Mr. James Buckley’s response to my letter in which I disagreed with his claim that Donald Trump has “re-invigorated the American spirit” made me realize that we are polar opposites in our views of Donald Trump’s presidency.
To me, the “American spirit” is one to be emulated, and I see nothing to emulate in Mr. Trump.
Can I see the behavior of a man who mocked a disabled New York Times reporter at a press conference as something I want to emulate? Can I accept Mr. Trump’s denial that he called dead soldiers “losers” and “suckers” as gospel truth? Do I believe Gen. John Kelly’s documented version or the words of an inveterate liar?
The American spirit is displayed in men of conscience, such as the News-Press’ own former publisher, Thomas Storke, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his editorial that warned of the dangers of the secret John Birch Society. It is displayed in the words of patriot Nathan Hale, who said, “I regret that I have only one life to give for my country,” as he stood on the gallows during the perilous days of the American Revolution.
It is displayed in men like my husband’s ancestor, a German immigrant who fought for the Union cause at Gettysburg and other Civil War battles, and in my cousin, a U.S. Army Air Corps flyer who came home after his mandatory 100 missions in World War II but then went back to the fight, his conscience not allowing him to desert his fellow fliers because the war was not yet won — a decision that led to his being shot down over Italy, not long before V.E. Day.
Mr. Buckley embraces almost everything Mr. Trump says, even while acknowledging Mr. Trump’s flaws.
Do we really want to accept such wanton flaws in our leaders, accept Mr. Trump’s version of the “Big Steal” as he seeks to reclaim his presidency? Americans are not usually such poor losers, not so determined to bend things their way, especially when these “things” are in dispute, as demonstrated by Mr. Trump’s pressuring of Georgia’s Republican officials to change the presidential vote in his favor.
Yes, 75 million supporters are willing to overlook Mr. Trump’s flaws as they accept his words unquestioningly as being true. I see these loyal supporters as being in a reverse Rip Van Winkle time warp, dismissing Republican ideals of the past as they accept Trump’s version of Republicanism in the present, but perhaps feeling a little uncomfortable when it comes to Mr. Trump’s unpatriotic threats to punish those of his own party who dare to challenge him.
Today’s more thoughtful Republicans may yet emerge from this collective amnesia, may seek to follow the idealism of Ronald Reagan, who described our democracy as a “shining city on a hill,” an example to the world. But, given Mr. Trump’s proclivities, I suspect Mr. Trump in another presidency would trade the Resolute desk for a golden throne.
William F. Buckley, a revered conservative thinker, once famously said, “Truth is a demure lady, much too ladylike to knock you on your head and drag you to her cave. She is there, but people must want her, and seek her out.”
Are Mr. Trump’s diehard supporters willing to seek the truth? Is respected young Sen. Josh Hawley capable of feeling regret for his raised fist in solidarity with the Jan. 6 rioters and for voting against Joe Biden’s confirmation as president? Does he feel shame for ignoring the truth as he betrayed his congressional oath to defend the Constitution?
The extremist elements of Mr. Trump’s base aren’t seeking the truth, but the truth is there to be recognized: The election was not stolen; the electoral process was not flawed. Our democracy is in danger, is more fragile than we realized, and perhaps more Republicans will rally to U.S. Reps. Adam Kinsinger’s and Rep. Liz Cheney’s efforts to bolster this democracy by restoring the Republican Party to what it once was.
I thank Mr. Buckley for his efforts to educate me to the facts as he sees them, but I’m afraid that in our views of the Trump presidency, “never the twain can meet.”
Polarization can be destructive to our society, so I’ll add an anecdote about the ancestor I mentioned earlier.
After one fierce battle had been won, he and his fellow soldiers sat down with the Confederate prisoners who had survived the battle and shared their meager rations with them. They felt no rancor toward their fellow “comrades in arms.”
Maybe that spirit of reconciliation is still possible in today’s America.