I voted for President Donald Trump for many of the same reasons my friends and neighbors did. We were tired of leaders who talked a good game, then rarely delivered on our values.
I reasoned there was nothing a novice president could do that our institutions and Congress couldn’t fix.
Boy, was I wrong.
While our institutions are holding up reasonably well from daily attacks on the judiciary, our intelligence services, and even our postal system, I failed to consider the shallow convictions of Congress. This Congress ceded its responsibility as a separate and equal branch of government for oversight and consent — and pledged its support not to the Constitution and rule of law, but to a man.
All across this nation, we see friendships tested, family relationships strained and raw politics resembling hand-to-hand street fighting rather than the debate and decorum expected of a great nation.
Bad people did not create the environment we’re in, nor did bad people elect this president. Our founders understood our weaknesses. George Washington, in his farewell address, warned of the trappings and failings of the two-party system and hyper-partisanship. Alexander Hamilton dubbed political parties “the most fatal disease” of popular governments.
Today, political leaders have reduced parties to fortresses from which followers emerge only to deliver vulgarity, insults, lies, and cheap social media memes. We, the American people, deserve better. Not because we’re an entitled people, but because we are simply better people.
There are those who would diminish and hold in contempt folks who elevate and protect a president whom they see as brash, has no respect for procedural or Constitutional norms, or acts with impunity as he taunts equal branches of government to shackle him.
I will not judge. I can only recount my own journey to this moment and my understanding of how we got here. To this moment of unrest. To this moment of consequence and choice.
People were tired well before 2016. Tired promises of fairer representation, equality of opportunity, more value for their tax dollars, and promises of safety from internal and external threats. They were tired of experiencing a diminishing middle class, tired of stagnant wages, and tired of excuses. Good people just wanted a fair shake and the opportunity to achieve their dreams.
Voters, devoid of leaders who live up to and exemplify good people’s expectations, no longer value their party’s guiding principles. Instead, good people can and do succumb to the populist trappings of tribalism. They retreat to the safety of their party fortress to prepare for and wage battle simply for the sake of battle.
We Americans have faced the prospect of being torn apart before. The Civil War, the Great Depression, the Civil Rights movement, and Vietnam are examples of moments of tumultuous unrest. During each of those periods, with arguable degrees of closure, once the people were heard, they elected true leaders with empathy and vision for a better future. Societal changes were made, we rebuilt, and moved onward and upward.
We are experiencing one of those periods today and we have an ever-closing opportunity to pull ourselves back from the brink. We made our populist points by electing this president. We’ve been heard; now it’s time to move on. But we can only do so if we stand together as one people with one American voice.
At Operation Grant we extend our collective, outstretched hands to those who instinctively know there is a better path. A path of hope, a path of light, a path of decency, a path of statesmanship, a path of reconciliation and reconstruction. A path where individuals are lifted up, not torn down; a path where allies are called to our side, not to the carpet; a path where the United States is revered on the world stage, not merely tolerated. A path where we are encouraged and emboldened to unite, not fight.
You know what to do. Stand up and use your vote to say, “enough is enough.” I’ll be using mine to vote for Joe Biden this fall.
Christopher Gibbs is a farmer and team leader at Operation Grant (https://www.operationgrant.org). He is president of Rural America 2020 and is former GOP and Board of Elections chair for Shelby County, Ohio.