Being Conservative in the Age of Trump
For myself, and for millions of Americans who identify with the Republican Party or conservative movement at large, President Trump presents a particular challenge. Namely, how’s one to react to an individual who’s personally offensive but who also advances one’s policy goals and advocates for one’s values? The answer is not an easy one to render.
Other than the most rugged and coarse among us, you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who could honestly say they don’t find the President to be personally offensive at times, myself included. He’s not shy about the extent of his extramarital affairs; he has, on multiple occasions, ridiculed veterans the likes of the late American hero John McCain; and he has a practice of dealing with political opponents in a distasteful and disrespectful manner, more reminiscent of a schoolyard bully than a U.S. president.
That being said, he’s also one of the more successful presidents in recent memory at appointing judges to the federal bench and Supreme Court. Further, for conservatives who’ve long felt bludgeoned by an overpowered, unrepresentative news media, it can feel ironic if not karmic to witness the President’s interactions with major news networks and popular culture.
And, agree or disagree with his policies, the President has thus far managed to fulfill the majority of his campaign promises—though we’ll see if that can be said once the shutdown is over.
So for conservatives, the question we’re left with is: are President Trump’s negative qualities enough to preclude supporting a president who will advance your personal agenda? Though highly individual, the answer should be influenced by external circumstances. Personally, my support for the President is largely contingent upon his political opposition and the political climate in which he operates. In other words, what’s the alternative, and what’s the standard? In a more decent and respectful period, it’s obvious that President Trump would have no place in our political discourse. And yet it seems equally clear that the President is a result of—rather than the cause of—our vitriolic and divisive politics.
The uncomfortable truth for Republicans irked by the President’s character or behavior is that we don’t live in an idealized, zero sum world of choir boys and girl scouts. If we choose to reserve our support exclusively for a leader who fulfills our particular moral standards, we won’t be morally upright exemplars of society—we’ll be irresponsible citizens supporting ineffective political parties.
For perspective, I would encourage our Democratic friends to consider whether they would support a squeaky clean, well-mannered conservative politician like Mike Pence rather than a rough and tumble Democratic fighter who gets on their nerves every now and again. I suspect the answer would be a resounding no.
Finally, more than anything, I want to urge patience and calm. True, there are anomalies and oddities in every age, but soon the hysteria will be drowned out, and this president will be nothing more than a memory in our history books like every leader before him.
Jonathan Deemer is a senior studying business administration and international relations.