Suspended realities

by Paul Mero
by Paul Mero

The morning after election night I found myself whistling “The Sun Will Come Out Tomorrow.” And it did. And it was beautiful. I was reminded of the words from conservative godfather Russell Kirk, “Politics is not the whole of life.” Indeed, it’s not even the most important part of life.

Of course, I was as shocked as any person watching Donald Trump’s victory unfold late into the night. Frankly, it was unbelievable. But true nonetheless. Watching Fox News, as soon as they announced that Hillary had conceded to Trump, the Trump supporters outside the studio began chanting, “Lock her up!” – the same chant heard throughout the Republican National Convention that nominated Trump. I thought of all of the good (i.e. not crazy) people who voted for Trump. Is that what they were thinking, “Lock her up”?

With any big purchase, such as choosing the next president of the United States, buyer’s remorse is not unusual. We get buyer’s remorse largely because we often suspend reality during the purchase. We often have to conveniently ignore what is right in front of us to make an irrational decision we’re intent on making. Now, let me be perfectly clear, I am not saying as a conservative that choosing Hillary over Trump was the rational decision – though, I must admit, I wouldn’t rule it out. If I only had two options at the ballot box, there were some strong arguments in favor of Hillary, even for conservatives. But we had more than two options to choose from.

So let’s un-suspend reality. Let’s look in the mirror and be honest now that the election is over.

First, there is no Trump mandate. In 2012, Mitt Romney received 61 million popular votes. This year, Donald Trump received over a million popular votes less than Romney in 2012 – and Hillary actually won the popular vote in this election. During the Republican primaries, more votes were cast against Trump than for him. In Utah, Trump did worse than in any other red state. In the Utah Republican primary, Trump came in third with only 13.8 percent of the vote. In the general election, Utah gave Trump only 46.8 percent of the vote – the least among all of the solid red states. Trump does not have a mandate to do anything.

Second, Trump is still Trump. Regardless of how many scripted speeches, written by others and read on a teleprompter by Trump in the last month of the campaign, he remains the same man he was when he spoke off-the-cuff. Trump is the same man today as he was when he said he would throw Hillary in jail, implement stop-and-frisk, round up 12 million Hispanics, build a wall and have Mexico pay for it, keep an eye on all American mosques and ban Muslims from entering the country. He’s the same guy today. Until he changes, nothing changes. And, frankly, if he changes, his entire base of support – angry white men – will leave him like the Tea Party left so many politicians they once supported.

Third, along those same lines, many Republicans who voted for Trump did so with the presumption that we’re not to take Trump literally, only seriously. In other words, he doesn’t mean the things he has said. He’s only expressing feelings. So when he tells the world he’ll throw Hillary in jail, evidently, he only means he thinks she should be thrown in jail, if that. But do these Republican apologists hold Hillary to the same standard? Of course not. They actually believe Hillary when she says something. They believe her literally, not simply seriously. But then the apologists will say that we have 30 years of Hillary on the record. That’s why we can take her at her word. In other words, Trump has no record. We can only take his word for something. Now, not only is this one more example of why Trump is unfit for office, this is exactly why we need to assume he is being literal when he says he wants to round up 12 million Hispanics.

Finally, keep something else in mind. According to exit polls, Mormons, who largely identify with the GOP in Utah and without whom the Utah GOP would not exist as it does today, gave Trump only 51 percent of the vote. Thirty-nine percent of Utah Mormons who voted chose novice Evan McMullin. The state party doubled and tripled down on Trump. Utah’s Speaker of the House was a big supporter of Trump. But popular Senator Mike Lee voted for McMullin. Congresswoman Mia Love, a darling to conservatives, refused to endorse Trump. Yours truly voted for McMullin, as did many local elected GOP officials. A day of reckoning inside the Utah GOP is near. This is no aberration. This is revelation. When a mass of Mormons, conservative leaders and moderate GOP businessmen and women choose a candidate other than the GOP nominee, plan on a realignment in state Republican politics and a change in its leadership. Ironically, current state GOP leadership will consider delivering Utah to Trump as a major accomplishment. If they were to un-suspend reality, they would see their failure to lead in principle and character.

Of course, Utah GOP apologists for Trump will rely on his win to soothe their challenged psyches. They will continue to insist that Trump is only Trump when he says good things and is not himself when he utters stupid or terrifying things. And, now that Trump has won, they will continue in suspended reality out of “respect for the office” and how he deserves the “benefit of the doubt” and a “chance to prove himself.” No doubt these same people would have given Hillary similar considerations.

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