I apologize for dragging you down this morbid path but it’s the best way I can figure out how to get my point across. Please bear with me.
I want you to imagine for a moment that you’re suffering from a serious gastrointestinal ailment. After numerous exams and failed treatments, your doctor fears the worst. As you wait for final test results, you spend hours Googling your symptoms, hoping you can find a favorable diagnosis. None of the possibilities are ideal but you pray for the lesser of all evils.
When the tests arrive, your prayers are answered. You only need a simple surgical procedure, which your doctor tells you should be painless and will ultimately make you healthier than you’ve ever been. As your surgery approaches, you’re excited at the prospects of a healthy and pain-free future but you’re nervous that something could go wrong.
Your Worst Nightmare, Almost
Then it all goes wrong. During surgery, the doctor uncovers problems that the earlier tests missed. You feel like you were misled. Not only do you need to have a portion of your colon removed; the doctor informs you that you will need to live with a colostomy bag for a minimum of four years — if you take care of yourself — or eight years and potentially forever, if you don’t.
From Day One, you hate your colostomy bag. While people keep telling you to accept it, each day gets more uncomfortable and embarrassing than the last. When you complain about your colostomy bag, people get offended. “Shut up,” they say. “It’s way better than the alternative!” On some days, you agree with those people. On other days, you’re not so sure.
So, you embark on the colostomy bag phase of your life, hoping against hope that it will be over in four years or, through some miracle, even less. You keep those hopes to yourself, however, out of fear that you might seem ungrateful. “It could be worse,” you tell yourself.
Or could it?
The Big C
Now, imagine you’re a lifelong Republican in 2015. You believe in low taxes, free markets, and a strong military. You miss the glory days of the Reagan 80s. You suffered through the Bill Clinton years and cringed as Barack Obama drove up the national debt and weakened America’s standing abroad. You know too many people in the middle class who have been ignored or left behind. You’ve lost faith in a system that is orchestrated by career politicians and their donors. To you, someone like Hillary Clinton represents everything that’s wrong with American government. To you, anything is better than another Clinton in the White House.
Throughout the Republican presidential primary you weigh the candidates based as much on their electability as their policies and character. Jeb Bush didn’t exactly inspire you but you knew he could raise a large enough war chest to compete with Clinton. As Bush’s campaign fizzles, you turn your hopes to Rubio and maybe Kasich, for a minute. Sure, Trump is stealing all the headlines and you enjoy his damn-the-establishment demeanor, but you never thought he could beat Clinton and you were never very comfortable with him carrying the mantle of the Republican Party — your party.
As Trump emerges victoriously from the primary — and a video emerges from Access Hollywood — you resign yourself to four and maybe even eight years of Clinton. As much as you dislike that idea, you have daughters or granddaughters who are old enough to know what Trump said in that video. Every day, you go back and forth from voting for a third-party candidate, to voting for Trump, to not voting at all, to maybe even voting for Clinton.
In the end, it’s nobody’s business who you voted for. Clinton lost. Trump shocked everyone. You hope that he was just saying all those crazy things to get elected, but that he would never actually follow through. You talk yourself into believing that he would fill his cabinet with a bunch of smart outsiders, divest himself of his business interests, and tone down his rhetoric once he realizes the magnitude of the job he was undertaking.
A Dreaded Diagnosis
But then it all goes wrong. Not only does Trump follow through on his campaign promises, he implements them in a hurried, sloppy, and dangerous fashion. He not only fails to adequately separate himself from his business interests, he hides his tax returns, and uses Twitter to actively support the business interests of his family. He appoints political mega-donors, cronies and family members to his staff — rather than draining the swamp, he makes it deeper and more rancid. He manipulates his supporters either by deliberately misrepresenting facts or by being too ill-informed to know the difference.
And now you’re stuck. If you criticize Trump even slightly, your Republican friends brand you as the enemy. If you criticize Trump, people assume you oppose conservative economic principles, stronger immigration policies, and healthcare reform. If you criticize Trump, you’re a ‘libtard.’ If you criticize Trump, you must wish Hillary had won.
The Power of Free Will
Here’s the undisputable truth: You CAN believe that Donald Trump is a dishonest, unethical, and dangerous man, while still supporting a conservative policy agenda.
You CAN be a loyal Republican without distrusting the media or the intelligence community — and without trusting Russia.
You CAN believe that we need stronger immigration and health care policies, without condoning rushed and reckless policy making.
You CAN pray that Trump is impeached or neutered before he does irreparable damage to the country, while also not wanting him to be replaced by Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders.
You CAN hate your colostomy bag with every ounce of your being, while doing everything in your power to get rid of it as fast as possible. It doesn’t mean you want some other ailment. It just means that you want to be healthy.
Get Your Game-Face On
In a little more than 20 months, Americans will return to the polls for midterm elections. Shortly after that, if not before, 2020 presidential candidates will begin throwing their hat in the ring. In less than 36 months, we will be voting in presidential primaries again. In about 45 months, we will either reelect Donald Trump or replace him. It may not feel like it right now but that time will fly.
So, regardless of which political party you support, it’s okay to want better for America than Trump. If you’re a Republican, you can run Trump out of office and replace him with a straight-talking, conservative-minded outsider who can competently govern while assuring Americans of his integrity and motives. Voting for a Democrat in four years is not your only alternative.
You don’t always have to pick a side. You can create your own.