I made no secret of my antipathy for Donald Trump in 2015 and 2016. (And also in 2011, when he was considering running for President before.) I thought he was the least qualified of the Republican candidates for President, and I still think that. I worried that he would embrace policies that are fiscally and socially liberal, which would eviscerate any and all opposition to the Democrats’ big government agenda. I did not vote for Trump in the 2016 general election. I voted for Darrell Castle, the Constitution Party candidate. Since January 2017, I have become much more supportive of the President.
So what changed?
The biggest change is that Trump won and he has been solidly conservative on policy. I still do not think Trump has a solid set of conservative principles. He is a populist and a pragmatist, not an ideological conservative. I do not think Trump cares much about policy, as long as he “wins.” But the people around him have shaped strong conservative policy which has delivered multiple “wins” for Trump. You can easily see Mike Pence’s influence in many of this administration’s policies, especially on religious liberty and protecting the unborn. On policy, Trump has been better than I ever imagined he would be.
Democrats have made this choice easy. Trump may well have been more open to Democrats’ policy goals had large swaths of the party not become unhinged and deranged in their hatred of Trump. That hatred made it impossible for Democrats in Congress to work with Trump, for fear of a revolt within the Democratic Party. It is clear that the best way to get Trump on your side is to say nice things about him, and who knows what would have happened if the Democrats in Congress buttered him up?
Realistically, conservatives have go through Trump to get anything done. He is the President, which means any conservative policy has to go through his desk and earn his signature. We can get our policy agenda passed while letting him take the credit and allow him to toot his own horn. This is what happened late last year with the historic tax cuts, which have been a priority for fiscal conservatives for years before Trump ever ran for President. A primary challenge from the right would be foolhardy and counterproductive, as I explained in August. The Trump derangement syndrome on the Left means that Trump needs conservatives politically as much as we need him, so he is stuck with us.
I still think Trump’s personal character is a moral abomination. It infuriates and sickens me to see “christians” excuse or brush aside Trump’s moral debauchery as if it does not matter. His childish rants on Twitter are far below what we should expect from a President. We can and should call on him to repent, but for far too many people, it is all or nothing. You have to support Trump 100% of the time, and if you criticize him at all you are a “bitter never Trumper” who just “wanted Hillary.” There is no room for nuance, and certainly no room for an overarching moral standard that sits above any particular conservative leader. This is not principled conservatism. This is a damnable idolatry.
So do I regret my vote in 2016? No, I do not. I cast my vote based on the information available at the time. As the political landscape changed, my reaction to that landscape changed. I do not regret being #NeverTrump two years ago, and as it stands now I will not hesitate to vote for Donald Trump to be re-elected in 2020. Trump did not earn my vote two years ago, but he has earned my support now. I am ready to “Make America Great Again.”