Dave Eagle is voting for Donald Trump during his state’s primary despite being an avid Bernie Sanders fan. Here’s why.
I like to think of myself as a sane, rational person: I generally wear clothing that’s appropriate for the day’s weather, have never suffered from delusions, and any hallucination I’ve ever had was drug-induced. But I’m about to do something crazy and I’ve convinced myself I’ve got a good reason for it. It could be a delusion—I’m not really sure. But here goes: tomorrow (or, “the other day,” for those of you not here reading over my shoulder as I write this), the Presidential primary comes to my beloved state of Vermont and I’ll be casting a vote for Donald Trump. It’s probably a bad idea and it makes me sick in a way that only pangs of conscience or gas station sushi could. Still, I feel compelled to follow through, in spite of my better instincts.
O, self, I hardly knew ye.
Let me just say that I love Bernie Sanders. I love him so much that I started that last sentence with “Let me just say”—a phrase he often employs—without realizing I was copping his line till I wrote it. But Bernie doesn’t need my help in Vermont. He’s got it locked up here. I’m in an open primary state and I feel like my vote needs to matter. Casting my ballot for him would be like adding a teaspoon of water to an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Sure, adding the water doesn’t hurt, but that’s because it doesn’t make any kind of difference one way or the other. Instead, I want to add my teaspoon to the kiddie pool—not to dilute all the urine that is its defining characteristic, but to make sure that the water level stays high enough so the kid who keeps peeing in there doesn’t leave. My guess is, when the water starts turning color and the choice is between knee-deep excrement and getting out, a whole bunch of people are going to excuse themselves and maybe join the rest of us grownups over here in the big pool.
The truth is, I’m not terrified of a Trump Presidency. I’m not happy about the prospect, but I don’t see it as the end-times scenario most people do. I have enough faith in the checks and balances between our branches of government; one man can’t ruin the country alone. Also, I have to believe that the guy is much smarter than he’s presenting himself to be. Loose cannons don’t build casinos and skyscrapers. Also, keep in mind that every crazy thing that comes out of Trump’s mouth, while unscripted, is exactly what he planned on doing when he got the idea to run years ago. I have a feeling that, in practice, a Trump Presidency would be to making America great what Obama’s was for hope and change. I recognize that I’m speaking from a position of privilege, that I’m gambling with a downside that doesn’t apply to me. There are lot of people much worse off—and, let’s be honest, much less white—than me that stand to lose the most from the implementation of his policies. But if the last eight years have proven anything about the U.S. government, it’s that the power of one party to block legislation should not be underestimated. I just don’t see a cataclysmic Trump-wrought disaster in our national future. If he’s nominated or elected, the GOP might not be so lucky.
While party leaders aren’t thrilled with Trump, they’re not exactly running away from him either. Reince Priebus, which is the improbable name of the Chairman of the Republican National Committee and not the Latin name for a species of African jungle cats, has said he won’t rebuke Trump over any of his offensive statements. When a Washington Post editorial pointed out Priebus’s tacit acceptance of Trump, the RNC chair scoffed, calling it “the stupidest editorial [he’s] ever seen” and marveled that he could be criticized for not talking smack about the frontrunner of his own party. How did Trump earn such party loyalty so quickly? He’s thrown a lot of money their way over the years and there’s no fundamental difference of opinion between Trump and the GOP establishment. What’s not to like? The Republican perspective on the issues is a childish series of self-serving, id-fueled philosophies—
Gun rights? It’s mine! You said I could have it!
Immigration? I was here before you! Get out!
The Affordable Care Act? Don’t tell me what to do!
Climate Change? Science isn’t my real dad!
Foreign Policy? I’ll kick your ass, punk!
—and Trump is just the little child to lead them. These are people who openly scoff at the idea that a real, functioning government could be counted on to provide economic stimulus for its citizens, then place their faith in mysterious “market forces” to keep the economy going strong. And as a party, they cling on to prepubescent notions of what it means to be strong (read: a man): you never back down from a challenge and apologies are for pussies. It’s a posture that’s benefitted Republican candidates in the past, but it doesn’t work quite as well when used against each other. We saw this in the recent debate in Texas (a.k.a. “Me and Rubio Down by the Schoolyard”). Trump insulted each of his opponents and then made smug little Trump faces while Rubio essentially shouted “I know you are but what am I?” Cruz, meanwhile, worked himself into a pasty little lather as he tried to figure out how to be patronizing and loud at the same time. Post debate, this has carried over into other arenas with Marco Rubio now employing scripted shtick at his rallies about Trump’s complexion (“He’s gonna make America orange again!”) and not-so-subtle jabs implying Trump has a small (and, presumably, orange) penis. Cruz and Rubio are locked into this fight now, and there’s no winning. The moral high ground is deep in the rearview. And the best part? The republican base is loving this.
Trump is bringing all the GOP’s whitewashed ugliness to the fore. The base supported the GOP’s anti-immigration policies when it was all talk of the law and the constitution and economic burdens. They’re much more passionately behind the same issue now that it’s about Mexican drug lords and rapists coming for our daughters. The base spoke with resignation about the unfortunate but necessary loss of some civil liberties due to the Patriot Act, arguing that if you’ve got nothing to hide it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. They loudly cheered, though, when Trump called for a total ban on Muslims entering the U.S. He’s not saying anything different than his opponents; he’s just saying them in much more vile, if not direct, terms. And though a candidate can’t be held accountable for who supports him, when white supremacist groups start robo-calling on your behalf it should be the kiss of death for your campaign. For Trump? Quite the opposite. Whether Trump means the things he says are irrelevant; a plurality of Republicans who’ve already voted have heard his misogyny and racism and thought to themselves, Yup. That’s my guy.
This is something that many registered Republicans are going to have to reckon with. Actually, both parties seem to be wheezing out their last breaths, but for very different reasons. On the left, Bernie Sanders has exposed the corrupt underbelly within the Democrats’ machine in the form of superdelegates—the DNC’s safeguard against people like Sanders winning. Democrats are looking long and hard at the leadership in their party and wondering whose side they’re on. Across the aisle, people’s eyes are opening to the popular heart of the GOP and they’re examining who’s been showing up to the rallies, primaries, and caucuses. To paraphrase Trump, they’re not sending their best. They’re people who are gleefully bringing all the ugliness that right-wing politics encourages. They’re bringing thugs, they’re bringing slime. They’re racists and some, I assume, are good people. Those good people need to figure out what a Trump nomination means for their party and who, exactly, it represents.
Unless Trump loses.
In that case, they’ll breathe a sigh of relief and ignore the systemic problems that made Trump a viable candidate in the first place. It was just a fluke, they’ll think, and they’ll be wrong. So I’m going to hit the voting booth and do my part to make sure they’re stuck with the guy who, by all measures, more accurately represents the juvenile, selfish spirit of the Republican Party than any other candidate. It seems to me that’s the best use of my vote this year.