When Barack Obama was elected, we were tea party activists worried that underneath all the “hope and change” there was something closer to political demagoguery—a new president who would ultimately consolidate power rather than protect liberty.
We believed, perhaps naively, that our activist allies were rejecting big government.
Together, we challenged not just Obama and Democrats, but Republicans who refused to reverse the unsustainable growth of government.
We’ve been surprised to learn, however, that many of the people we thought were fighting for freedom with us were simply looking for their own style of charismatic authoritarian.
Enter Donald Trump.
As Trump began to rise over the summer, we spoke out against him. We thought that, naturally, a man making unrealistic political promises, most of which would mean bigger government, would be rejected by the same people we passionately walked beside knee deep in mud, amid snowstorms, and in hundred degree weather to elect limited government conservatives.
While it’s true that Trump’s support is primarily found among moderates and independents, we’re still shocked to see so much enthusiasm among tea party activists and even some within the Ron Paul-inspired liberty movement.
For pointing out that Trump supports trampling the Constitution, instituting socialized medicine, and restricting free markets, we’ve been accused of infiltrating the grassroots, being establishment hacks and “Republicans In Name Only,” not to mention called words, many shockingly misogynistic, that we will not repeat in print.
Yes, everyone battles trolls on social media. But we never expected our real-life allies to react in such a way for rejecting a Hillary Clinton donor like Trump.
Back in 2010 and even 2012, it simply would have been unfathomable.
As activists, we know fear and tribalism often rules the roost in politics. We recognize that allies often disagree. But we had hoped, at the very least, that the people we had worked so hard with to elect solid conservatives would be able to identify clear demagoguery when it was staring them in the face.
Instead, many say that Trump, a corrupt corporatist who’s doled out millions of dollars to establishment politicians like Hillary Clinton, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, John Boehner and Mitch McConnell, is a “good businessman.” Those now praising Trump for this form of cronyism are some of the same people who once rightfully rejected Obama and McCain for their support of bank bailouts.
When Donald Trump insults women for our life-giving biological functions, mocks prisoners of war, flippantly invokes the difficulties faced by disabled people, dehumanizes Muslims, and paints Mexicans as criminals, his defenders praise him for being “politically incorrect.”
If a rejection of the left’s totalitarian desire to restrict speech means an embrace of Donald Trump’s lack of humanity, how far have the alleged limited government advocates we once fought beside fallen?
Conservatives have long claimed they want people like us—young women committed to free markets and liberty—as leaders within our movement. In the sixteen years of political experience between the two of us, we recognize there’s still a great deal for us to learn, and eagerly seek to expand our knowledge.
But when people who once fought Obama’s authoritarianism now accost us for being insufficiently charmed by Trump’s version of it, we have to question where this movement is heading.
We’ve been blessed to meet some of the most intelligent and dedicated people through our activism, and wouldn’t change our journeys. But it’s disheartening to see people sacrifice the small government legitimacy we all worked so hard to achieve, just to enable Trump and his fanatical rhetoric.
When Barack Obama promised his adoring followers “hope and change,” he was engaged in a marketing scheme conservatives rightfully rejected as a fantasy. We knew a top-down approach to government that stripped us of freedom couldn’t bring about progress.
Now, Trump is promising to “Make America Great Again,” an equally vague daydream that invokes an empty return to a yesteryear for which there’s no economic basis.
The idea that you can simultaneously support free markets and Trump’s protectionist agenda is an exercise in cognitive dissonance. It’s no different than Democrats believing that Obamacare will reduce healthcare costs.
Shouldn’t conservatives know better?
Trump has tapped into the anger, fear and frustration of many voters. But in doing so, he’s playing too many of the same Republican-leaning voters who once said Obama’s fanned the same flames. Trump is doing to his supporters what they have accurately claimed the left has done for decades.
Sadly, it’s working like a charm.
It’s time for conservatives to stand up and boldly reject the despotic tactics of self-interested promoters like Trump and Obama. If the activists we sweated alongside to advocate for liberty were capable of rejecting Obama’s ruse, we have no doubt that with contemplation, they’ll see through Trump’s too.
Join us in rejecting authoritarianism, in all of its forms, for freedom, and all of its potential.