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.