My usual tone is sarcasm. Sometimes mockery. But not today. Not this time.
This is not an attempt at persuading you to accept Trump. I’m not going to tell you your politics are wrong. Today I simply want to extend my understanding and even my sympathy, maybe even a little hope.
Donald Trump just got elected President (I still haven’t fully comprehended the surreal nature of that statement). As a democrat, you’re very likely way beyond the point of bewilderment. Way beyond. If you’re feeling now like I was when Obama was reelected, you’re disappointed. Maybe you’re panicked. Maybe you’re angry. Maybe you’re desperate. Maybe you want to throw up and then go outside and yell at the universe. Maybe. Maybe more than that. But that’s what I felt then. So if that’s how you feel now, I know how you feel.
I’m a conservative. It’s not a gratuitous thing, nor is it partisan. I’m not a republican and I’m not a libertarian. I know the philosophical tenets I espouse and I genuinely embrace the principles of this philosophy. Accordingly, I sincerely worried for the future of our country when the most brazen liberal I had seen in my life was reelected. I’m not attacking him, just stating what I perceived in him. I feared Obama. He had already managed to ram Obamacare through congress. Maybe you think that’s a good thing; to me it was disastrous. It infuriated me. In my mind it violated the constitution. To me, it was a massive blow to individual freedom, something I deeply value. But that was me. To you and many like you that was likely a victory, something you’ve always hoped for. I don’t understand that at any level other than knowing not everyone shares the same values I do. I hated it — you loved it. Such is life.
But the ACA wasn’t all that gave me reason to fear. Obama had also said and done things I found to be reckless, combative, dismissive and downright offensive to his fellow Americans. In Obama’s first term, anyone who disagreed with him was mocked without mercy. There were even open displays of weaponizing branches of the government against conservatives. He had done plenty to make me very uncomfortable with his leadership, and now he had been reelected to a second term. Four more years. The news could not have been worse for me.
Looking back, that’s what it was for me. But now it’s you, looking forward.
Part of the reason you fear Trump is because you think he’s a racist — it’s far and away the most common criticism I hear from democrats. Maybe he is, maybe he isn’t. I don’t know him and neither do you. His comments about Mexicans have certainly been strong. Regardless of the truth of the racism, you’re concerned about it and to you, that is truth. I get it. Hey, I’ve long been convinced Obama is also a racist. I believe he has a deep and overriding contempt for white people, not to mention police officers. Again, I don’t know him so I can’t say what’s in his heart anymore than you could so I won’t make the argument for my perception of his racism, only state that to me it’s as real as Trump’s perceived racism is to you. Like you, it’s been a great concern of mine throughout his two terms, so I get your concern.
When he took office, Obama had a great opportunity to patch many divisions in America. In 2008, I didn’t vote for McCain because I didn’t like him as a leader, but I held out hope Obama could be more than just another ideologue in spite of the fact I didn’t vote for him either. He possessed great promise. He had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. He had the skills. He certainly had the power of persuasion. As the first black president he could have reached out and healed longstanding wounds on the face of the nation. He could have been a remarkable emissary of peace. He could have been the Great Uniter, the Great Healer and the Great Hero. He could have earned himself his own Mount Rushmore, a coin and maybe even a dollar bill. Instead he turned radical, provoker, and ultimately, extremely partisan. He attacked rather than restore. I’m sure you supported him in doing it this way because much of that leaned in your favor, but I’m also sure if you’re honest with yourself you recognize the truth of this. Trump now stands in that same doorway, with the same opportunity. It’s now Trump’s turn to choose a path.
In a broad sense, when Obama took office, there was a thirst for revenge among democrats. Bush had been a dominant and controversial leader. He could be flippant and dismissive. He led us into an unpopular and polarizing war. He was agonizing for you and your fellow democrats. When he left office, you wanted revenge; most people do when it’s their team’s turn; they want to punish their political opponents. They want blood, so to speak. And so it was. And so he did.
But here’s the thing. Though I have despised much of what Obama is, does and represents and hated what he has done with his stewardship, I don’t want vengeance. I can’t speak for all conservatives or republicans, but I don’t think they do either. I don’t think “we” collectively want to see Trump exact revenge upon you and your fellow democrats – I’m sure some do, but not the majority. I certainly don’t want Trump to go radical. I don’t want him to be a provoker or an avenger. I want him to do what he promised to do: make America great again.
Take that phrase however you want, but to me part of that includes bringing us back together as Americans. I don’t think a country divided against itself can be great. I hope we don’t resort as usual to partisan or philosophical division. I hope we don’t choose to become mere R’s and D’s. I hope we find a way to see each other as neighbors, friends, and fellow citizens. And I hope Trump leads the way.
He’s a cocky, cartoonish oaf at times. He has most certainly said some distasteful things about people, and has, like the rest of us, had his dark moments. But he’s also shown himself capable of great acts of humanity, wisdom, vision, and even humility. Someone once said that hoping for a perfect politician is like hoping to quench your thirst with a tall glass of sand. But someone also once said that if you want people to change you have to give them the chance to do it. Trump is flawed no doubt, but maybe, just maybe, he’ll step up and do the right thing for all of us.
For your sake and mine as well, I hope he does just that.