This holiday season let’s try to bring a little comfort and joy to our close friends who are feeling disheartened and disillusioned.
They realize now that they have been repeatedly disappointed by someone they truly trusted for years. And now we can give these friends a special gift by helping them find a worthy, and much more trustworthy, successor. And in the spirit of the season, we need to make sure the gift we give doesn’t come wrapped in political lectures and tied with ribbons of I-told-you-sos.
So please don’t remind those good friends that they twice voted for Donald Trump. And they won’t come back at you about Benghazi and Hillary’s emails and Hunter’s big bucks. Besides, I’ve always understood why so many Americans fervently voted twice for Trump. He was the only one who they felt really wanted to be talking to folks like them. So they believed him when he said he alone could fix our problems. And when he said they’d be bored with all the winning.
Now, with our gift, we can help them discover how to spot an honest, principled conservative who won’t turn out to be yet another governing grifter who is too-quick to con. Also: We can help our friends spot honest leaders who have the guts to tell them the truth -- not just what they want to hear.
We can start by helping them look beyond the way-too-early polls. Yes, they show Trump’s popularity is plunging among Republicans. But the seemingly huge 56 percent to 33 percent lead that Florida’s Gov. Ron DeSantis has over Trump in the new USA Today/Suffolk University poll means little. DeSantis is little-known and voters mainly are just projecting their own desires onto his blank slate. It just indicates voters’ early interest in a Non-Trump conservative.
It also reflects the fact that DeSantis has a talent for telling his Florida voters what they want to hear. Consider his COVID-era leadership. When President Trump was proudly pushing the then-new vaccine, DeSantis stumped his state to do so too. In December 2020, DeSantis told cameras at Tampa General Hospital: “I have the privilege of being able to actually sign for the vaccines from FedEx.” In February 2021, he said on Fox News: “Today is the day we’re going to hit over 2 million senior vaccines.” Days later, at a school gymnasium, DeSantis bragged that vaccination in Florida was “almost 50 percent statewide -- that’s MUCH better than almost 45 or 46 other states.”
But then polls showed Trump’s Republican base was turning anti-vaccine -- and DeSantis raced ahead to lead the anti-vax parade. He went beyond the science and made it personal, hate-based and inflammatory. He demonized Dr. Anthony Fauci, the public-serving Trump/Biden White House adviser, winning cheers by telling a “Keep Florida Free” rally: “I’m just sick of seeing him! I know he says he’s gonna retire -- someone needs to grab that little elf and chuck him across the Potomac.”
All of us have seen the violence that pandering foments -- from the Jan. 6 insurrection to the shooting of Republican congressmen on a ballfield and the bashing attack at the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
So we need to remind our conservative friends that they must search carefully to discover conservative Republicans who aren’t afraid to tell truth to power -- and to you, the people. That’s just what Georgia’s conservative Gov. Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger did when they courageously rejected Trump’s flailing attempt to get them to somehow declare they found enough votes to turn Trump’s 2020 defeat into a victory.
We’ve all heard Trump’s abhorrent recorded pleading: “So look, all I want you to do is this, I just want you to find 11,780 votes, which is one more that we have. Because we won the state and flipping the state is a great testament to our country. …And there’s nothing wrong with saying that, you know, that you’ve recalculated, because the 2,236 absentee ballots, I mean, they’re all exact numbers that were, were done by accounting firms, law firms, etc. And even if you cut them in half, cut them in half, and cut them in half again, it’s more votes than we need.”
But you probably don’t recall Raffensperger’s courageous, law abiding refusal: “Well, Mr. President, the challenge that you have is the data you have is wrong.”
Georgians resoundingly reelected both men who stood strong against Trump. The courage Kemp and Raffensperger displayed was the quality our friends never saw in their leaders. It’s what we need to help each other find as we all seek to make America great again.
Martin Schram, an op-ed columnist for Tribune News Service, is a veteran Washington journalist, author and TV documentary executive. -- Ed.
(Tribune Content Agency)