For the good of our country, decent, enthusiastic Trump supporters and principled, conservative Trump critics are going to have to learn to live with each other after this campaign – because our country is more important than this campaign.
As for me, I won’t support Trump. He will betray and, what is more important, he will disgrace any cause with which he is associated. The idea of a border fence used to split the public evenly until Trump started talking about his big, beautiful wall. Now that a border fence is associated with Trump’s toxic personality, the idea is much less popular.
Trump will make his supporters defend the worst versions of their own beliefs. He will back them into making excuses for positions that they don’t hold. And then, after he has discredited them, Trump will sell his supporters out and laugh about it with his cronies.
Don’t tell me about Supreme Court judges. Chuck Schumer is going to have at least forty-five Senate Democrats next year. Trump isn’t going to go to the wall to break a Senate filibuster for the next Antonin Scalia (or even the next Anthony Kennedy.) Whether it is Clinton or Trump, we are going to get terrible judges. That’s what happens when you lose.
But my vote doesn’t matter. What matters is that we start the process for rebuilding. The relationships within the center-right are broken. The myths of the Reagan Era can no longer hold the coalition together (much less win converts.)
No message from the conventional Republican candidates resonated. There was something poignant about Ted Cruz after Wisconsin. He put together a technically sound campaign, but he seemed to realize that he had nothing to say to anyone who wasn’t already on his side. Cruz’s Tuesday concession speech was an imitation of Reagan’s speech to the 1976 Republican National Convention. It was less terrible than some of his other big speeches, but the best parts were a feeble imitation of a speech from forty years ago.
We need an agenda that can speak to the concerns of people in our time. We need to look to the people we live among and not live among the ghost of a lost heroic age. I’ve read some people on twitter saying that Trump’s getting the nomination means that the GOP is now a nationalist party. They mean that as a bad thing.
But the problem is not with the nationalism. The problem is that Trump’s nationalism is, functionally, a nationalism for old and white Americans. Conservatives should be nationalists (though not merely nationalists) and the GOP should be a nationalist party. It should also be a party whose nationalism appeals to every ethnic and racial group in our nation.
Take the issue of immigration reform. A broadly nationalist party would be comfortable making the argument that foreign-born American wage-earners would be the biggest economic beneficiaries of restricting future low-skill immigration. What is more, that nationalist party would make that argument because it wants foreign-born American wage-earners to have better lives in the country we all share.
A coalition for that broad American nationalism would have to include both those who were enthusiastic Trump supporters and conservatives who could never support Trump. This nationalism will even have to include some people who voted for Obama in 2012 and will vote for Clinton this year. We ought to start practicing how we live with each other, and how we find common ground in the years to come.