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.   

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