This presidential campaign will be over in 76 days. Thank God. I’ve said it before, this particular year is exhausting. Friendships have been strained, and some even broken, not over Democrat vs. Republican, or even liberal vs. conservative. This year, it’s mostly over one man and some people’s devotion to him, and others’ revulsion of him.
On November 9, people who used to associate and agree on most things will have to learn to live together, or reach an amicable parting. The likely scenario is awaking from a Trump trouncing, but much can happen in 76 days, so I’m not willing to close the door. (Washington Post The Fix writer Aaron Blake responded to John Oliver’s suggestion that Trump drop out and become a “hero”…this is what the race has come to. Erick sighed “I hate this year.”)
The Republican Party, as an organization, may never recover from Trump. Once the RNC went all-in and ensured his nomination, the lobster trap snapped shut, and now there’s no exit. But will relationships and friendships survive?
Even in 2008, when the liberal wing of my family went ga-ga over Barack Obama, I still loved them, and I still spoke to them. We didn’t usually discuss politics, but even when we did, we realized we’re still family. It’s the same with many of my liberal friends. People in the armed forces still trust their lives to their battle buddies, regardless of who those people support, politically. The guys who pack parachutes are not vetted for their political stance.
But the tone here is somehow different. People are coarser. Jonah Goldberg lamented with a tinge of anger, at his friend Bill Bennett, who said this to Megyn Kelly.
There’s a lot of people and there are still undecided people. [Trump] does not need to speak to the NeverTrump person — some of my friends, or maybe former friends, who suffer from a terrible case of moral superiority, and put their own vanity and taste above the interest of the country.
Wow. That smarts. It’s this way for many–those who are not NeverTrump see those who are as sanctimonious pricks. And it’s really hard to reconcile with someone after you call them a sanctimonious prick.
Everything that Trump does or says for the next 76 days will now be seen through the lens of “take that, you sanctimonious prick!” for many who walked together with us on every issue.
— toddstarnes (@toddstarnes) August 23, 2016
To Todd Starnes: nope. I don’t have an issue with it. How many NeverTrump people do you think there are? Do you think it’s more important for Trump to gain the trust of Latinos and African-Americans than to win over some tiny number of publicly-declared NeverTrump writers and radio hosts? If every single NeverTrump figure suddenly switched to full #MAGA warrior mode, would that make even the tiniest difference in the polls?
If National Review came out with a cover “The Case For Trump: Make America Great Again” featuring hagiographic essays from Goldberg, Glenn Beck, David Boaz, Brent Bozell, Ben Domenech, Erick Erickson, Bill Kristol, Dana Loesch, Andrew McCarthy, Michael Medved, Russell Moore, Katie Pavlich, John Podhoretz, Thomas Sowell, and Cal Thomas, would that win the election?
No. It wouldn’t. Neither will those same people being against Trump cost him the election–it didn’t even cost him the nomination! But people like Starnes are not about to admit it.
This is really a bigger split than many people acknowledge. It’s not really over Trump and his politics (such as they are, if anyone can actually define them). It’s over the role and ground rules of party politics, and what Republicans–even conservatives–actually stand for.
One reader of this site emailed me. “Republicans need to focus on the economy, the debt and not ever speak of social issues,” he wrote. “From my point of view, they were on the wrong side of gay and abortion issues for too long. I don’t know of any Republican that is anti-gay or anti-pro-choice. They may be for traditional marriage and pro-life but are not opposed to others living their life as they so choose.”
Many people feel this way. Even many people who agree with my social and religious views agree that Republicans are too focused on losing social issues. This would happen to include leaders like Jerry Falwell, Jr., Dr. Robert Jeffress, Wayne Grudem, and Bill Bennett. For them to choose Trump (or hold their noses, like Dennis Prager) indicates their desire that the GOP focus on economic, trade, and personal liberty over social agendas.
This is the great divide that threatens to smash longtime friendships and associations.
It doesn’t matter if Trump wins or not. If he wins, there will be another four years of apologizing for him nearly every day. At some point, many will declare their disappointment and regret, and may realize they bet on the wrong horse. My sister–an Obama acolyte in 2008–now despises the man for what he’s done the last 8 years. Maybe that’s the best course–I’ve even thought about that as a reason to support Trump–to preserve those relationships.
In other words: I’ll vote for Trump for your sake. Now shut up.
But it’s too big a stretch for me. Not because I’m a sanctimonious prick, but because my conscience tells me something that other people’s consciences don’t necessarily tell them. And just like the Bible says, I don’t condemn Christians who support Trump for believing what they believe. I don’t think supporting Trump will send a Christian to hell. It’s just wrong, to me, and to many (most?) others. I do, however, expect those Christians to be accountable when the election is over.
I agree with Ramesh Ponnuru:
Most people who work in Republican politics want Donald Trump to win but think he will lose. They hope that afterward the party will unify in opposition to President Hillary Clinton. They are, however, underestimating the divisions in their party that Trump’s campaign has revealed.
From the standpoint of Republican unity, the worst possible outcome of the November election would be a narrow defeat for Trump. The nominee’s Republican supporters would be enraged at those Republicans who balked at Trump, and the party would be consumed by recriminations.
I think the Republican Party, as an organization, will be consumed with all kinds of handicaps, from donor disengagement, to a lack of new volunteers, that recriminations will just be the icing on that particular cake of awfulness. But from the standpoint of friendships, relationships, and conservative thought, will be in danger from those recriminations.
There is a place for social agendas in politics. In fact, I believe that’s the primary foundation beneath all the policies and trade and economics. Ideals are far more important than execution. The schism that faces post-Trump conservatives is this: Do we place our shared ideals above policies, programs, and political goals, or does upholding those ideals at the cost of party goals make those who do so into sanctimonious pricks?
If it’s the latter, it’s going to be a very long time before certain “former friends” break bread again without that awkward tension. That’s a good reason to hate 2016.