I think I found the bright side to Donald Trump. This election has left Conservatism as the only political philosophy not really represented. Even the Bernie Bros have a lot of their biggest concerns represented in the newly minted Democratic Party platform. But real Conservatives? Who speaks for them?
I (and others) am starting to think it’s the Democratic Party.
People keep talking about how this Donald Trump candidacy is reshuffling traditional party allegiances into a never-before-seen arrangement. And yet, watching the Democratic National Convention speeches last night from Tim Kaine, Joe Biden, and especially Barack Obama, it looks like a reemergence of the blue collar, Southern Democrat.
Maybe, rather than a reshuffling, there is a course correction: a return to politics as it was prior to Nixon, Goldwater, and Johnson. Perhaps (dare I say?) this is actually a moment for normalization of American politics?
The hardest thing about writing anything about politics (or religion, for that matter) is not having someone write you off immediately by placing you into one of the Right-Left boxes that dominate our national discussion. I am really not a liberal progressive. I have voted Republican, Democrat, Libertarian, and even Green Party. In 2008 I voted down the ticket but conscientiously abstained from casting a vote for President as a “none of the above” protest vote.
All that to say, on most any issue, I can see both sides of it. I can see why people believe what they believe and I can see much of its merits. But (as so many written sentences this election season have concluded), that was until Donald Trump.
I am so strongly against Trump for President. I am not against critiquing the foreign and domestic policy views of the Obama administration and Secretary Clinton. I am not closed off to new recalibrations over trade and foreign policy. I understand the economic forces that have driven wedges between the working class and all others, and I can see the pain and malaise in middle America and groups that have been so forgotten and overlooked.
I see the forces that have given rise to Donald Trump and though I want to validate the cynicism, pain, and feeling of disempowerment, I struggle to know how to communicate to these voters that Trump is not the answer. He will not help you. People may respond that he’s better than Secretary Clinton. He’s not. Crunching the numbers, it is clear that Clinton’s policies would be far more effective in ameliorating these cultural and economic pressures.
You may not like Clinton personally, then, but we can’t overlook one candidate’s personal foibles only to condemn the other for theirs. On moral, legal, ethical, intellectual, and religious grounds, Trump is far and away the lesser of the candidates. If character, morality, and heck, even legal uprightness are important to you in choosing a candidate, Trump is worse.
I really liked Carly Fiorina when she was running for President. I admit: even though I voted for Bernie Sanders on Tuesday, Fiorina would have been one of my top choices early on in the campaign. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s confusing, I know. Anyway, a friend of mine who knew this was the case asked for some of my thoughts on whether her choice as Ted Cruz’s VP pick made me any more inclined towards Cruz. Well, here were my thoughts:
Man, if Cruz was going to do anything to make me even consider voting for him, this was it. Even though I would have voted for Kasich over Fiorina, Kasich as VP wouldn’t encourage me to vote for Cruz as much as this pick. I really like Fiorina and think she could be an incredibly powerful and effective Vice President.
That being said, however…
At this point it is a cliché to point out the brokenness of the American political system. In the past eight years, we have seen the least productive Congressional sessions in our country’s history, and have watched as even the most routine political acts are turned into controversial sideshows. What we need is not ideology, dogmatism, or a “political revolution”. We need a functioning, effective democracy.
And it is for that reason that this Tuesday, April 26th, I will be voting for Senator Bernie Sanders in the Pennsylvania Democratic Primary.
Let me explain.
Though I cannot in good conscience throw my lot in with today’s Republican party, I consider myself a conservative in my political philosophy. I am a registered Democrat (rather than an Independent) only because in a city as blue as Philadelphia where our Democratic primaries are the decisive ones, I’d have no say in my city’s politics if I weren’t.
Nevertheless, I do not agree with the idealistic and utopian vision that much progressive politics entails. I loathe the cynical identity politics of the Democratic party. I think the bigger the federal government is, the more frayed our communal bonds become. Further, politics must also have a moral foundation. Now, both Democrats and Republicans would agree with that, but there is a difference between ideology and morality.
One of the smartest and funniest women at my church, Alyssa, has this great blog you should all follow. In it, her observations on life, cities, and spirituality are whip smart and hilarious. Several weeks ago, she put up a post asking “Is Trump America’s Lent?” She writes:
For the purposes of this argument, let’s call Lent an annual wake-up call, a reminder that we aren’t as good as we think we are….Trump’s success so far is a wake-up call in itself, like a large-scale Lent: maybe we aren’t as good as we think we are. Apparently, as a country we’re actually more racist and fearful than we thought we were just a few months ago, when people laughed at the thought of him actually standing a chance. The land of the free might just be okay with building that wall. The home of the brave is actually pretty scared of Muslims.
This is incredibly insightful, and I think it turns our national “Trump-versation” to a helpful place in the Lent season. Rather than trying to understand “the Trump voter” on a micro-individual level–a level full of misunderstanding, prejudice, and judgmentalism on all sides–we might turn our gaze inward to our nation as a whole. Looking at the bigger movements and structures of our society, we can ask the hard questions that you can’t really ask when staring another individual in the face.
It’s been too long since we’ve had a political post hasn’t it? Last week, as part of my “Urban Lessons” mini-series, I wrote on how cities are perhaps the fountainheads of everything that ends up in suburban and rural areas. The things that take place in cities, it seems, always ends up flowing outward into the rest of the country, even if it takes decades or generations to do so.
I had that on my mind when watching this segment of The Rachel Maddow Show from Monday night’s episode. The segment is based off an excellent piece by Alexander Burns in Politico called “GOP big-city mayors vanish”. In it, Burns writes:
Largely unnoticed in Washington, urban Republican politicians have emerged over the last year as perhaps the nation’s most severely endangered political species, as the party has either failed to compete for high-profile mayor’s offices or has been soundly rebuffed by voters. It’s a significant setback that some Republicans view as an ominous sign for the GOP in a country growing steadily more urban and diverse.
First and foremost, I need to admit that I think I was entirely wrong in the article I wrote last month on the Health Care bill. I feel like the comment left on that post by editor of Patrol Magazine, and friend, David Sessions was right on. I’m now super excited and pumped to see this stuff pass, hopefully soon. I’m mainly writing this post, though, to encourage everyone to tune in to the Health Care Summit going on tomorrow from 10am to 4pm (HuffPost). I believe most every news agency and network should be airing it both on TV and online. Also, I’m sure there will be several major New Media websites live-blogging the event or giving constant updates.
I really do think this summit could be so much bigger than just health care. It could begin a trajectory that determines both the results of the next fours years of elections and the very state of politics in America. It could transform political discourse. It could break the absurdity of the immature political feces-throwing that has defined how Washington has run. It could usher in a new era of bipartisanship for the sake of the American people.
Probably not, but in theory it could.
People have been right to criticize the Republicans and their political posturing and obstructionism. Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow, and others were right to openly mock the way Republicans have seemingly overnight changed their views on historic planks of their platform just because Obama was putting forward those ideas. Obama was correct to plead with them with calm, reasoned explanations on how they were politically shooting themselves in the foot in the long term and freezing the work that needed to get done in this country. It was right to speak of Republican Senators that had absurd and asinine holds on Obama’s nominations as holding the government “hostage”. In short, it has been right to describe Republicans as “obstructionist”, and not for principle, but for politics. I personally resonate more with historic “conservative” visions of the government, but I have been disgusted by the abhorrent politicking that Republicans have been doing merely in the name of re-election. As Obama put it, far more concerned with their own job security than ours.
We have been right to cry out, editorialize, mock, rally against, be shocked by, and call for the end of these Republican political antics that have no basis in reason, discourse, or benefit to the American people or process.