I supported Trump in 2016. I will not be supporting him in 2020. It is not because I hate him. It is not because I think he has been a disaster as president. It is not because of Russia, the Ukraine, or what the Democrats, CNN, MSNBC, and the New York Times say about him. In fact, I like the way he has taken on the establishment and pushed for change.
There are three primary reasons I have withdrawn my support: 1. He has been catastrophic on animal and environmental issues, 2. He has been governing from the far right, and 3) He has been a divisive president.
Quite a few independents like me voted for Trump because we wanted an independent in the White House. We were excited about his candidacy because we were fed up with the two-party system which has hijacked elections—seemingly back to the Stone Age—without any regard for the 40 percent of the population who identify as independents. We wanted a populist commander-in-chief who would take on the establishment and put country ahead of political affiliation.
However, Trump disappointed many of us when he began pandering to the far right and governing as if conservatives were his only constituents. He became a partisan, expressing concern for only certain segments of the population (i.e. the evangelicals because “they came out in massive numbers [for me]” and gun enthusiasts because “you [the NRA folks] weren’t sure Trump was going to win, but you all went out there [to vote for me].”
Trump’s hard-right pivot appeared to be largely a result of a flawed assumption that only conservatives were his allies—despite the fact that millions of independents, Democrats, libertarians, and even Green Party activists had cast votes for him. In addition, he was the target of a relentless barrage of snubs, criticisms, and mockery by “the left” and their ideological bedfellows in the media (a barrage that began on the first day of his candidacy and that he has always deemed unfair). These two factors arguably brought Trump to a partisan place, a place where he felt justified in ignoring 50 percent of the country. Just as Hillary Clinton once foolishly called half the nation “deplorables,” Trump has been foolishly treating the other half as “invisibles.”
To my mind, a president should take all interests into consideration and try to make decisions in a fair and nonpartisan way. He or she should, at minimum, establish the following objectives: to unify the nation, to be inspirational to all, and to gain the confidence of those on both sides of the political aisle as well as those who are allergic to that aisle.
Don’t get me wrong. Trump is not the only culprit. The Democratic Party is also to blame for slinging around that same old you’re-with-us-or-against-us sludge and ignoring ideological dissenters, such as those who tout non-interventionist foreign policy. The party wants conformists, yes-men and yes-women, establishment defenders who will march in lockstep and vow allegiance to the party’s elites. If you are not in their boat on virtually every policy issue and if you lack their golden seal of approval, they feel justified in throwing you overboard. You become an “invisible” (as Bernie Sanders learned in 2016).
Congressional representative and presidential hopeful, Tulsi Gabbard, is today’s “invisible” (and to a lesser extent, so is Andrew Yang). When Gabbard is not being ignored by her own party, she is the target of their smears, mischaracterizations, and verbal venom. She has been called every slur in the political playbook, and party elites have recently condemned her for appearing on Fox News (despite the fact that she has participated in a greater number of interviews on left-leaning CNN and MSNBC). The elites clearly feel that her “crime” of being inclusive, of reaching out to everyone—including Hillary’s “basket of deplorables”—is beyond the pale and ill-becoming of a Democrat. Gabbard has responded that a leader does not “disrespect… and dismiss… half the country… [and treat conservatives like] garbage.”
There is further evidence that Gabbard is the inclusive candidate, capable of reaching voters across the political spectrum. A recent, although unscientific, online poll reveals that Gabbard is supported from those on the far left to those on the far right, from libertarians to veterans, from animal advocates to those who would never miss an episode of Tucker Carlson Tonight.
Of the 932 Gabbard supporters who responded to this poll, 27% say they voted for Donald Trump in 2016; 30% voted for Bernie Sanders or Hillary Clinton; 23% voted Green Party, and 21% voted Libertarian. This across-the-board appeal of Gabbard comports with my personal experience. I have interviewed dozens of her backers at campaign events and have come to learn that they are as diverse as… well, our nation.
Gabbard—a patriot and a soldier—is, in my view, the only candidate with the intelligence, inclusiveness, and independence of spirit needed to beat Trump. The Democratic Party would be well-advised to stop treating her like an itchy rash or a chipped gnome.
If we, as a people, want to end the divisive rhetoric and become a nation of “visibles,” we might want to put Gabbard at the helm. She is our best chance for success.