Strangely, though, that depression lifted on election night. Mind you, I still don't like Donald Trump; indeed, I eventually voted third-party. But whatever my intellectual objections to the Republican candidate, something inside me evidently feared Hillary Clinton all the more -- and when the prospect of her presidency decisively evaporated, I was both shocked and slightly giddy. In fact, it has taken me until now to come down from the unexpected high.
So what do I make of this result in the more sober light of day? I think I'm going to frame my thoughts in the form of three letters addressed to the various constituencies involved.
Dear Trump Supporters (Reluctant or Otherwise),
You got me. I was wrong.
I thought Trump was going to be an utter disaster for the GOP. Obviously, I underestimated how averse to Hillary Clinton the electorate would be. I did not predict how profoundly her corruption and globalist bona fides would dampen enthusiasm and drive down turnout among the Democrats' usual constituencies.
I was #NeverTrump to the end, but please understand that my antipathy towards Trump was not accompanied by antipathy towards his backers. In reality, I actually agree with you on many issues. I agree that we must sincerely grapple with the negative effects of globalization. I agree that we have a right to defend our borders and enforce our immigration laws. And I agree that the media and the rest of the supposed "elite" need to be humbled with extreme prejudice. I didn't believe Trump had the right answers to these pressing issues - and I still don't - but when it comes to your general sentiments regarding the state of our nation and its desperate need for a reset, I am 100% in your corner.
I didn't oppose Trump because I wished to virtue signal or because I wanted to prove I was smarter than everyone else. I just wasn't convinced Trump would uphold Constitutional principles. That being said, I sincerely hope Trump will be the change we all desire -- that he will actually reinvigorate our love for the classically liberal federal system the Founders established and consequently ensure our domestic tranquility.
We have work to do. As movement conservatives, we can no longer be satisfied with our status quo. We have to start listening to Trump's voters and addressing their specific concerns.
What do we really have to offer to the working class besides bromides on lowering taxes and reducing regulatory burdens? As manufacturing has continued to move off shore, many have seen their previously stable communities crumble all around them. Reliable jobs have disappeared, and so too have support systems that once gave lives meaning. What are we going to do at the ground level to rebuild social capital and restore people's dignity and purpose?
We're already out there preaching libertarian economics, but I think we need to reconnect with and emphasize the more communitarian side of our intellectual heritage. I for one plan to search through the wisdom of my own faith tradition - and seek out our Founders as well - for possible solutions to our problems. Will you join me on this journey?
God bless, etc.
A few of you actually get why you lost (see also: Jonathan Pie). But the rest?
You yelled "ist!" and "ism!" at John McCain when he ran for president -- even though he was, by all reasonable standards, a moderate Republican. You yelled "ist!" and "ism!" at Mitt Romney -- even though he presided over the institution of the Affordable Care Act's predecessor in Massachusetts and has been, throughout his life, a deeply charitable person. For the past several decades, you've portrayed every Republican, no matter how benign, as the second coming of Hitler. So when you did the same to Trump, the electorate tuned you out.
I happen to agree that Trump was an awful candidate -- but I could prove that with his actual actions and his actual words. You, on the other hand, decided to exaggerate - and sometimes outright lie about - Trump's flaws. Moreover, your identitarian ideology kept you so focused on the fact that Hillary Clinton has a vag that you completely missed her manifest lack of fitness for the presidential office. This only cemented the voters' distrust.
Your behavior in the wake of Trump's election has also not served you well. Some of you are lying about being the targets of supposed hate crimes, which makes genuine victims less likely to be believed. Some of you are rioting in the streets, disrupting the lives of people who, by the way, probably also voted for Clinton. Many of you are spreading claims that Trump will destroy the rights of LGBTQ citizens/minorities/immigrants/the disabled -- claims that, so far, have no empirical basis in reality. Many of you are unjustifiably scaring your children, modeling emotional incontinence instead of rationality and principled dissent. And lastly, all of you are ignoring the Trump supporters who have been beaten or otherwise intimidated because of their vote. Congratulations, guys, for continuing to demonstrate why many Americans despise you and your beliefs.
Might I make a suggestion? If you want people to be more receptive to your concerns, maybe you should try persuasion instead of coercion and respect instead of condescension. And maybe - get ready for a truly radical idea - you should give genuine federalism a try instead of attempting to force your lifestyle on people without their consent. I'm perfectly happy to let San Francisco be San Francisco. Perhaps you should reciprocate and allow Provo to be Provo. If you let more cultural decisions be made at the local level, perhaps our national politics would no longer be a blood sport, and we could all feel more empowered and more in control of our own surroundings.
Just some thoughts, etc.