On Behalf of Never Trump Republicans, A Plea for Understanding

In 2002, Mike Fisher ran unsuccessfully against Ed Rendell for Governor of Pennsylvania.  Fisher was the Republican Attorney General and a weak candidate; Rendell was the Democratic Mayor of Philadelphia and a juggernaut.  He crushed Fisher and went on to be a fine Governor.  And four years later when my party nominated an idiotic NFL player to run against him, this Republican happily voted to reelect the Democrat.

But on election night in 2002, I watched Fisher’s concession speech and something has always stuck with me from it.  He said something like, “We both want the same things… [brighter future for our children, a prosperous Pennsylvania, whatever it was]… We just disagree on how to do it.”

This summer I was disgusted by the rhetoric at both of the conventions.  Things like “WE are the voice of working families!” from Democrats and “WE love America!” from my Republicans.  No.  Democrats do not own the struggling, the poor, the working families.  Republicans do not own love of country, support of troops, and economic prosperity.  Throw out the radical outliers on each end and you’re left with millions of reasonable Republicans and Democrats who all care about these things.  We just disagree on how to do it.  I’m a Republican because I think struggling Americans are best served by solutions that come from people, communities, nonprofits, commerce, and–if it must be a government– a local one.  Just because I don’t share your belief that government programs are the best answer doesn’t mean I care less than you.

But one thing we do agree on? DONALD TRUMP IS AWFUL.  I can’t… I can’t even.  I mean, I’d be here all night trying to even write a single paragraph summarizing why.  You know why.  Let’s just start with a) he has no discernible soul as far as anyone can tell and b) if you sat him down with a bunch of 11th graders and had him take an AP US Government exam and an AP US History exam he would get a 2 or maybe a 3.

But he’s going to be our President for four years.  OK.  Yea.  SWEET JESUS, HOW DID THIS HAPPEN?

Let me just say something here in defense of Republicans.  I know this is hard to believe but there was a time when I had an occupation other than mothering children and blogging about the Bachelor.  I hate bringing this up for a lot of reasons, but I worked for three Republican campaigns and in the Bush White House.  My network of friends and acquaintances is chock-full of SANE Republicans.  Do you want to know how many people I can name who supported Trump from the start? Zero.  I can name no one.  We all supported other primary candidates.  And when I would chat with sane Republicans about this, they would say the same thing– they didn’t know anyone either.

Yesterday, some of my friends pinched their noses and begrudgingly checked the box.  Some defected to Hillary.  Many voted for a third party or did a write-in vote for funsies.  I did!


Now.  So.  Who DID vote for this guy? I don’t know, there’s plenty of analysis out there from people who are much more intelligent than me.  Go give it a Google.  But as Paul Ryan summarized today, “Donald Trump heard a voice out in this country that no one else heard.”  Boom.  There you go.  He gave a voice to those who felt unheard.  It’s a strategy for electoral success as old as time.  See also: Obama.

But let’s tone down the rhetoric on these people.  Are some of them the hateful bigots the left is making them out to be today?  Yes, undoubtedly! Many even! But is it fair to dismiss 59 million people as hateful intolerant bigoted illiterate ignorant uneducated homophobic xenophobic Islamophobic racist sexist misogynist shameful disgraceful disgusting pigs that you are ashamed and embarrassed to share a country with? Just because they made a different choice for whatever personal reasons you have no awareness of? No.  I have all but quit most social media, but I couldn’t help myself today, and I’m not exagerrating, I saw each of those words represented and repeated.  One person even suggested that everything would be fine once the older generations died off and Millenials inherited the country.  WOW!  Eagerly anticipating the death of entire generations of Americans,  love and tolerance you’re doing it wrong! As a sane Republican speaking for other sane Republicans, these characterizations are insulting and unfair.

Let’s consider that many of these millions of Americans are good, hardworking, decent people.  They’re worried about their futures, they just want what’s best for their families and kids like everyone else does.  And because of misguided motivations or even limits of intellect, they found it in Donald Trump this year.  These people do deserve a champion and the fact that their vulnerability was so disgustingly exploited by wretched Donald Trump actually makes them worthy of empathy and not hatred.

Let’s just be clear on one thing here– is Donald Trump that slew of adjectives from above? Absolutely, he’s given us plenty of evidence with which to judge him as such.  But 59 million of his voters that you’ve never met? Who were offered a whopping selection of ONE alternative? Soften your hearts.

This is my challenge to those with rage in their hearts today.  And I say this with FRIENDLINESS and PEACE, as constructive criticism from a sane Republican to my sane Democrat friends.  Soften your hearts and challenge yourself to find the love and tolerance that you as a movement pride yourselves on possessing.  Because sometimes it seems like the left’s love and tolerance has a way of being… selective.  Your hearts open for transgender people who can’t use their preferred Target bathroom, but presented with an unemployed machinist in Cuyahoga Falls who voted for Donald Trump because he doesn’t know how he will pay his mortgage and Trump foolishly promised him his job back, your empathy runs dry.  A tolerant, loving reaction would be I disagree with your choice, but peace on your journey brother but instead you slam him with You’re a disgusting disgraceful ignorant bigot.  Who apparently may not even deserve to live.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m mad too.  Guys, like, REALLY mad.  As the reality set in this morning, I kept wincing at painful images that popped into my brain.  A member of the military saluting Donald Trump.  Hail to the Chief playing for Donald Trump.  This inscription engraved on the mantle in the White House State Dining Room— I am literally at this moment tearing up reading John Adams’ beautiful words and picturing Donald and Melania in that house.  God help us.  So I will be challenging myself right alongside you. Love and tolerance for that which fits your agenda is the easiest thing in the world.  But loving the unlovable, loving your enemy– for Christians, or whatever moral authority you answer to, there is our highest and most difficult calling.

In January 2009 I was sitting at my desk in the White House Office of Political Affairs.  A colleague from the White House Management office stepped through the doorway escorting a group of 5-10 strangers– I kept the schedule and didn’t know who they were.  It was a few of the incoming Obama staff, just visiting today for a look around, she said.  I smiled and popped out of my chair and introduced myself and we shared a moment of GENUINE warmth.  I treasure that two minutes I spent participating so slightly in America’s peaceful exchange of power– because it’s a beautiful thing, and it transcends the politics and the rhetoric, and we owe it to each other to do it right.

The Republic will endure.  American Democracy was designed exactly to withstand this type of calamity.  I have complete, utter, absolute faith in it.  It is the closest to perfection as anything humans minds and hands are capable of creating.


22 thoughts on “On Behalf of Never Trump Republicans, A Plea for Understanding

  1. Thank you. For putting words to everything in my heart and soul right now…from the frustration that my third part vote is a microscopic tick mark to the loveless labels that are the farthest thing from who I am to the turn of my stomach at the realization that when I commit to “serving at the pleasure of the President” and following the lawful orders of my Commander in Chief, it will be HIM. God truly help us. Taking your challenge to heart.

  2. Hey Sarah,
    I love your post. Just to add, I think much of the rage that is being felt on the left comes from fear. There’s so much to say. As a woman, he’s terrified me. As a mother of a a young girl he has terrified me. He has targeted my friends and my community in his campaign. This is hard to even word. How can I not be outraged when I feel he has targeted my community? I live in New York City. I have friends of many backgrounds and sexual orientation. They are people. They were hurt. I hurt for them. I am scared for them.
    I don’t think that can simply go away. When x person from x county votes for Trump–maybe they didn’t know what they were truly voting for. I can have empathy that they were swindled. However, when I see the faces of my friends and my community–who were voted against–it’s intolerable. People are mad. They deserve to be mad. People are scared and they should be scared. Once people recover from the election, it is my hope that their anger toward Trump or those who voted for him can be channeled toward protecting those he targets,. I hope we can all stand together and defend every American regardless of race, religion or sexual orientation.

    1. Hey Minna! Thanks so much for this very thoughtful comment. I know this is horrible and difficult and everyone’s anger is absolutely justified. I guess I’m challenging myself to honor the Trump voters who were voting out of fear, too. They are afraid too, for their jobs and futures and basic ability to make ends meet. Not knowing how to pay for housing or food is scary. Trump has made foolish promises to vulnerable, struggling populations and my heart breaks for this.

      And the other thing I keep reminding myself that I hope might give you peace– America was designed FOR this exact problem. Trump will be kept in check by 535 (mostly sane) members of Congress, most of which are rotated every 2 years. All this foolish nonsense he said he “would” do– it’s meaningless. It just doesn’t work like that. He can’t. It will be OK, I know it!!

      Mwah… Hope you are well : ) thanks again for commenting!

  3. This is nothing less than extraordinary political writing coming from the heart.
    And yet the people have chosen their president. We are fortunate to live in a free society, and that by itself is a check on demagoguery and power madness.

    I can only hope that this article will have some cathartic effect on you and the people fortunate enough to read it.

  4. You, my dear, know just what to say and when to say it. Regardless of party or vote, we all have frayed nerves at this point. The democracy did exactly what it is supposed to do on Tuesday; allowed the people to decide.

    Now we must trust that decision and for the love of all that is holy, find some better candidates for the next round. 🙂 Thank you for bringing clarity, sanity and heart to the discussion. In the end we are all Americans.

  5. I understand your fear; I felt the same 8 years ago learning that Obama would be my next President and I feared he would not represent my values; where he would take our country and the impact to my beautiful daughter’s young lives and future. I also was angry at that time that he would be moving into the white house and walking the corridors and grounds that so many historic figures had traveled; have open access to the east room and beautifully furnished red, blue, green rooms – keeper of this American museum. I thought at that time who is this man what did he really accomplish in his life to take over this great office – what experience did he have that he could lead our country.

    So yes I understand the “Never Trumper’s” fear and yes I have winced many times in the last 8 years when watching clips of President Obama saluting military persons while hail to the chief plays in the background. It will be difficult and painful to those who are in disbelief that Donald Trump will be our next president just as it was for many of us who felt the same 8 years ago.

    8 years later do I feel different? No: to did I come to agree with President Obama’s views, his agenda and how he executed that agenda! Yes: to what I have also witnessed is a first family who support, love and live by the same family values I hold; have cherished their time living their lives inside of the white house and can only imagine the many challenging days supporting their husband – father – son-in-law who accepted the great responsibility of the presidency of the United States of America; and the constant scrutiny, criticism and judgement the office brings. I have learned that although I do not agree with our sitting President he is our President and many of my fellow Americans believe he has served them well and I have had to try and understand their views. The Obama family will leave behind many white house stories and experiences as all Presidential families before them; enriching the history of this great house as the Trump family will.

    Sarah, and other’s outraged with Trump’s election – it will be hard but know that many of us understand your fear; change brings fear but also can bring growth and prosperity we must hold onto hope. I am a female, educated, baby boomer who has raised two successful daughters and has a successful career. You do not have to have empathy for me as I look forward to a Trump presidency and the hope I feel, just as many felt 8 years ago; you are right Sarah we need love and tolerance for each other; that includes the willingness to accept maybe not agree with those of us who voted in the next president of the United States.

    You don’t have to like him and the words he has spoken; but please let’s try and support the office, the family as it is about our country and our loved one’s future. Hateful rhetoric often leads to bitterness; I chose to accept President Obama knowing that someone who accepts the responsibility/office of President of the United States loves his country loves his family and deserves a chance. Wince if you must, just as I have had to do the last 8 years; but let’s try to stand together and hope for the success of Trump’s presidency and support of his family as they move into our greatest American museum The White House.

  6. Thank you for this post. We need some love back in this country. I find it interesting how none of us know any o fthose who voted for him, yet… well, it is what it is and we must find some healing in all of our hearts. Thansk for a great post!

    1. I’m still scratching my head. I have no idea where these votes came from. I was yelling at the TV on election night, “Where are these millions and millions of votes coming from!!!!! Where did they find 25 people to vote for this guy??????” UGH. It is what it is indeed, and heal we will…

  7. Yes. Exactly. I’m also a sane Republican who voted for a write in candidate. You wrote everything I’ve been thinking. Like CJ Craig from West Wing said, “That’s the thing that sucks about democracy – sometimes the other guy wins.”

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