For the First Time in 40 Years, this Reaganite will Vote for a Democrat
Doug Elmets is president of Elmets Communications, a Sacramento-based public affairs firm. Elmets served as a White House spokesman during the Reagan Administration and spoke at the Democratic National Convention in support of Hillary Clinton’s candidacy.
Three months ago my deep distrust of Donald Trump drove me to endorse Hillary Clinton.
As a lifelong Republican and former White House aide to President Reagan, I knew my support for a Democrat — especially the widely-loathed Clinton — would cause a stir, and maybe cost me some friends.
My wife opposed the idea, and fellow Republicans warned me it might mean professional suicide. But I earnestly believe Trump is a tyrannical, hate-spewing narcissist whose election would be disastrous for this country.
In endorsing Clinton publicly, I hoped to encourage other Republicans to repudiate Trump. Perhaps I was naïve, but I believed that if someone who had worked for the GOP’s universally beloved standard-bearer, Ronald Reagan, put country ahead of party, others might too.
In recent months, Trump’s campaign has spiraled into ever-darker territory, as evidenced by his despicable war of words with the grieving parents of a fallen Muslim soldier. Yet astonishingly, even war hero Republicans like Senator John McCain simply chide the candidate as if he were a misbehaving toddler, rather than a man seeking the highest office in the land.
These Republicans will have to live with their consciences. Meanwhile, fallout from my endorsement confirms I made the right choice. The scores of messages I’ve received from Trump supporters — in emails, on Twitter, via Facebook, and by telephone — are deeply disturbing and underscore just how dangerous this candidate is.
One self-described nationalist and Trump backer had this to say: “I hope ISIS pays a visit to your house if Hillary Clinton is elected.”
Another called me “a selfish, worthless, sub human,” while a third said my “ilk” had pushed our nation to “the brink of civil war” and predicted a “blood bath” that would lead to my “destruction on judgment day.”
I have a thick skin, so the attacks don’t bother me much. What they say about the Republican nominee for President, however, bothers me a lot.
The fact is, Trump appeals to our worst selves. Great presidents lead with optimism, courage and hope, and they represent our best moral ideals, such as temperance, humility, faith, and goodness. Trump sows hate, and peddles pessimism and fear. His cynical brand blends hyper nationalism, the scapegoating of ethnic groups, and a promise to solve all our problems himself because he — in case you’ve forgotten — is so very great. He thinks nothing of mocking a disabled journalist, urging that a heckler be “roughed up,” declaring that all illegal immigrants from Mexico are rapists and drug dealers, and sneering at a woman’s looks. Everything and everyone is fair game.
Trump also provides a platform for extremist candidates who reflect the most pestilent aspects of our national character. Among them are people like former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke — a Trump admirer running for the U.S. Senate from Louisiana.
As I watch Trump march onward as the nominee of my party, I often think back to the day I cast my first vote for president, at age 18. The man who won my ballot then was Ronald Reagan, and I later served him in the White House as a spokesman.
Reagan grew up above a variety store in Tampico, Illinois. He never forgot his humble roots. He had an everyman essence that captured Americans’ hearts, and — in character and conduct — he was the perfect opposite of Trump.
When I remember President Reagan and his signature moments — challenging Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this wall,” comforting a nation shocked by the loss of the Challenger Space Shuttle, appointing the first woman to the U.S. Supreme Court — I try to imagine a President Trump filling his shoes.
I simply can’t.