I was wrong about Donald Trump. That’s a bold statement, so allow me to clarify. I was not wrong about Trump’s moral and intellectual shortcomings. Nor was I wrong about his complete disregard for the Republican Party, caring only about himself. But, as a proud #NeverTrump conservative, I misjudged his chances of winning. Through my writings and conversations, I repeatedly assured people that Trump could not win the presidency. But today I am saddened to write the words “President-elect Trump.” How did it come to this, and more importantly, where do we go from here?
In the coming weeks and months, Americans will try to make sense of what happened, but it is quite clear that the silent majority decided this election. The silent majority of voters who, for the past eight years, were told that their concerns were illegitimate. The silent majority that feels not only controlled by but also mocked by an elite class of rulers. When faced with uncertainty about their future, voters took a chance on a businessman who made vague policy promises. And in this, voters also rebuked the status quo that Hillary Clinton represented. Whether these voters’ concerns are valid or not, journalists and political analysts didn’t fully understand the resentment felt across the nation. If anything, this election has proved that remaining insulated from other viewpoints is dangerous. As a nation, we must work harder to expose ourselves to political opinions different from our own.
With a President Trump transition underway, I hope our 45th president learns to lead with grace and dignity, unlike his campaign persona. I pray that he understands the magnitude of the responsibilities he now holds. And I want nothing more than for him to prove me wrong in my critique of his personal and political shortcomings.
What we need now is a vibrant Republican Party that challenges Trump at every turn. The Republican Party that I know is the party of Gov. Nikki Haley, Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) and Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-Fla.). The Republican Party that I know is the party of maximizing individual liberty through a limited government. Republicans in the Senate and the House of Representatives must get to work on a comprehensive vision for the American people. Speaker Paul Ryan already has a plan, called “A Better Way,” that can serve as the starting point for legislative proposals.
We also need Republicans and Democrats who opposed Trump during the election to display that same passion while governing and legislating. The Republican Party has championed constitutional conservatism for many years to no avail. But perhaps what it needed most was a president-elect who lacked any knowledge of the very document that guides our nation to convince the nation that the U.S. Constitution matters. We need Republicans and Democrats willing to check the powers of the executive branch.
To those who feel that their lives are in danger because of a Trump presidency, I sympathize with you. Luckily, we do live in a nation where the president’s powers are limited, but I know saying that will do little to settle your fears. The nation that I love is one where all people are welcome to live their lives to the fullest. And I will do all I can to ensure that the rights of every American are not trampled on by our government. As a young conservative, I will continue to criticize the Republican Party when I see it going astray. It may be daunting to stand up to a demagogue in office, but the American character has never been about giving up.
In “Federalist #51,” James Madison presented his vision of checks and balances. “But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.” Madison was right. We are a nation of laws, not of bombastic soundbites from politicians. We are a nation of checks and balances, not a dictatorship. But most of all, we are a nation where power rests with the people. It is we the people who make this country exceptional. Contrary to Trump’s campaign slogan, the U.S. is still great. We have endured dark and challenging times in our past, but the resilience of the American people has pulled us through. Politicians come and go, but the American spirit lives on within all of us. It is with that in mind that I am hopeful for the future of this great nation. As President Abraham Lincoln said in his Gettysburg Address, “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”