Dear America, Please Don’t Forget about the Never Trump Conservatives
Subtitle: There Are (Still) Two Fundamentally Different Kinds of Conservatives
One week ago, hundreds of Utahns gathered to share thought about the election and this new moment in America. No matter what people were feeling – fear, anger, despair, elation – we made welcome space to explore them all.
One thing is for sure: the fear is real. As one person wrote afterwards, “People do not understand how grave our situation is. Trump is a proto-fascist, and he leads a fascist movement, and people within that will obey his orders.”
Many people wondered palpably at the event, “what does it mean that so many in my country voted for this man?” For many there, they seemed to assume that the election somehow meant: ‘all those Trump voters must have been in agreement with what Trump believes and has done in the past.’
And can you blame them? It’s understandable why people might believe this, since a “vote for Trump” represents some kind of ideological support – at a minimum, an overlooking or a ‘pass’ on some of his behavior. As one woman wrote following our event, “When people vote for a man spouting [such] rhetoric, is it unreasonable for others to believe that these voters condone this? When Christians vote in numbers for a man who advocates actions that would violate the religious freedom of some non-Christians, is it unreasonable for others to conclude that they really don’t hold this American value?”
Ignoring my own active and public discouragement at doing so, many of my friends and family ended up voting for Trump. Despite feeling disappointed and even repulsed by Trump’s sexual actions and his pattern of insults and hostility, they “held their noses” and voted for what they called, “the lesser of two evils.”
In other words, this was not a simple question for many Trump voters…it was complex. Some Trump voters were motivated by fears that are very much real to me:
- “For 8 years, it has been shut up and sit down and label anybody else who disagrees with your viewpoint a racist, bigot, homophobe, and conduct economic, legal, and social mobocracy against them.”
- “Don’t like how the election turned out? Blame the democrats and their suppression of 1st amendment rights. They went out of their way to divide and demonize everyone resistant to their agenda.”
- “People rejected bigotry when they voted against Clinton, who embodied the continuation of Obama’s anti-Christian policies. Clinton campaigned on a platform that said Christian rights are only secondary or tertiary. Christians held their noses and voted trump to protect against further democratic degradation and predation on Christianity from the left.”
- “Imperfect Trump won’t subtly attack religions, like Mr. Obama did.”
My message for religious conservatives was that, although I agree with many of these fears, HE can’t be our answer!
Nonetheless, the choice was more complex than many progressives are making it out to be: “bigotry or not?”
If nothing else, a realization of the nuanced motivations of Trump voters is somewhat reassuring to those of us who didn’t or couldn’t support Mr. Trump. But it doesn’t remove other fears. One of my own fears, as a Never Trump conservatives is: (a) that conservatives will try and unite too much around Trump and (b) for my progressive friends who saw/continue to see Mr. Trump as embodying their worst fears, those fears will be generally applied to all conservatives.
I remember back in the day when Jerry Falwell was saying all sorts of random hostile stuff about liberals, one of my professors quoting him and saying, “can you believe these conservatives?” I responded back to her, “please remember that he doesn’t represent all of us conservatives!”
That’s easy to forget when the man getting all the attention is….um, President-Elect Trump?
I had hoped Utah would send a message that at least some of us would not support this. While we sent some kind of a message in the resounding primary loss we gave him, followed by the way Utahns made the general election more competitive, the fact he eventually won the state is a disappointment.
My own concern is not going away. Although I don’t share some of substance of people’s fears of ‘what will happen’ under Trump, their fears are still very real and palpable. I have Muslim friends who are terrified. To them and others, I say we will stand with you – the many religious conservatives who have been, and continue to be concerned about this man. As Joseph Smith once said:
If it has been demonstrated that I have been willing to die for a “Mormon,” I am bold to declare before Heaven that I am just as ready to die in defending the rights of a Presbyterian, a Baptist, or a good man of any denomination; for the same principle which would trample upon the rights of the Latter-day Saints would trample upon the rights of the Roman Catholics, or of any other denomination who may be unpopular and too weak to defend themselves. It is a love of liberty which inspires my soul — civil and religious liberty to the whole of the human race.
Many questions remain for other conservatives like me: With Trump in the White House, is a new conservative movement still possible? Regardless, can we at least differentiate this man from other conservatives like us? Will you listen to us when we say he doesn’t represent all of us conservatives – and when we still want our voice to be heard?
We will soon find out.