no way he should be the standard-bearer for the Republican party on issues like abortion, illegal immigration, healthcare, Supreme Court Justices, and so on. Not only that, but regardless of how rough and tumble political campaigns could get, I didn’t like some of the things he said and did towards his opponents during the primary.
If he was elected, my thought process at the time was that he would commence in proving me right, not just about who I thought he was but also about all the pundits on the right who had thrown their support behind him.
I had family and friends who disagreed with me about Trump, and that was okay. I didn’t think differently about them over the difference in opinion on Trump, nor did they treat me differently.
My position wasn’t driven by what the media were saying about Trump. They were saying things I didn’t believe were true, like “Trump is a racist”, etc. Not only did I not see that in him in spite of my intense dislike, but the people in my life who I knew were voting for him weren’t racists and wouldn’t have voted for someone who they thought was. So I didn’t buy any of that from the press.
But I did know the guy was not my cup ‘o tea. And because of that, I wrote in another Republican’s name for president that day I went to vote. I knew of other anti-Trumpers on the right who were voting for Hillary Clinton as a protest vote, but that just made absolutely no sense to me whatsoever. I was still a conservative Republican. So I was going to vote for a Republican, not an extremist Democrat pro-choicer like Hillary Clinton.
On election night, I turned on the news to watch results come in, thinking it’d be a short night. The polls were predicting a Hillary landslide, and though it depressed me I still wanted to continue my election night tradition of seeing the states being called, finding out if there were any surprises along the way, etc.
As we all know now, there were quite a few surprises that night – the biggest one, of course, being that Donald Trump won. Regardless of my dislike of him, I gave the guy credit for sticking it out and winning in spite of what appeared to be overwhelming opposition to him. If there was one thing I was willing to concede about Trump that year it was that he was not a quitter. He was going to see the election through, despite the various pundits predicting at various stages that he would drop out.
I’m generally very much one of those people who view election night results I’m unhappy with from an “okay, so and so won, I’m gonna grumble about it for a bit and then get to work countering their agenda” perspective. My first thought is not that the election was not “STOLEN!” It’s “where do we go from here?” and “what can our party do better so that we can get the results we want next time around?”
I was in a very unfamiliar position on election night in 2016. I had never not voted for the Republican nominee for president. So when Trump won, I thought okay – let’s see if he proves me right or if he proves me wrong in the coming months.
In terms of style and temperament, he proved me right for the most part. But on substance and the issues – where it most counts, in my book – he proved me wrong. And unlike the NeverTrumpers with who I had only been loosely affiliated in 2016, I was willing to admit that. I didn’t dig in my heels as they did and say “you just wait, he’s gonna prove everything we said about him is true at a certain point!”
I sat back and watched as time went on, and was pleasantly surprised as he carried out an agenda that most Republicans, conservative Democrats, and independent voters should be able to support – give or take a couple of issues, of course.
He also was and is a very unconventional politician, something that in this day and time is much more of a plus than a minus. I came to understand that to a much greater degree a few months into his first year in office than I had in 2016.
Along with that, one thing I appreciated about him as the months and years went by was his exposure of the absolute partisan left-wing rot that permeates national media newsrooms from top to bottom. Being a media critic going back decades, exposing the liberal activists in the MSM was something I never thought I’d see a Republican president be able to do to any significant, meaningful degree, but he has.
While there are still things about his style I don’t like (for example, there are times when I think he could choose his battles – and words – more wisely), there is more to like than dislike about Donald Trump the politician in my view. Also, I’ve also concluded that we don’t have to view the person we’re voting for as someone with who we could be friends. We vote for people who we think will most vigorously defend and advance our conservative Republican ideals.
For me, Donald Trump is that person.
So I filled out my absentee ballot a few weeks ago and darkened the Trump/Pence circle with enthusiasm. It was something that four years ago I didn’t envision myself doing.
When I dropped my ballot off at a local early voting location, I felt no regrets about what I did in 2016 nor what I did in 2020. I believe people have to vote their convictions, but that they should also be willing to admit when they’ve later been shown to be wrong.
There are many more former NeverTrumpers out there like me who feel the same. I’m glad my write-in vote for someone else didn’t help prevent Trump from taking the White House in 2016, and I’m hoping my vote for him in 2020 helps propel him to a second term.
It’s amazing the difference four years can make. 😉