“Here I Stand”: The Testimonial of a Conservative in 2016 (Words by a Friend)

· Political

Forward by Vivek:

The statement below comprises writings that are not my own. For the first time (and it will not be a common type of post), I am transcribing someone else’s conservative treatise against Donald Trump’s candidacy for President.

I would not do this if it was simply a rant from a stranger that I happened to agree with. This piece stems from the keyboard and articulate mind of a close personal friend who has my confidence and admiration, and it is with his permission that I share it. His name is Paul Vollmer and he is a hard-at-work prosecutor in Phoenix, Arizona. I have known Paul for a decade now. He writes with an inspired vigor that I aspire to match and often fall short of, and this piece is perhaps his finest work. It reflects an American patriot’s isolation over the nation’s state of affairs and future prospects.

What Paul and I understood was that our votes against Trump were not enough, especially when neither of us could take the next step that some other conservatives have taken and vote for Hillary Clinton. We each had to use what rhetorical capabilities we have to make a decisive personal statement against the Donald and his movement. And it is almost poetry that my own anti-Trump column focused entirely on the latter, while Paul’s testimonial here entirely addresses the former. We are different, but we are one.

Paul’s steely resolve strengthens my own, and it is thus with unreserved enthusiasm that I join this statement and I share all sentiments within it. I wish its words to be read and reflected upon by everyone, and I hope that you will share this elsewhere.

– Vivek

I am a conservative Republican. I always have been; I always will be. I was raised this way by two parents who are both conservative Republicans (from my mother who came from a traditionally conservative New England Republican family, and from my father who came from a dogmatic traditional Democratic family), not because I was supposed to vote and think the way my parents do, but because I was raised to think independently, weigh the arguments based on their merits, and because I was endowed with certain values that all led me to embrace the conservative wing of American political theory and culture.

This is not to say that I haven’t seen changes in my personal beliefs over the years. As a young child, my political view was occupied only by concerns of taxation, illegal immigration, and spreading democracy by liberating nations from the tyrannical rule of dictators. After 9/11, my focus also encompassed the threats of jihadist Islamic terrorism. And as the culture wars became more apparent and I learned more about the science of how human life develops in utero, my socially conservative conscious (which was always present) became more pronounced and grew to occupy a greater part of political being.

And as I grew more mature in my years at UCLA and through law school, after seeing more of the world, after leaving certain bubbles and cocoons that I had constructed around myself, and after trading away certain undesirable forms of media (such as cable news and talk radio) in favor of the printed word and the great works of conservative scholars, past and present, in the Anglo-American tradition, my political beliefs also grew and became more mature. I came to see the errors that were the Iraq War (mostly its execution, but also the reasoning, decision making, and train of logic that led to the invasion) and the highly idealistic nature of neo-conservative nation building that seeks to build democracies without creating societies and cultures that are prepared for and desire the fundamental tenets of liberty, freedom, and respect for the rule of law that are required for such experiments to succeed. My eyes were opened to the failures that come with politicians who at best do not keep their promises and at worst blatantly lie about them. And, most importantly of all, I have come to see the true value of and necessity for judicial temperament and the spirit of civility in discourse, thinking, and spirit, not just because such values are indispensable for conservatism to exist, but also because they are fundamentally required for the American experiment in self-representative government to exist.

I have seen the descent of our political environment into the deeply lamentable state of vicious, close minded fury that it has become for at least half of my life. The fire burned greatly during the George W. Bush Administration; the flames were further and more greatly stoked day after day during the Barack Obama Administration. And now we are left with our current state: a storm of chaos bred from indignant, tribalistic rage, born from the fascinating yet deeply disheartening fusion of mass post-industrial society, mass consumerism, the rise of social media, and the shifting of cultural values which, when all brought together, have caused the culture war actions and reactions that have battered our nation like so many storm waves against sea cliffs, slowly but surely eroding them in the process. I have previously been part of this unfortunate cacophony; I now repent of it and have almost entirely pulled back from public political statement in order to both no longer feed the beast and to avoid consistently fighting off the attacks that come from it.

But in light of these difficult times, in a year in which our nation faces its greatest internal strife and challenges since 1968, in these moments in which our nation seems to be tearing apart at the seams, and in which we are beset by such a critical and crucial election, I find it necessary to break that silence for at least this moment, if not to raise a faint voice which I hope will be receptive to some ears, then to inscribe a mark for all time and history to document where my conscience stood as the fires around me burned so bright.

And my message is as follows: I am a conservative Republican, guided by conservative Republican values. And it is those values which compel me to never support or vote for Donald Trump.

There’s much that can and has been said on this subject matter by true conservatives for much of the past year, and I do not wish to belabor their litany of reasoned arguments, dissents, and pleas for sanity. Yet it is necessary to articulate at least the most basic of political reasons for why supporting this man is anathema to the principles and spirit of American conservatism. A man who has held so many positions firmly on the political left until just last year cannot be trusted or counted on as a friend of the conservative movement, especially when he has been so heavily prone to vacillating on them repeatedly before our very eyes. A man who has previously supported increasing taxes, universal healthcare, the encouragement and exploitation for his own economic gain of illegal immigration, and gun control for all of his documented adult life until this presidential election cannot be taken seriously in his pledges to cut taxes, repeal and replace Obamacare, to take a hard line against illegal immigration by enforcing current immigration laws (let alone the Herculean and vague pledge to erect a modern Great Wall across the southern border), or protect the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment. Trusting a man who had previously been long in his very vocal support for abortion and who not only continues to support such significant abortion providers as Planned Parenthood to be faithful and true to his word that he’s pro-life requires logical gymnastics that neither the human mind nor the basic tenets of reasoning can perform. This is only more evident when, after being asked the most simplistic questions about his “newfound” position on the issue, in a span of 96 hours he declared himself to be in favor of punishing women who pursue abortions before then shifting to say that they shouldn’t be punished and that the laws concerning abortions shouldn’t change at all, before then reverting to the even more bizarre position that the laws shouldn’t change until he’s elected and can appoint judges who will change them. And none of that even takes into account his relentlessly consistent adherence to such anti-conservative positions as not wanting to reform our nations archaic social welfare systems, his consistently vicious and chilling sentiments toward the First Amendment (both in terms of religious liberty and freedom of the press), and, most insidious of all, his blatant race baiting and provocation for his own political gain.

But were that the mere measure of his sins, one could at least resign themselves to the expectation that a continuation of liberal policies would be the only fate to accompany any potential Trump Administration. Were that only the case indeed. But Trump’s true sins against conservatism are not born in his numerous anti-conservative positions, either due to their evident detachment from conservative principles or their blatant insincerity as he passes them off as legitimate manifestations of his own political self. Rather, and far worse, it is the very condition of Donald Trump, not as a political animal, but as a person and human being that is violently repugnant to everything that conservatism has long stood for.

All men are sinful and imperfect, but Trump’s private life is a mockery to all notions of traditional values and morals, as he has not only engaged in rampant licentiousness, infidelity, and crude vulgarity, but has proudly put them on display and bragged about them as though they were medals worthy of praise. He lacks any desire (and at this point I suspect capacity) for raising the level of discourse in our country, and instead consistently panders to the lowest common denominator, often employing not only speech at a third to fifth grade level, but also the incessant use of superlatives and basic repetition ad nauseam to implore our visceral instincts to drown out the critical thinking that begs us to see that the emperor not only lacks clothes, but also any real ideas as well. And his consistent playing to our fears (both real and imagined) to embrace not even a policy of nationalism but the degrading and bastardization of the proud concept of nationalism into nothing more than an engine of indignant hate and isolationist fear for his own political purpose is beyond contemptible to the spirit of conservatism and the history of the Republican Party. The Party of Lincoln, who in our nation’s darkest hours called upon us to listen to the angels of our better nature, and of Reagan, who told us to make our nation a shining city upon a hill to act as the guide for all of humanity, both free and unfree, has now had its reins of power snatched by (and by too many voluntarily) the small hands of a small man who instead consistently temps us to give ourselves over to our inner demons and the fears that the darkest recesses of our minds can conjure.

And worst of his transgressions as a person is his character itself, for it is one that is nothing less than the manifestation of all the terrible excesses and vices of the human condition that we have been warned since childhood to avoid and not fall prey to. It would be easy to say that he is aggressive, angry, and prone to indulge in his passions, but many people are that way, even some of the best among us. It would be simple to say that he is greedy, gluttonous, and hyper materialistic, but the vast majority of us are also not immune to this (one need only look at our spending and living habits before the Great Recession, or the ‘80s, or the ‘50s and ‘60, or the Roaring 20s to see this). And it would be beyond tempting to simply say that the man is boorish, uncouth, and lacking in civility, but sadly too many of us (or at least our social media projections) could also be described in this way. All of these are terrible qualities, and indeed Trump exhibits all of them. But they even together are not sufficient to explain why he is so utterly contemptible to any proud conservative, let alone any average person of any political persuasion.

Rather, it is his persistent and ever present desire for attention, wealth, and power, not only for his own sake, but at the expense of others, that makes Trump truly abominable and anathema to the soul of civil humanity, let alone the spirit of conservatism. He is a consistent and documented pathological liar, an unrelenting narcissist, and in possession of a level of vanity that is as fascinating as it is mortifying. The walls of his office in Trump Tower are adorned with articles and cover stories of not only his accomplishments but also his most mortifying deeds, including his attempts to strong arm tenants out of one of his properties by bringing in the homeless to drive them out, not because the piece was inaccurate or angered him, but rather because he enjoyed being portrayed as a strong man and because it got him so much attention. His bestselling book The Art of the Deal, which he erroneously calls the greatest selling business book of all time, is a textbook of lies, from its exaggerations of his accomplishments to blatant fabrications of events to even its authorship (a ghostwriter penned all of it, and now dearly regrets the myths he created in it), yet documents this truth: Trump’s consistent lack of discipline and his undying need to accumulate more wealth, exposure, and power. His business practices, while feature some successes (though due in large part from the patronage, both politically and financially, of his father), is also pockmarked by not only numerous failures and bankruptcies, but also exploitations of others, treacherous dealings, and frivolous lawsuits born from anger and a desire for vengeance against perceived slights and disloyalties that are often the stillbirths of his imagination. The testimonies of those who have known him and the narrative of his own actions reveal a man who is not only a pathological liar, but one who is willing to convince himself that his lies are either true or ought to be true, and thus should have no moral or material repercussions or consequences. The point need not be labored further: such character is not only unbecoming of the position that should be the finest example of American citizenry and values, but revolting and outright dangerous to conceive of wielding the power that comes with being a dog catcher.

I have long disparaged and railed against those who refuse to pick a side among the major party candidates, and I will continue to do so as a firm believer that when examining one’s political conscience and the positions of those major candidates, a determination can be made as to which best represents your own view and should receive your vote, even if the ballot is cast while wearing a clothespin. But for every rule there is an exception, and desperate times call for desperate measures. I cannot support Hillary Clinton; not only as a conservative, but also because her own personality, immorality, and reckless, paranoid behavior make her equally unfit for office as Trump. I cannot support any of the other candidates because they are too dissimilar from my world view and do not represent me enough to warrant giving them legitimacy, let alone political ammunition. In the end, for this election, the political calculus fails me, for all candidates (especially the major party ones) are equally objectionable and unfit for office. So do not confuse these words as having an ulterior objective or motive. They are not written with joy, but with great frustration and lamentation.

There are many within the Republican Party and on the political right in general who have come to support Trump, either wholeheartedly or with extreme reservations, since his effective clinching of the nomination. It has come to pass due to party loyalty, the hope that a Trump Administration, like a bad storm, is something one can weather until calm waters reappear, and the desire to not see a candidate as objectionable to those who call themselves conservative as Hillary Clinton is become elected to the highest office in our country. While I greatly disagree with this strategy, I cannot blame them too much for it or turn my back upon them. The political calculus appears to have worked for them, even if with a great sense of regret.

But for those who have supported Trump from the beginning, who have allowed this to happen and who saddled us all with this nightmare: know that this will be remembered. It will be remembered by those of us who rightfully dug our feet in the sand and refused to follow along blindly. It will be remembered by those of us who chose to listen to our minds and conscience rather than to our raw emotions and visceral rage. It will be remembered by history, by those to come, and most importantly by our children and our grandchildren, who will know us and will someday, upon reaching the point of political maturity and self-awareness, will ask us how such a terrible tragedy would have occurred and what hand we played in it. While I do not wish to shame anyone (I’m not reaching for scarlet T’s to fasten to anyone’s chests after this election, regardless of the outcome), I do implore such people (some of whom I know) to think about what answers they’ll have to give to the generations to come who will ask us these questions, and to think of whether their conscience will and should bother when they are forced to give the answer.

I am a conservative Republican; this shall not change. I shall remain dedicated to the deeply and intellectually rich spirit and tradition of the Anglo-Saxon conservative movement, from the Magna Carta to the continuation of the classical liberal English political evolution that manifested into the great triumph of the American Revolution, to the political philosophy that continues to fight and remain today. I will continue to adhere to my beliefs and values, and the hijacking of my political party by a man so absolutely unfit for higher office by his positions, character, and very nature will not change this. But if doing so must mean that I take a path which will lead me away from the Republican Party, which will assign me to the same fate of extinction as those pathetic and lamentable prehistoric monsters who were both blessed and cursed with the ability to look up to the heavens and see the impending catastrophe that would bring them to their ruin, so be it. I will gladly wither like the leaves on a branch that breaks from a tree than to fall victim to the infection that rots it from within. As an American citizen, I am entitled to my vote and the decision to cast it as I so see fit. And in that liberty comes the freedom to not cast it as well. It is but one vote, a lone and solitary voice, with little power on its own and effectively none without a nominee to attach itself to. But it is mine, and I will not give a single cent of my political capital to an irascible snake oil salesman who is fundamentally opposed to everything I stand for. If Trump is to win, I shall have no part in it, and with that my conscience shall be clear.

4 Comments

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  1. brainsnorts

    1. what has gone wrong, what weakeness exists in the “true” republican party thatf allowed trump to so easily commandeer it?

    2. “if trump is to win, i shall have no part in it, and with that my conscience will be clear.” is it correct translate this as – “i’m not voting for trump or clinton. trump might win, and i will neither help nor hurt his chances.”

    3. if you had to vote for either candidate, who would get your vote? and don’t skate away by repeating your right to not vote at all. if you truly despise trump, and if you want his ass out of your party, you would vote for clinton in order to embarrass and dismiss trump from your party and let someone more competent take over.

    4. 4th paragraph, “breed” should be “bred.”

    • Vivek

      Before answering your #3 question, I should note that Paul and I are treating it solely as a hypothetical, not a plausible prediction of reality. I say that because you’re not going to like the answer. And neither do we.

      Speaking for both myself and Paul, both of us can say that if the election came down to either of our single votes between either of the two, we would first belch venom at the entire nation for forcing such a choice upon us, and then… well maybe you’re just better off not knowing at all.

  2. Jeff

    Well said, Paul. One point: I do hope that if Trump wins and effectively becomes the face of the Republican party, that true conservatives consider disassociating themselves from the Party itself. There comes a time when you have to recognize that a party no longer represents you, and at that point it’s time to find a new party, or simply self-identify.

    I’ve long since realized that the Democratic party doesn’t even remotely represent me as a progressive thinker, so I register independent and vote my conscience.

    Another thought: I hope our generation can lead the way in refuting the current state of politics. I think we need an infusion of young, ideological candidates on both sides, willing to run for office without corporate support and willing to lead our nation with dignity and principle. Our system is rotten to the core, and our willingness to allow the ascension of a man like Donald Trump, in many cases simply because he falls outside of the establishment, is a harrowing indication of this. We DO need political outsiders, but we need ones with true convictions and honest intentions.

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