Dear Mom and Dad:
This letter will serve to respectfully, constructively explain to you why I will never vote for Donald J. Trump for president of the United States. I have three reasons. One is ideological, one is emotional and one is logical.
You probably look back fondly on the era of Ronald Reagan. I know I certainly do. I was a kid growing up in the ‘80’s, too young to appreciate the treacherous landscape of politics. I had no idea of the kind of hostility Reagan faced during his eight years in office. I had no understanding of the import of the assassination attempt on him in 1981. The Challenger explosion was just a reason for my classmates and I to quit working for an hour as the entire school watched live video coverage in the Windy Hills library. As an adult, I have a far greater appreciation for Reagan, but back then, I was just a kid who hated school.
What I do remember from that time period are Doc and Dorothy (Grandma and Grandpa O.) They were Roosevelt Democrats who never had a disrespectful word to say about Reagan. They didn’t vote for him and they did not support his platform, but they respected the office of the presidency.
Eldon and Frances (Grandma and Grandpa G.), who were both Eisenhower Republicans, took the same view during the Clinton era. They did not like either Bill or Hillary, but they kept their criticisms respectful. I remember Grandma G. adopted an unusual tone of disgust when the Lewinsky scandal broke, but by the time it really caught fire, she had her stroke and was unable to follow the proceedings.
One only needs to study the course of 20th century history to understand why my grandparents revered the highest office in the land as they did. During their collective lifetimes, they witnessed two world wars, the Roaring ‘20’s, The Great Depression, the Cold War, the Korean Conflict, the assassination of JFK, the Vietnam War, the first man on the moon, Watergate, an energy crisis, the Iran Hostage Crisis, the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan, the rise of terrorism, the collapse of the Soviet Union and the first war with Iraq. Despite these trials, they also saw many transformative achievements such as the rise of the automobile, the telephone, radio, television, computers and the internet.
In some respects, the Doc and Dorothy generation did their jobs too well. By providing an age of security and freedom for their kids, they also unintentionally paved the way to complacency. The Millennial Generation has never faced such a trial as a world war, a great depression or a presidential assassination. Their biggest worries are whether or not someone will violate their, “safe space,” or if the government will pay for their birth control pills. The only national tragedy they can remember is 9/11, but most of the Bernie supporters out there were just rug rats when the towers fell.
Don’t mistake me for a 41-year-old fogy. In many ways, our modern age is wondrous! The technology we now use is really amazing and it has allowed me to share this letter with many who might not otherwise see it. Heck…it allows me to read my mail without sighted assistance, which was merely a sci-fi dream when I was a kid. Yet, I do think the digital age has resulted in a sense of instant gratification for our young. They are the button-pushing generation.
Want new music? Just push a few buttons. Want to call a friend? Just touch your screen to activate a video call. Want a date? Call, It’s Just Lunch.
This is a large part of the reason why a man such as Donald Trump can get as far as he has. “You want jobs?” he says. “I’ll bring them back. I’m a successful businessman. I can do it.” “You want a wall? Mexico will pay for it.” “You want Putin to go away? I’ll make a deal with him. Putin loves me.”
Trump’s supporters are so eager for instant gratification, for deliverance from their fear and desperation, that they lap up whatever he says without critique. Never mind that the very things Trump promises are impossible for one man to render, given our political system; the very system that both of my grandfathers fought to protect overseas. Trump says it, so it must be so, right?
So I ask you this, Mom and Dad. What do you think your parents would think of Donald Trump if they were here? How do you think Trump would stack up against the great leaders of their time like FDR, Ike, JFK and The Gipper? For that matter, how would he stack up against the not-so-great leaders like Herbert Hoover, Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter? My educated guess is, The Donald would come up short in either column. I know he bragged otherwise once on a debate stage, but I think he comes up short. He doesn’t measure up as a Republican, as a leader, or even as a human being.
I believe that the office of Commander in Chief is the most worthy office in the world. Despite the strife that often accompanies it, it is a position of great honor, nobility and yes…respect. If it’s occupants have not always lived up to the position, one can understand, given the fact that few humans are capable of doing so. Yet, the obvious fallibility of Mr. Trump indicates to me that he is grossly unworthy of such a position.
This leads me to my second reason; the emotional one.
When you refused to send me to the school for the blind in Nebraska City, you were taking a big risk. When you kept me home and enrolled me in the public schools, you could not have predicted how difficult my years in school would be. One of the reasons was due to the various bullies that plagued me during my elementary years.
When you encounter enough bullies, you develop a sense that alerts you to their presence. It’s like a dog that pricks up his ears at the first scent of another animal. It’s in his blood. I learned how to smell bullies there in Windy Hills. I smelled them in the classroom, in the halls, on the playground and on the way home from school. They were an unfortunate reality of my childhood. I learned about bullying from every angle; the verbal, the emotional and the physical aspects of it.
Sadly, bullies don’t go away when you become an adult. I’ve met them in college, in the workplace, in social settings and on the street. We’ll call this a silver lining. The upside to dealing with 10-year-old bullies is that they prepared me for how to better deal with them when I left home.
My Spidey Sense began buzzing over Trump after the first primary debate when he clashed with Megyn Kelly. It was clear he had a very thin skin. She asked him a tough question that was fair game and he made it personal. If there’s one thing a presidential candidate should not and cannot do, it’s let things become personal. Trump did and ultimately accused Megyn of being ruled by her menstrual cycle and of being a third rate reporter (neither of which are true.)
It didn’t stop there. Do you notice how he loves to label his opponents? “Little Marco, “ “Lyin’ Ted,” “Crooked Hillary.” The last one may be true, but it is worthy of a presidential candidate to stoop that low? I don’t think so. I think it’s a bullying tactic designed to whip up emotions and distract from the real issues.
If you disagree, what do you make of the way Trump berated John McCain for the fact that he was a prisoner of war in Vietnam? There are reasons to berate Senator McCain, but his service record is not one of them. What would Doc and Eldon think of that?
What about Trump’s blatant mocking of a disabled reporter? Shouldn’t that offend me as a disabled guy? Frankly, I was far more put off by the way he mocked Carly Fiorina’s face. She was and is a real class act about the whole thing and turned it to her advantage. I’m only sorry she will not be our vice-president.
And what of Trump egging on his supporters when they became violent with anti-Trump agitators at his rallies? “Go ahead! I’ll pay your legal fees,” he yelled. Is this presidential?
Coming from the perspective of someone who has lived through it, I can tell you that, when it comes to bullies, the worst thing you can do is validate and enable their behavior. Trump’s legions of supporters have already validated him by casting their votes. Frankly, this doesn’t surprise me. People love power and they love it when someone displays a mean-spirited streak. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone in a position of prominence say something cruel, only to be cheered and encouraged by an audience. I think a lot of Trump supporters love it when he makes fun of the way Marco Rubio sweats, or accuses Ted Cruz’s father of having a hand in the Kennedy assassination.
Well Mom and Dad, since you went through it with me, I think you’ll understand when I draw a hard line and say, no way! I will not support or enable or otherwise encourage Donald Trump’s juvenile, boorish behavior.
There is a stark difference between a bully and a fighter. Reagan was a fighter, but he also understood a very basic truth. To everything, there is a season; a time to make war and a time to make peace. This is a distinction that is lost on The Donald. I feel quite comfortable in surmising that he has never read Ecclesiastes. I doubt he could even pronounce it. If he ever read this, he’d go on Fox and Friends and accuse me of plagiarizing The Birds.
Now, to my third reason, which is based in logic.
After Trump’s blow-out victory the other night in Indiana, a Fox News commentator said that Never Trump people were, “Useful idiots for Hillary.” Newt Gingrich (whom some believe is bucking for a VP spot with Trump) echoed the sentiment by saying that those who do not back The Donald are functionally supporting Hillary.
This is an argument that is easily turned around. I could argue that Trump supporters are “useful idiots” for Hillary. This is based on my very reasonable belief that Trump simply cannot beat Hillary in the general election in November.
Without exception, every major, credible poll in America has Hillary ahead of Trump by double digits…and we’re only two days into the reality that he is the presumptive GOP nominee. What do you think will happen when Hillary starts to provoke The Donald? He will not have 16 other opponents to divide the field, but just one.
Whatever her shortcomings, Hillary is a shrewd politician. Roughly half the country will support her world view. All she has to do is take out mega advertising and fill it with old clips of Donald’s past comments about women, veterans, Muslims, Hispanics, etc. Do you think Donald will have the analytical skills and tactical fortitude to deflect her? I do not believe so. He has done nothing thus far to indicate that he has any common sense at all. In fact, I think his victory over a GOP field that was 16 strong will only encourage his crass behavior. He is too obtuse to realize that his luck thus far has been due to a combination of external factors that have nothing to do with his own political prowess.
Part of it has been luck and his luck will run out in six months, if not before. I still think he will ultimately self-destruct and the country will cry, enough! Until then, the Republican Party can count it’s dead and scratch it’s head wondering just what the hell happened. Maybe Ben Sasse is right and a viable third-party candidate will emerge. If so, Hillary will still win it due to a split GOP vote.
In closing, let me say that, like Grandma and Grandpa, you guys did your jobs too well. You taught me about things like honesty, integrity, respect for others with whom you disagree and kindness in the face of adversity. Mom, you always used phrases like, “Respect breeds respect.” Dad, you always told me I could be funny, but that I should also be a class act.
Are these intrinsic characteristics something you want in your child, but not your president? I can’t believe that. You raised me better than that. I am the seed you have planted and now I am a Republican in full bloom.
I write this with the knowledge that you were not initially Trump supporters. I know your desire for me to vote for Trump is born of an acknowledgement for the need for party unity. I am mindful of your desire to beat Hillary and stay loyal to the Republican Party. I want the same thing, but as this letter illustrates, I don’t believe for one second that Trump is the man who will get the job done. Quite the contrary. I think Trump will do far more to damage the Republican brand than he would do to grow it.
You always told me to go out and be a bridge-builder. In this age of encroaching socialism and the loss of personal freedoms, it is more important than ever that the message of conservatism rings loudly across the land. Is the man to carry that message the man who has donated thousands of dollars to Democrats over the years and who unapologetically defends himself by saying, “I’m a businessman. I make deals on both sides of the aisle.” I think not.
If you find none of my arguments to be convincing, we’ll have to agree to disagree (respectfully, of course.) You can put it down to the fact that I am still the strong-willed child.
Your loving son and proud Republican,
P.S.: Yes, I remember Grandma G. refusing to shake Bob Kerrey’s hand. He was a governor, not a president.