Back in 2016, when the presidential election was well underway, I actively hated Donald Trump. I found his ad hominem rhetoric appalling, suspected his long history of dealmaking to be a marker of an empty political philosophy, and I assumed the sophisticated Democratic Party apparat would peel him like a banana in the general election.
We're two years on. I'm still no fan of his rhetorical style, but everything else I thought about Trump has turned out to be wrong. As far as his rhetorical style goes, what I've subsequently figured out is this -- he's wasn't talking to me, at least not directly, in 2016. Trump has delivered things conservatives have desired for a long time, especially tax reform. He also appointed a worthy successor to Antonin Scalia and is now filling the federal bench with principled men and women who will be in a position to correct the myriad abuses of the Obama years. And, most of all, he's been working to drain the swamp in Washington, DC. Even though he's made a few deals here and there that make me wonder, his overall record is that of a consistent, principled conservative.
It's easy to find conservatives with a podium who remain Never Trumpers. I don't get it, frankly. Yes, Trump is a lout from the outer boroughs and his tastes are less than tasteful. I get why Democrats hate him -- he's a traitor to his class (Wharton grads aren't supposed to get dirty) and he's been busy tearing their playhouse down, because he understands what frauds they are. But what's become obvious over the first year of his administration is that most Never Trumpers are frauds, too -- they are not really concerned with politics and principles -- instead, their primary commitment seems to be getting along with the in-crowd that Donald Trump is systematically routing. And in opposing Trump, they've been as shrill as the Democrats.
It is difficult to see past your own cultural markers, especially the ones you've chosen for yourself. I am a graduate of a liberal arts college that sends out a lot of liberals into the world. Most of my college friends don't see the world the way I do. Because we have social media, I get to see what my college friends are thinking, and what's become clear is they aren't thinking. They've become frightened and reactionary, because change is coming. To an extent I remain sympathetic -- they don't want to give up a worldview that has shaped most of the choices they have made throughout their adult lives. If you've become part of the hive, it's no good when the queen bee is struck down. Still, change always comes, for good or ill. I don't have to embrace Trump personally or emulate his rhetorical style or persona. But if he's doing good work, it's incumbent upon me to acknowledge that. And he is.