I can tell you right now, that I will not vote for Donald Trump in 2024 if he is the Republican nominee.
I am registered as a Republican, and happy to remain so registered. I lean toward conservatism on most issues and am far more comfortable in the Republican Party than the other party. And I am a believer in participating in one of the two main parties because they drive all debates on all issues. I respect political independents (I am married to one), and we certainly need a chunk of the populace who are less engaged in political issues than are the partisans, otherwise, our already crazy political atmosphere in America might spin out of control. But for me, I want to participate in a way that is meaningful, and that means being an active member of a political party. I am Republican and have consistently voted for conservatives for national offices for decades.
The last time I was enthusiastic about my party’s presidential nominee was George W. Bush in 2004. He had done a good job in his first term, and had laid out an ambitious agenda for a second term—remember the “ownership society?” Instead of a Democrat-like program of ever-larger government benefits, Bush’s program promised ever greater individual empowerment over one’s life. What could be more American than that? The hurricane season and battle season in 2005 put the kibosh on his program, but he got my vote and vocal support in the election.
I did not support John McCain in the 2008 primary, but was happy to vote for him in the fall. Sure he was too moderate for my taste, but a decorated war hero who had given his all for this nation, and was vocally pro-life, and chooser of a down-to-earth running mate was a good candidate to vote for. As 2012 approached, the party began roiling between those that considered many of the leading Republicans to be way too bland—like milquetoast—to do anything other than maybe slow down the advance of Democratic party priorities. I felt that quite strongly. I have always most admired calm yet firm executive leaders for the presidency—I’m a Coolidge guy at heart. My support went first to Tim Pawlenty that year, and finally to Rick Santorum—I spoke for Santorum at my precinct caucus.
When my party nominated Mitt Romney, it was a bridge too far for me—I could not support Romney and I did not vote for him (I voted for Virgil Goode). There was no way I was going to vote for the person who brought socialized medicine to Massachusetts—it was, in my view, Republican apostasy. (Of course, that raises interesting questions—if he was the choice of the party, then who is the Republican apostate? The party? Or me?).
Like a lot of Republicans, I was surprised that Donald Trump did so well in the 2016 primary. When he became president, as a fellow Republican I intended to do what I would do with any president of my party—defend them whenever possible. Talk them up to whomever I encounter when political issures arise in conversation. Stress the good things they do. This is basic party-building activity.
I also made a sort of “deal with the devil” about something Trump-related. I ignored his tweets—public statements by the president. While the vast majority of his tweets were innocuous, despite the fact that the press reported them all as being false, controversial, or both, there were, nevertheless, several of them that really were things that a President of the United States should never, ever say. Yet I ignored them. I did this, knowing full well that by doing so, I was probably giving up forever the right to criticize outrageous things said by a Democratic president as a breach of decorum.
There were a handful of times when I either criticized the president to friends or agreed with their criticisms, because of a particularly egregious episode. After writing that sentence, I reviewed the record for an example, and all examples I could find were things that he said. While a president’s words are important, and his were often completely unacceptable, it is equally notable to me that his actions were always defendable when exercising the powers of his office. Indefensible comments did occur rather regularly. However, far more often, I defended him against a barrage of criticism. Let’s not forget—Donald Trump received the most blistering, negative reporting of any American officeholder in history, except perhaps the treatment of Lincoln by the southern press. I was determined to be an unapologetic supporter of the president, and not give in to the temptation to be silent, or acquiesce that he was an evil person bent on establishing authoritarianism, and most things he did were bad. I didn’t believe that, and I am not afraid to express what I believe—I never have been. I also note that my biggest criticisms of Trump were that he wasn’t conservative enough—his spending was profligate, and we just borrow with no end in sight.
In the fall of 2019, as I saw the latest firestorm over nothing—the Ukrainian phone call—I told my liberal friends that if the house impeached the president over that bunch of nothing, then I was putting a Trump sign in my yard for the duration of the proceeding, to show support for a president beleaguered by the other party and swampy Washington DC, having to deal with time-wasting nonsense. They impeached him, and I had the sign in my yard until he was acquitted at the end of the trial. (I note that Romney’s vote to convict in that impeachment, I felt, vindicated my decision not to support him in 2012). That was the high watermark for my support of President Donald Trump—a sign in my yard telling all my neighbors of my support for him while he was under impeachment. (Interestingly, soon after, my teenage daughter decided she supported Pete Buttigieg for the democratic nomination, and she put a sign for him in the yard—my neighbors must be so confused).
I had no trouble voting for Donald Trump in 2020—I was comfortable in doing so. His tax policy was good, and America’s economic growth was spectacular. He both stood up to China and increased the peace in the Middle East. His court appointments were a dream come true. He brought significant improvements to the Education, Interior, VA, and Justice departments. His de-regulation efforts were strong. And he got control of the border in a way that hadn’t been done before.
I will still defend President Trump on all of the good things he did as President, and the need we have in America for office-seekers and -holders who are unafraid to say what they think, regardless of what members of the press say. But my belief is that his actions on January 6 are simply disqualifying for being president again. What is more, that belief of mine is perfectly reasonable, and I’m not going to change my mind. You cannot be president, and do what he did that day—you just can’t. Just like voting for Romney in 2012 was a bridge too far for me personally, so too would be voting for Trump to be president again. I don’t know how many people like me there are out there—not `Never-Trumpers’; not Trump enthusiasts—Republicans who see a critical need for the party to move on to the `next thing,’ whether it be Tim Scott, or Ben Sasse, or Ron DeSantis, or Nikki Haley, or Mike Pompeo (or Tom Cotton, or Marco Rubio or Marsha Blackburn, or Bobby Jindal—I could go on). These are all people who have served in very difficult circumstances in ways simultaneously honorable, skillful, and conservative-in-a-good-way. I would be enthusiastic enough about any of them to go out knocking doors to rustle up votes. We need to move on. The conservative movement is not going to be grown by Donald Trump. We have no hope of avoiding national bankruptcy under his leadership. And I cannot vote for a person who encouraged a mob in a way that could have gotten government officials—most notably his own vice-president—killed; and who failed to act to stop the mob during a crisis.
[As an aside, I note that, while I take the events of January 6 very seriously, I also want to stress how much I roll my eyes at the over-the-top hyperbole with which Democrats and their media accomplices hold the events of that day. They repeatedly call it an insurrection, when it was a disorganized, spontaneous riot (there is a huge difference). They refer to the trespassers in the capitol as being “armed” when they were not. They referred for months to a capitol policeman killed in an assault by trespassers when there was no truth to that. They keep talking about how the riot “killed” 5 people when it killed one person, and it was one of the trespassers. They militarized the Capitol for months afterward, and would like all Americans to think that a large percentage of the nation’s populace (and all Republicans) are white supremacists ready to raise arms against the government at the drop of a hat. It is all galling and patently ridiculous. What is unfortunate for Republicans is that January 6 showed the instantaneous power of social media on crowds, and how the human tendency to take action when goaded by leaders (whether the leader meant it or not) is very strong.]
Again, I’m a Coolidge guy—he’s my gold standard for the presidency. I will always try to defend a president of my party so long as they are defensible, and stress the good outcomes attributable to them. But I cannot vote for Donald Trump for president ever again. No one can make me change my mind on this—my verdict is in. It doesn’t matter how badly democrats need to be defeated in 2024 due to the circumstances of that time. I repeat that I don’t regret voting for President Trump in 2020. Donald Trump is an extraordinary person, and his accomplishments in office were significant and positive—I disagreed with none of his initiatives (some of the tariffs gave me some heartburn, and—oh my—the spending). I wish the election had turned out differently. This raises another interesting issue—folks who demand continuing loyalty to President Trump all believe that the election was stolen from him by Democrat Party chicanery. My point about that is this—even if that is indeed the case, does that justify President Trump’s actions (and inactions) on January 6 — the person sworn to uphold the law, whether the law is right or wrong? It does not.
There is a great scene near the beginning of the 1995 film Nixon, in which Richard Nixon is deciding whether to challenge the outcome of the 1960 election, which was shady for several reasons. His adviser, Murray Chotiner, counsels against bringing an election challenge. Given the nature of the supposed shenanigans, Chotiner says “they stole it fair and square.”
2020—the craziest year in my lifetime(other than 1968 when I was two)—was a blur of changed election rules (some court challenged and some not), courts often reaching brazenly political decisions, ballot harvesting on an industrial scale (some “legal,” some not), and exceptions to normal scrutiny of mail-in ballots that caused mass doubt about accuracy of the results, yet impossible to review and second-guess once votes are counted. In short, it was a mess. In our decentralized, federal election system, where much is decided at the state level, we simply must accept the decisions of the duly elected officials in each state that certify the results of their state. Many states are, laudably, trying to lay the groundwork in their states for more reliable election results in future cycles. But 2020, for better or worse, is over. As Murray Chotiner said—if Dems stole 2020, they stole it “fair and square.” And either way, President Trump’s actions on January 6 cannot be justified or excused. Donald Trump was a good executive, and republicans should continue to praise and emulate the accomplishments of his administration. But the sooner this party moves on, while respecting the good work he did, the better chance we have of saving this country from democrat folly.
- Peter M. Sand
Sand is an attorney residing in Urbandale and officing in the Beaverdale neighborhood of Des Moines