I am a card-carrying Democrat and have been one since before I could vote. The party represents my view of the political world because I am a liberal and share those values. I value political and social equality and work to move our nation toward those principles. I want universal healthcare, equal pay for equal work, a better system for taking care of our children, and schools that value our children and teach them ideas, not tests. I want women to be in charge of their own bodies. I want infrastructure that makes our lives better. I want a world whose paramount value is peace and all the thing that come with it. These are cherished beliefs, well thought out and consistent over my 30 years as a voter. They are why I vote Democratic. I like to believe that in principle I would cast a ballot for a Republican. I have never done so; but I like to think that I might could at some point.
I have this perspective because I believe that political disagreements must occur in a representative democracy like the United States. For most of my political life I have believed that I can disagree with the opposition but still feel united with them by our common American identity. This, of course, is the very core of a successful republic: the belief that people with different ideas and principles remain people of good will. And if we are all people of good will; people who wish to do right by their fellow citizens, then we are more united than not. As a united nation, we can thrive and succeed even as we disagree.
This belief has always guided my view of the political system and it has made me sanguine in the aftermath of elections when my preferred candidate did not prevail. I’ve been voting for nearly 30 years and this perspective has never faltered. Politics need not be a zero sum game. If there is one thing that I have always believed, it is that people of good will can disagree - sometimes vehemently- but still come together as a single nation.
Enter Donald Trump.
I will confess that I never believed that his candidacy would make it this far. But now he’s the presumptive Republican nominee for president and I find that try as I might, I no longer view this candidate and his supporters through my usual lens. I do not believe that Donald Trump is a man of good will whose ideas and principles are carefully considered, though different from my own. Fundamentally, I do not believe that Donald Trump is a man of good will. I believe that he is a deeply flawed megalomaniac bent on his own satisfaction. Worse yet, I don’t believe that his supporters are people of good will.
I am no longer prepared to respectfully disagree and let the chips fall where they may, confident in the flexibility and good will of our republic. I believe that Donald Trump and his supporters are a threat to the nation because they don’t understand the basic nature of our system of governance. They demonstrate a willful ignorance wrapped in terrifying extremism. That does not and will not ever serve our national interest.
I came to this conclusion rather slowly, both because I expected Trump’s appeal to fade but also because I believe so strongly in my fellow citizens’ ability to see through the charlatan that is candidate Trump. It’s one thing to disagree with the folks who have a Romney sign in their front yard. It’s quite another to see the Trump sign or number sticker and be struck by anxiety and downright fear.