Monday, November 19, 2018

An Effort in Civility

The dust is still unsettled after our most recent election.  Several races have flip-flopped since election night and several more hang in the balance pending almost certain litigation or manual recounts.  Rarely do these flip-flops end in the favor of the GOP or conservatives
but we'll take Florida and Mia Love.

GOP loyalists in general and conservatives in particular should not be happy with the overall results, not only of this election but also with the successes of the past two years.  By historic standards the midterms were not disastrous but, oh, what could have been.

Those two years of unshared government control by the GOP have produced some benefits in certain specific areas, but overall they also contained real disappointment as the tag-team of Democrat Party operatives and never Trumpers thwarted much of what the once conservative party could have achieved had it not been fractured.

Key to this, of course, is that the now-standard bearer of the GOP is not a consistent conservative despite his occasional dabblings. 

I understand the never Trump movement. When the crowded GOP field contained 18 different candidates I figured Trump was about my 14th choice.  At that point he was bristling and bombastic and, well, very Trump like.  But, who among us took Trump the man seriously enough to take Trump the candidate seriously?

Not me.

But, as people on that long list of candidates fell aside week after week and the cream finally rose to the top, that cream turned out to be Donald Trump, John Kasich and Ted Cruz.  It was a three legged stool with three cracked legs.

Each of the three candidates was at least mildly appalled by the other two.  Kasich because he governed like a Democrat with his medicaid expansion and big government top-down expansionism.  Cruz because he appeared to be a quasi-plastic mannequin on those rare moments when he didn't appear to be a robot, and Trump because of, well, Trump. 

Most conservatives supported Cruz, as did I, while Trump gathered the populists and Kasich collected his closest relatives and those with low self esteem. In the aftermath Cruz and Trump established a rather fragile truce while Kasich and both of his supporters grabbed their toys and went home crying.

Those three men loosely represent the largest factions of the GOP.  The never Trumper establishment (Kasich) the conservatives (Cruz) and the Trump worshipers (guess who.) There is a fair amount of crossover particularly among the establishment and conservative never Trumpers.

Within the GOP, Trump's personality, his confrontational style and his inability to ever let an insult go unchallenged have poisoned him to many who could have accepted him if he were more unlike himself.  They would never and will never vote for Trump.  They would rather see Hillary in office than be associated with a bloviating Mr. President.  

But I'm not concerned with the 40 percent of Americans who get all their news through NPR and Jim Acosta. These people already worship the holy state and pray toward DC several times a day.  Conversely nothing short of a good pesticide will ever be able to pry Trump's most adoring fans from his train.

There are those though, who were in the 2016 never Trumper movement that were more than willing to assess Trump's first few years in office before reconsidering a vote for him in a next presidential election. They find Trump distasteful for many of the reasons already mentioned, but they were willing to hear him out.  This is the group that Trump needs to attract into his corner and it is among this group that he has failed the most miserably.  Getting these people on board should have been easy but within Trump's personality is its own self-contained bumper car pavilion. 

This is the middle 20 percent where Trump needs to aim his attention and it is here where his performance has been most disappointing.  There have been times when Trump's approval ratings have inched their way up to the fifty percent mark.  And then, shortly after climbing to the pinnacle, Trump suffers a self-inflicted bite mark that leaves him limping.

When it gets right down to it, that middle 20 percent is the most fickle.  Individually they are looking for specific reasons to support or to withhold support from the governing party.  And while they are willing to grimace and take sides with a president whose policies they largely agree with, they are not so willing to take sides with the most powerful person on the planet who decides to be a bully.  

This group was never likely to switch sides and make a revenge vote, but they were (and are) likely to stay home or vote third party.

And that is really the problem with the bullies I've known my whole life.  Its not that it isn't nice to have one in your corner when you're under attack, it is, because of their overarching needs to be in control rather than to be principled, that they cannot be trusted for their judgment.  

Try following that guy into battle.

As a Trump voter who is thankful that Trump's administration has not been nearly as bad as I feared it might be, I wish he was a better man.  Hey, I wish he would just go through the effort of trying to appear as if he is a better man.  

There are times when I think he wants to do that.  He has tweeted that Nancy Pelosi deserves to be House majority leader.  He complimented losing midterm democrat candidates for fine campaigns.  We all know these are contrived efforts, but they are efforts, and that is what most people want to see from the man.  


Effort to be civil.  Effort to be self-controlled.  Effort to be understanding.  Above all, effort to be presidential.

We've all been in those situations where, when we were attacked, our first instinct was to call our attacker a horse face or to tell the former POW, a man that sacrificed years of freedom and significant body function for his country, that he shouldn't have been captured in the first place.  

Most of us don't do this because we abide by a code of conduct.  This does not mean that we aren't tempted to be a jerk, only that on occasion we give in to base instincts.  But, in moments of failure, we apologize and try to do better next time.  If we, the common man can expect to control ourselves in these common situations, why cannot the man elevated to high office?

It is a good question, one that the middle 20 percent of the voting public will have to answer.   

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Trump: A Transitory President

There are two types of people in this world, those who have strong opinions on Donald Trump and zombies.  I am among the living. 

I am also a conservative who stopped voting in primary elections because I find most Democrats are outright socialists and most Republicans are strong warriors for conservative principles right up until the second they are elected.

I was a very reluctant Trump voter.  I changed my mind several times during the process but in the end I voted Orange over a write-in.

I voted for Trump because my badly bruised ego had (mostly) healed from all the verbal beatings he launched against Ted Cruz, Ted's wife, Ted's father, Ted's heritage, Ted's looks and Ted's personality. I also hoped that somewhere deep within a Trump administration there might be a lonely conservative that could rage against the machine.

By my way of thinking, a conservative had no positive reason to vote for Trump unless you consider voting against Hillary a positive reason.  He had no firm political record and only celebrity level musings on the issues of the day.  He had a lifetime of membership in the Democrat Party.  He was boorish, mean spirited, thin skinned and untrustworthy.  He and the truth had never been captured in the same photograph.

So, with gnashed teeth and a quick prayer for forgiveness, I blackened in the Republican circle.

Now we are a full congressional election cycle into his term and the White House staff seems to be in chaos, the press is absolute toxic in its coverage of him, Code Pink will be sending an Arizona senator to congress, postmodernists made gains in the House of Representatives, and rumors are that Trump is skulking about the West Wing like a kid kept in from recess.

Oh, and then there is his Twitter account which, it appears to me, makes a cell-phone in his possession at least as dangerous as the nuclear launch codes.

It is hard to take a seemingly objective conservative look at this president when he sits in swirls of both earned and contrived controversy and in multiple layers of both honest and idolatrous praise.  Somewhere in between the heavy petting and the poisonous vitriol there lies a more honest assessment of the man and his position in the GOP.

Here is mine.

If nothing else is evident, Trump has demonstrated to his fellow Republicans that spinal constitution can lead to victories on policy.  Democrats have known this all along but the deeply entrenched self-loathing GOP only elevates members into leadership when they've earned advanced degrees in the Capitulatory Sciences. 

We heard it from minority house members that they needed a majority before they could do what they wanted to do.  They were given that majority.  Then they protested that they needed a Senate majority to do what they wanted to do.  They were given that majority.  Then they whimpered that they needed to have the White House before they could do what they wanted to do.  When gifted with a Republican in the White House, self-loathing GOP office holders found the atmosphere to be too toxic to provide what they promised.  

Trump was not to be stalled.  

No other GOP president would have achieved tax cuts.  No other GOP president would have pulled out of the Paris climate farce.  No other GOP president would have moved the US embassy to Jerusalem.  No other GOP president would have jettisoned NAFTA (a mistake) and would have engaged in a global trade war (another mistake.)  

On and on it goes.

Yet, Trump is a fighter even in situations where he looks ridiculous.  He tries to stick to his public word even when video tape provides conclusive evidence that he's lying through his teeth.  He makes no apologies when he should be begging forgiveness.  He leaves no perceived slight unanswered.  One wonders what level tirade results on those late evenings in the Executive Residence when he has trouble slipping on a pajama shirt. 

Trump isn't just a mixed bag.  He's a multi-colored bag overstuffed with mixed bags. 

After two years of observation I believe his character flaws are worse than I thought they were on Election Day, but I find that his administration has pursued many more conservative policies than I thought would ever be possible.  My facial expression here could be described as a grimacing smile.

My hope is that Donald Trump is a transitional president for the GOP, one that bridges the gap between an establishment party that is not so dedicated to its professed principles as to actually pursue them once elected, and a party that has learned a lesson from the recent midterm losses--that character, words, honesty, temperament and founding principles have impact.

You don't have to be a jerk to stand up for yourself.  (This is not to be confused with not standing up for yourself at all as was George W. Bush's wont.)   

Unfortunately, being succinctly Trump means needlessly picking on people who are sometimes innocent, defenseless, sympathetic or all three.  This is behavior that cannot be excused when children do it, and a grown President of the United States should damn well refrain from it too.

The lesson of Trump for a conservative party is that the path ahead is rather straight and narrow but decidedly uphill.  The principles are already very well defined.  The individual is sovereign.  The powers of government are limited.  Our rights come to us from a higher order.  We are a nation of laws.  These conservative principles resonate with a sizable portion of the people and should be respected.

It’s going to take a future GOP candidate who is willing to stay on the principled road who also has the strength to push uphill.  

Trump has displayed to us a willingness to fight for what he believes in even if not the proper tactics for that fight.  That, if possessed by a virtuous candidate bent upon conservative ideals, would be a person worth voting for.