I am 10 months from a birthday that ends in a 0. I will not be 50 and I will not be 70, beyond that I will not be specific. When I turned 18 I registered as a Republican and voted faithfully as one until this election. I did vote for our senator, Chuck Grassley, but I voted for an independent for president and refused to vote for my congressman (Steve King) because of some unconscionably racist comments he made recently and refused to apologize for. I have renounced my party affiliation and am now independent.
My timing is impeccable!
For the first time in a long time, the GOP will hold the House, the Senate, and the White House. In previous moments of opportunity, Republicans have stood at the plate, swung and missed. Let’s hope that this group can do better.
But let’s remember that for the first two years of Barack Obama’s presidency he also had a majority in both houses of Congress and he blew it. He got bogged down and the GOP was able to derail his agenda leading to a bloodbath election in 2010 that put the GOP in charge of Congress. It is a heady moment for the GOP, but it can also be a negative moment. Mess this up and 2018 will be the mother of all bloodbaths for the Republicans.
I’d like to offer some advice to the party I’ve abandoned, because my departure is more of a separation than a divorce. I still catch myself thinking as a Republican and I’m willing to come home if the party does well this time around. If you blow this, I won’t be the only one using the #formerGOP hashtag. If you squander this moment of potential, you will regret it.
So, I offer these words of advice. Hopefully, they will be more valuable than my predictions and advice during the election.
Mr. Trump, I beg you, reach out to those who opposed you. You struck the right note last night in your middle-of-the-night acceptance speech; now let’s keep singing that song. Work with Paul Ryan. Ben Sasse is the smartest man in your party, and in my mind, possibly the best. He was also one of your loudest opponents. Don’t punish him – for the love of all that holy, USE HIM. He can be a great asset to your administration. Reconcile with Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, John Kasich and the others. To Senators Sasse, Rubio, and Cruz, and to Governor Kasich, #NeverTrump is over. He has been elected. Our duty is to make him as successful as you can. Rise up and lay aside your hurt feelings. Put the nation ahead of your scars and wounds.
2. Stand tall.
America needs statesmen (and women) more than politicians. We have all laughed, and also cried, at the crude tone of this election. It was sad and disgusting. Shock the world by running the country with dignity and grace. Mr. Trump, I hope and pray that you will lay aside the nicknames and insults and walk above it. Let’s leave the pettiness, crassness, and ugliness in the past.
3. Time Travel.
The most disturbing thing in recent years has been the erosion of constitutional freedoms. This old codger is less interested in what you legislate as in what you protect.
Protect free speech. The left hates freedom of speech (except for theirs). There are massive attacks on free speech in our land. I am not a gun owner, but the Second Amendment is under threat. There are few freedoms that are not threatened today.
But the freedom that matters most to me is the freedom of religion. I heard Mrs. Clinton say in her concession speech that she believed in “freedom of worship.” That’s the problem. America doesn’t just give us the right to gather in our houses of worship and do our rites and rituals, but to practice our religious faith in the public square. That’s what is protected in the constitution and that is what is under attack.
I do not need you to legislate Christianity into law, but I hope you will act to protect freedom of religion – protect our right to live out our faith without government intrusion.
Please let your constitutionalism to be in deed and not only in word.
4. Scalia’s ghost.
The great tragedy of the last year was the sudden death of Antonin Scalia, which threatened the balance of the court. Please understand, Mr. Trump, you will be president because of that. I talked to so many people who voted for you because they thought you would appoint a constitutionalist conservative to the court. They voted for the ghost of Antonin Scalia more than for you, based on the list of nominees you provided. Please be faithful to that. This is not meant as a threat, but if you go back on your word, the voters will turn on your faster than you can imagine.
You can leave a lasting legacy in America simply by appointing good men and women to the court.
5. Life matters.
My biggest disappointment in my party, both in the presidents I’ve helped to elect and in the House and Senate majorities the GOP has sometimes had, has been the GOP’s failure to take the pro-life platform beyond words. Many of us are at a breaking point. This go-round, you had a great advantage: evangelicals so deeply disliked Hillary Clinton they were willing overlook much. But if you do not make real progress on pro-life issues, if you simply ignore the issue until the next election, more and more of us will decide not to be there for you next time.
6. Walls and Bridges
Immigration is a hot-button issue and we evangelicals do not speak with a united voice on this issue. We all tend to agree that the borders need to be secure, though the “wall” idea is not universally loved. Border security is imiportant.
But many of us – a growing number of us – want more than a “round them up and ship them home” approach to the 11 million or so people who are here illegally. In my city there are thousands of illegals and only a small percentage of them are a problem – probably the same percentage as the general population. Most are good families who cause no trouble. We need to find an just and compassionate solution for these people’s problem. I don’t know if citizenship is the answer, but certainly they could be granted legal residency with some penalties, once the border is truly secure.
And a growing number of us are committed to working with refugees and immigrants to help them assimilate into American life. They are not terrorists, not a danger, not a threat – despite the misinformation some on the far right have spread. They are FLEEING our enemies not SERVING them.
7. Black Lives Matter.
I have absolutely no respect for the political organization “Black Lives Matter.” I’ve read their statements and they are essentially Marxists. But there is a real problem with racial relationships in America. I want to be part of political party that holds to conservative values and ideals and also is committed to racial reconciliation and healing.
We do not have to deny the pain blacks have experienced in America to prize the value of our land. We live in a great nation that has done great things, but it has had a racial blind-spot. That needs to be corrected. This is not about choosing sides between young blacks and police, or supporting anyone’s agenda. It is about realizing that there is a reality in America that is uncomfortable – black people have not always been granted full partnership in the American experience. They were enslaved, oppressed, segregated, and discriminated against. The fruits of that remain today.
The GOP can be conservative without being defensive. Let’s work to make America great for all of us – red and yellow, black and white.
A Final Word
You can’t expect much help from the left side of aisle and the press will hate you no matter what you do. They will disrupt and try to stop your agenda. You must not be distracted from the task. For whatever reasons, America has given you a trust. Please don’t blow it. Do not squander the opportunity you have.
On my next birthday, I hope I’ll be proud of the work the party I’ve just left has done.