In short, I’m tired. For over a year, I have paid close attention to this political race. Last night, I stayed up, glued to the screen as my expectations were upturned. At the beginning of the race, I watched the debates with enthusiasm, but I eventually refused to watch them; I thought they were a mindless spectacle, ill-befitting the office of the president. I could not understand why people favored Trump in the Republican Primaries, and I was surprised when he won the nomination. I didn’t think he stood a chance in the general election, and I watched in shock as state after state voted for him. As it became ever more likely that Trump would win the election, my Facebook feed filled with messages of dismay, sadness, and fear. Some of my Latinx students, now sophomores in high school, posted things like, “I’m going to be deported” and “This is the end.” They are young and melodramatic, but I think their fears are real. Other dear friends wrote about their crushed hopes, their sense of rejection, and their growing concerns. No shattered glass ceiling. No continuation of Obama’s legacy. No validation for progressive values. And not just these unmet expectations, but a sense of danger for women, immigrants, Muslims, and other marginalized populations. There is real pain, fear, and sadness among Hillary Clinton supporters today. I feel for and with them.
I don’t know many people who supported Trump (one of the most baffling things about this election), but I know a few. The Trump supporters I know are good and intelligent people. They do not strike me as any more sexist, racist, homophobic, or xenophobic than the rest of us. But they should know that those characteristics are imputed to them and their party–and that this is justified in many cases, if not in their case. Although I believe there were valid reasons for voting for Trump, the reality is that by doing so, our electorate has chosen a man who has, if nothing else, boasted about sexual assault, verbally degraded women, and repeatedly alienated minorities. While to some, these may not be the gravest of sins, there are real questions about the ramifications of tacitly condoning this behavior. When my wife left the house this morning, I felt, albeit irrationally, more worried about her safety than I have before. I hope and trust that fears like that will remain irrational.
With a majority in Congress and a newly elected president, conservative Republicans are in a position of power to make sure our communities are safe for everyone. Because they rode a wave laced with racism and misogyny, it is their duty to stand up alongside their more liberal colleagues and citizens in eradicating these pernicious forms of prejudice. Although I know that many conservative people are just as committed to equity, safety, and love as are their liberal counterparts, these are not the values most often associated with the Republican party. The most important political work for conservatives and Republicans in the next several years will be changing this image and party identity, and finding ways to show the poor and the marginalized that conservatism is not antithetical to their well-being. If this does not happen, I predict the GOP will collapse entirely within a generation (see this map, as initial evidence). I am not at all convinced that Trump is the man to lead that work. In fact, as we discussed the election, I told my wife that from my perspective, Trump would be worse for conservatism than Clinton. Hillary may have opposed certain conservative values, but Trump now represents them. Unless his presidency is nothing like his campaign, Trump may be the last Republican president. But I may be happily surprised. Trump’s political career is certainly surprising.
As a moderate conservative who did not vote for Trump, I look forward with uncertainty. I empathize with Democrats who are disappointed today. I appeal to the goodness of many Republicans, some of whom may be happy today. I rely on the brotherhood of humankind, although we may be divided today. And I trust in divine providence; the sun rose today.
At the end of this mini-civil war, may we live the words of a truly great Republican president, and, although Trump lacks this eloquence, may this be the tenor of his presidency:
“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations” (Abraham Lincoln, Second Inaugural).