How can you still support Trump? Republicans hear it all the time, and have for upwards of four years now. He's a liar! He's a racist! He's a Russian asset! He's literally Hitler!
Hair-on-fire screaming from borderline delusional liberals still unable to fathom the results of the 2016 election is one thing. As the 2020 campaign ramps up, there is also legitimate trepidation about President Trump's first term from conservatives.
His trade war with China is costing American workers millions, while the national debt has skyrocketed on his watch. His angry attack on a group of socialist Congresswomen bordered on the racist call to "go back where you came from," and his hit on an MSNBC anchor for a botched face lift bordered on the unhinged.
His exaggerations are legion and his tendency to play fast and loose with the facts is routine. And if even the most die-hard Trump supporter is being honest, his pre-presidency personal and professional life wasn't exactly a paradigm of moral virtue.
So how can we still support him and, in fact, vote even more proudly for him in 2020 than we did in 2016? Because American politics has devolved into something that more closely resembles an ongoing Civil War than any of us would like to admit and, for all of his faults, President Trump is the best-equipped general for the fight.
It is fair to say that the reaction to Trump's victory in 2016 provoked the angriest response from the losing party since southern states started seceding from the Union a month after Abraham Lincoln was elected in 1860. Shock and tears on election night gave way to near-riots in Washington, D.C. on Inauguration Day, and for the next two years unfounded allegations of treason--that the President conspired with a foreign nation to rig his election and thus his administration was illegitimate--fomented a bitter divide that lingers to this day.
To be clear, Trump himself is not the source of this anger; that Trump won the presidency is. The paranoid fear of what a Trump presidency would look like (gay marriages will be forcibly broken up, a new Berlin Wall will go up along America's southern border, Congress will be abolished and Trump will rule as a dictator) is akin to the fear of abolition that drove South Carolina to lead the secession movement even before Lincoln was sworn in.
That fear wasn't based on anything that Lincoln had actually done, but rather what he might do once in office. South Carolina acted preemptively, and five other states joined it in seceding before Lincoln ever took the oath of office. In essence, their reaction to Lincoln's win made the Civil War inevitable.
In similar fashion, in December of 2016 Democrats began fostering anger and fear over a Trump presidency that had not yet started by preemptively launching a media assault accusing him of conspiring with Russia. While not as overt as secession, this nonetheless convinced millions of Americans that Trump was not their legitimate President and that he must be resisted at all costs.
Civil politics as we knew them were dead and a new sort of Civil War was born.
At the same time as Democrats made it their mission to destroy the Trump presidency and ostracize and publicly humiliate anyone who dared to work or even vote for him, they rapidly embraced a political philosophy that was for a century anathema to American civilization--socialism.
Just as most Americans in 1861 thought secession was fundamentally wrong and would bring about the end of our Constitutional Republic, most Americans today believe that the socialism Democrats so openly and gleefully embrace is a destructive force that must be beaten back by any means necessary.
Trump is simply those means, and right now they are necessary. The Battle of 2020 is just the latest front in the war for the soul of America, and if the two armies are constitutional capitalism and revolutionary socialism, then the personal constitution and character of our general is less important than his willingness and ability to fight.
Lincoln recognized this in 1864. The Union was into the third year of a conflict it thought would be over in months, if not weeks, thanks in large part to the leaders of its army's unwillingness to fight. Union Commander George McClellan in particular was so nervous to engage the enemy that Lincoln famously groused, ""If General McClellan does not want to use the Army, I would like to borrow it for a time, provided I could see how it could be made to do something."
The only general who seemed to be doing anything was a poorly regarded Ohioan named Ulysses S. Grant, whose victory at Shiloh made him a Union hero. Subsequent campaigns in Vicksburg and Chattanooga convinced Lincoln that Grant was the only man willing to take the fight to the Confederacy and named him commander of the Union Army.
Backlash was swift and severe: How can Lincoln support Grant? He's a drunk!
It was true. In 1854, Grant left the Army in disgrace because of his heavy drinking. When he returned after the outbreak of the war, questions surrounding his fitness for command followed him everywhere--even to his greatest victory. Rumors persisted that Grant was drunk on the battlefield at Shiloh, and Lincoln was urged to fire him.
"I can't spare this man," Lincoln responded. "He fights."
And he won. A little more than a year after his appointment, the supposedly unemployable drunk had pursued and repeatedly routed the forces of a man considered to be the finest military mind in the world, Confederate General Robert E. Lee, before finally forcing Lee's surrender at Appomattox.
How could Lincoln support Grant? Because he fought. He pursued the enemy, caught it, engaged it, and defeated it. Grant's personal failings were irrelevant because of his ability and, just as importantly, his tenacity.
154 years later, a flawed general rides into battle again, leading a political defense against forces that would undo America philosophically just as assuredly as secession would have undone America physically. When the stakes are this high, personal character is a secondary concern to willingness and ability to fight.
The Republican Party has for years been led by George McClellans, but now has a Ulysses S. Grant. Why do we support President Trump? Because we can't spare this man, he fights.