We spend a good bit of time writing about and documenting the unhealthy anger of Trump supporters, some of whom have quite literally shown up on my doorstep and yelled at my kids in public places that their father is destroying the country. But what of those of us who are opposed to Trump?
There is an unhealthy trend at work. The sufficiency of opposition to Trump and duration of opposition to Trump is now a benchmark and if you were not opposed all the way and forever, you lack integrity without some meaningful act of penance to be judged by those who never liked him anyway. Most of those same people were Rubio fans who hated Cruz too. So if you were willing to support Cruz, you thereby enabled Trump and you are to blame.
It is as unhealthy and bizarre as the Trump supporter who will only believe polls that show Trump in the lead.
In the middle of February, well before Super Tuesday when things could still shift, I penned the piece that got a lot of people to finally stand up and also say they could never support Trump. My friend Aaron Gardner suggested I change the hashtag from what I had to #NeverTrump. The rest, as they say, is history. To date, it is the most read piece at The Resurgent with more than 200,000 unique hits to that piece alone.
But, as I noted in that piece, I was at one point willing to support Trump. Even into January, as my writings about him turned more and more critical, I was willing to consider him if he was the nominee. I still thought he’d drop out or collapse. I still thought the polling was off. But when reality dawned that he was not acting, but was awful, and was not going to drop out, but could win, it was time to take a stand that was potentially career ending.
Back in August of 2015, I uninvited Trump from the RedState Gathering. For weeks after I was flooded with angry emails and phone calls. My kids could not check the mail any more because of stuff we’d get mailed at home. I have not mentioned it before, but my daily email list from The Resurgent saw more than 55,000 unsubscribes in less than week after that.
I knew what I was getting into when i wrote that piece in February. I was prepared for the ratings collapse, though my bosses were completely freaked out. Luckily, the ratings have gone up. And no, it is not Democrats suddenly tuning in, but a lot of conservatives who can’t believe what has happened.
Along the way, though, despite all of this, it is not enough for some. For some, every Trump supporter must be purged from the GOP. Every Cruz supporter must be purged from the GOP because they enabled Trump. I’ve encountered some Cruz supporters who want to purge Rubio supporters because had Rubio dropped out earlier, Cruz could have beaten Trump they claim.
The day after the election is going to come. The country will not collapse. And there are going to need to be people who are around to pick up the pieces. It’ll take a lot of us working to find common ground. Certainly, I think there are people who will no longer deserve a seat at the table. But they are the people who went early for Trump with gusto and some who went late, but threw themselves into it with reckless abandon. Those numbers though are small and those opposed to Trump need to be cautious of becoming as angry as so many who flocked to Trump. “Convert or die” is no more appealing for those opposed to Trump than it is for those who support him.
In the early church, Emperor Diocletian ordered persecution of Christians. Christians were required to renounce the faith or take actions to treat the emperor as a god. In some cases, they just handed over their Bibles and that was good enough for local authorities. When the persecutions ended, there was a great debate of what to do when those who’d gone wobbly. The church decided it had to exercise grace and forgivenesss. Donatism, the belief that sacraments offered up by those who’d gone wobbly, were invalid was ruled a heresy. There were, history shows, some who’d gone wobbly who the church had to close the door to. But most were welcomed back with grace.
Those who felt an obligation to go along with Trump because he was the nominee are doing what they think is best for the party. Those who were willing to give the Republican candidates all a fair shake did what in a normal year would be acceptable to everyone, even if they later decided Trump was unacceptable. Those who’d purge everyone except the small number they believe are sufficiently pure and anti-Trump are really no different from the Trump supporters who demand we all bow before Trump and kiss his ring.
It is an anger unbecoming those who are going to have to work with a lot of others to grow again a party in turmoil. The people who once preached a big tent who would now shrink it to just their small gathering unless sufficient public repentance and public recanting of past sins are performed in ways this small group deems appropriate, will find they’re doing as much harm to a shared and common cause as the alt-right is doing.