Editor’s Note: Well this one pretty much completes my evolution from “Let’s give Trump a chance to show what he can do” to “Holy shit! Everything he does is horrible, and we need to show him exactly the amount of respect the Republicans showed to President Obama” (who is Abraham Lincoln by comparison). I promise ... next time I’ll find something other than Trump to write about.

Wrong Again

Now that I’m a Medicare-card-carrying senior, my next 2017 milestone is my 40th wedding anniversary. Anyone married this long is familiar with criticism presented as a compliment. My wife has observed that, “One of your better qualities is your willingness to apologize when you’re wrong … and your willingness to do it so very, very often.”

The downside to writing for newspapers is that, when you’re wrong, you’re wrong publicly and permanently, both on paper and online. In 20 years as an op-ed columnist, I’ve been wrong several times, and one reason has been that, too often, I associate mainly with people who think just like I do — i.e., I’m isolated in my liberal echo chamber.

Of course, liberals aren’t the only ones stewing in like-minded marinades. Trump followers view opinions published by any media outlet not owned by Rupert Murdoch (e.g., “The New York Times” or “The Washington Post”) as unfair and unbalanced — or, as their president calls it, “fake news.” For example, my mother spent her last days on earth with the alternative reality of Fox News lying to her from morning till night.

You might think social media, such as Facebook, would help bridge the partisan chasm, but, in reality, it exacerbates it. People who “defriend” or “block” anyone with whom they disagree merely replicate their ideological echo chambers online. I was sorry to see a liberal Facebook friend, whom I like quite a bit, announce she’d defriend anyone placing a pro-Trump post that’s racist, misogynistic or homophobic (which is a bit redundant).  

One fanatically right-wing Facebook friend, with a disturbingly intense crush on The Donald, has pledged to block anyone criticizing his president. I’m sure he’s blocked me by now; however, I still read his rants, no matter how vile or incoherent. I can’t learn how the conservative mind works by interacting only with those who believe in the separation of church and state; 21st-century science; and the values of civil rights, gay rights, voting rights and women’s reproductive rights.

In 2015, I joined a right-wing debate club, because I wanted to know how conservatives define their own tenets. I’ve learned that reverse racism is a bigger problem than actual racism, and political correctness is more dangerous than bigotry. I’ve heard a great deal about the importance of small government, which evaporates whenever a Republican is in the White House and never applies to the military. And there’s been a lot of talk about fiscal restraint, but only when Democrats are in office; otherwise, “deficits don’t matter.”

They wax poetic about cutting taxes on the wealthy, no matter how big the budget gap, and they’re obsessed with shielding dead rich guys from the estate tax, because they adore the dynastic elites who benefit from trickle-down economics. It’s no accident that, even as they were pretending to want a “populist” president, the GOP nominated a billionaire who was born a millionaire.

They also feign reverence for government that keeps its nose out of our business. This disappears whenever Republicans are interfering with things they find liberal or sinful. Conservatives self-describe as “values voters,” as if they have a monopoly on morality. In addition to a revulsion for homosexuality, the governmental power most dear to the Right is controlling a woman’s childbearing decisions.

Their antipathy toward abortion (and, often, birth control) is less pro-life than anti-sex, in that it involves the desire to punish un-Christian fornication. Conservatives’ passion for life fades quickly once that life exits the womb: They have little empathy for single mothers, adore guns and the death penalty, and seem to fall in love with each new war. Pope Francis is apparently too consistently pro-life (opposing both war and capital punishment) to earn the respect of the many Republicans who’ve begun to turn on him.

Pro-life creates single-issue voters. One Facebook fundamentalist described Trump’s inauguration as a “blessed day,” — despite his adulteries, racism, misogyny and divorces — based on his rebirth as anti-choice. Many on the religious right would vote for Kim Jong-un, if he’d pledge to appoint justices opposed to Roe v. Wade.

However, what conservatives are most proud of is their faux, purist devotion to the Constitution. They despise “activist judges” who’ve found in this document voting rights, marriage equality or the right to privacy, but they admire the activism of the Citizens United decision, which assumes the framers considered corporations to be people. (Could this have anything to do with the ways this activism benefits the GOP?)

They also had no problem denying President Obama’s right to name Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, because, evidently, for the Right, the Constitution grants only Republican presidents the power to appoint justices. Given this hypocrisy, Democrats should do everything in their power (which may not be much) to keep Neil Gorsuch off the Court, because he’ll be occupying a seat unconstitutionally hijacked by the Right.

Initially, I thought we should wait and see what Trump would do as president. Well, now we’ve seen, and virtually none of it is positive. Other than venerating the rich, what warms right-wing hearts the most is winning, so conservatives are now fully embracing Trumpism. GOP patriots (e.g., John McCain) who dare to resist the dishonesty and ugly bigotry of Trumpism are few and far between, as the Republican Party evolves toward a kind of “fascism-lite,” and the deplorables increasingly threaten American values.

During President Obama’s two terms, the GOP chose party over country by working to ensure that he — and, by extension, America — would fail. Nowadays, they demand that Democrats fall in line, because we’re all on the same ship. The flaw in this metaphor is they’ve already demonstrated more devotion to right-wing ideology than to the ship. What I’ve learned by interacting with conservatives is they value politics over patriotism.

I’m willing to apologize when I’m wrong. We are all on the same ship, but I was wrong to think Captain Donald might plot a course that could bring it to a better place. The majority of Americans who voted against him can do little to block his agenda, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t oppose and obstruct him every chance we get.

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