When Trump began doing well in the primary, I made several public proclamations that I would never vote for Trump. I did that for two reasons.
First, because I truly believed his inclination is towards big government policies and the “strength” of authoritarians. His strategy to divide Americans for personal gain and his exhortations to violence represent some of the worst impulses in America.
Second, because I have been a Republican my whole life and it is natural to put aside differences to support your party’s nominee, and I didn’t want to leave myself any wiggle room to do so. I viewed Trump as a danger to my values and wanted it to be clear where I stood; and I wanted to stand firm.
Now that Trump has actually won the presidency, I feel I should update my views on the man and his future.
I will go into the next four years with hope – the hope that I was wrong about what he will do. I do not know what Trump’s presidency will be like. I don’t think anyone does. So I will give him the chance to prove me wrong. If we want him to do better than we fear, we have to give him a chance to do so. I will do my best to judge his presidency with clear eyes and an open mind, hoping that his policies change now that he has such great responsibility.
Trump has the ability to do some really good things that I support. I think we all owe him the opportunity to demonstrate how he will actually govern. If Trump does something I agree with, I will praise him for it like I would any other politician. When he does not do what I consider right, I will condemn him like I would any other politician. Perhaps he will surprise us all again.
That being said, I can never support him. My opposition to Trump was based on more than just policy differences. Trump has a deeply flawed character that cannot be compensated for and I cannot overlook. I do not think there is clear evidence that Trump is himself a racist, but as a best case scenario, Trump openly appealed to racists and bigots, threatening the ideals that make America great. I refuse to normalize that.
The conservatism I believe in and the Republican Party I belonged to treats people as individuals deserving of dignity and liberty, not as members of a group to be judged collectively. By his words and deeds, Trump has rejected the very foundation on which this country is built.
Perhaps the man who takes the oath of office will be different from the man who campaigned for that office. We should wait to find out. But for the last year and a half, Trump has gleefully promoted the darkest parts of America and sown divisions in our society for his own benefit. That I cannot forget. That I cannot forgive.
I will therefore draw a bright line between Trump on the one hand and the Trump Administration on the other. The Trump Administration will be populated with some good, conservative leaders. There is a real chance that with so much focus placed on whatever Trump said in his latest tweet, they will be able to get some important work done behind the scenes. This is a significant opportunity to advance conservative ideals.
But Trump the man remains narcissistic, arrogant, insulting, and unprincipled. He has proven himself undeserving of the general benefit of the doubt conservatives have afforded other Republicans.
With hope for the future and a wary eye on the present, I will judge Trump and his administration separately and by their actions. He deserves no more and no less.