Most Conservatives, many Republicans and lots of Americans from across the political spectrum rightly felt despondent the night of the Indiana primary on May 3, as Donald Trump decisively beat Ted Cruz to win the state, forcing Cruz to suspend his campaign and withdraw from the contest for the 2016 GOP nomination. Many of them not necessarily because they supported Cruz, but because they knew he was the last conservative candidate standing against the Trumpian wave.
Conservatives have a valid and legitimate concern that members of the party to which they largely belong – the Republican party – have selected someone who is decidedly not a conservative as the party’s nominee. One in fact, who has held opinions and views diametrically opposed to the conservative agenda, and against which he has worked by funding the political careers of members of the opposition.
We have been divided before and since. It is inherent to our DNA. Yes, America was founded on ideals of freedom and liberty – of conscience, of voice, of press, of religion, of markets – and over time, we’ve allowed those freedoms to be expanded or restricted over time. We’ve had entire groups (blacks, women) who previously had no say in their governance be enfranchised and our republic has been strengthened as a result.
Part of the problem is that for the Right, each election is “the most important in a generation.” Only the Right fears the end of western civilization with each election. Only the Right compromises its values and beliefs in a vain effort to stave off extinction. The Left rises again and again, like a zombie that refuses to die, adapting to the times, shifting with the political winds, becoming whatever it needs to be, inexorably continuing to seek its goal of ultimate control of each and every person, replacing the individual with the collective. This is why they will always have an advantage.
Things look tough, and prospects are dim for the short-term conservative view of the future, but, let’s put things in perspective:
In 1860, with the rise of the Republican party, and the election of Abraham Lincoln, the southern states of America seceded from the Union over multiple issues, with the question of slavery as the linchpin factor. The split ultimately resulted in the American Civil War, with over 750,000 soldiers dead, another 50,000 plus civilian casualties, and approximately $10 billion in property damage, followed by years of Reconstruction, the rise of the KKK, and years of segregation and Jim Crow policies enacted by Democrats across the south.
That is the bar.
We haven’t reached the point of actual warfare, where people are dying in fields. We face a huge challenge that can and will be overcome. We’ve faced worse before, and will again. This is not the darkest time – not by any stretch.
We elected Woodrow Wilson (who segregated the military and implemented income taxes), Franklin D. Roosevelt (who imposed the disastrous New Deal and confined Japanese Americans in concentration camps), and Lyndon Johnson (who capitalized on and exacerbated racial divisions to enact the failed policies of the Great Society). We thought that Bill Clinton and later, Barack Obama would do terrible, irreversible damage to the Republic, destroy America, and possibly set the world aflame. They tried their best and largely failed.
In each case, no one took up arms against the state. The republic did not collapse. Chaos did not ensue. Anarchy did not reign. A despotic tyrant did not parade enemies in the street as they were marched off to death camps.
Yes, the presumptive Republican nominee has never voted in a Republican presidential primary. He was radically pro-choice a few years ago, donated heavily to Democrat politicians, promotes the “great things” Planned Parenthood does, bought into Hillary Clinton’s birther accusations, now claims that taxes on the wealthy should be raised, and told the New York Times that his hyperbole on immigration and amnesty were mere political expediency.
You supported Trump? Well done. You’ve accomplished something almost no one thought possible. You outlasted and defeated the deepest, most qualified and experienced Republican field in recent memory; one formed of 17 candidates at one point, including: 9 former or sitting governors, 5 former or sitting senators, a CEO and a neurosurgeon. Good luck on winning in November.
You opposed Trump? Well done. You proclaimed your opposition to the heavens, and displayed your disdain for the candidate by working on behalf of someone else; someone with whose vision you agreed most. You fought hard, and your passion and dedication are a credit to the cause and the movement. You have options now, ones that will leave you with a clear conscience and a clear-eyed view of the future.
You seek a third alternative? Well done. Use your God-given, Constitutionally-protected freedom to choose who will represent you at every stage of government. Work hard to elect someone who will embody most if not all of your core beliefs, and who you think has a chance to make a difference.
Regardless of what happens between now and November, the Republican party as we know it will cease to exist, and something new will rise to take its place and assume its name. It will be changed in ways large and small, but the change will happen.
This Republican party will have a place for you (perhaps smaller, located in the back, dimly-lit corner of the convention hall, near the restrooms), and it will be up to you to accept or reject it. History says you probably will learn to live with it. If you are one of the “early adopters”, who embraced Trump, your place will be front-and-center, under the bright lights, in a prime spot with concierge service. This is how the parties have always been run, catering to the most ardent supporters, leaving scraps for the detractors.
We will survive Trump. We will (probably) survive Clinton. Someone like Gary Johnson couldn’t screw things up any worse. Regardless of who wins, we will not be the same. We never have been. Our culture and society is powered by change and renewal – sometimes by taking two steps back for each one going forward. Each day brings new challenges and new definitions of reality. Each time requires adjustment and adaptation, sometimes complete redefinition.
The key will be to keep fighting. To keep working. To keep faith with the principles and values that founded the Republic and the Republican party.
“I have not yet begun to fight!”
Captain John Paul Jones to a request to surrender as he and his crew engaged in a desperate battle with a British frigate off the northern coast of England during the American Revolution in 1779.
If and when true tyranny does come, it will be of our own making, and we will either realize it, understand and fight it until our last breath, or we will go quietly, meekly with the dying of the light. Until then, press on.