I’m A Conservative. I Don’t Even Know What That Word Means Anymore. | Gradient

I’m a conservative. I don’t even know what that word means anymore.

I have voted for the Republican Presidential candidate in every election for 24 years, and yet this year I’d rather stick a needle in my ear than vote for anyone on stage at this week’s RNC.

For those of you keeping score, that means I’ve voted for George H.W. Bush, Bob Dole, George W. Bush, George W. Bush (oops, I did it again), John McCain and Mitt Romney. You know what these men have in common with Donald Trump?

Not a god damn thing.

The only one to even show up at the 2016 RNC is a 93-year-old Bob Dole who needed three guys to stand him up and move his arms like he was in Weekend at Bernie’s.

I set out to write this article about the things young conservatives should focus on to win back control of the Republican party by 2020, but I quickly realized that I don’t know if that is even possible. Worse yet, I don’t even know what conservative means anymore.

While the 2016 primary season left me angry and confused, this week’s Republican National Convention has me apoplectic and sick to my stomach. In addition to the insane clown posse (Chris Christie, Ben Carson, Rudy Giuliani), we watched people who used to be on the side of thoughtfulness (Paul Ryan, Marco Rubio) decide that for the sake of “stopping Hillary,” “passing bills in congress,” and “SCOTUS picks” they would reluctantly support Trump.

But that’s not how it works. You support him or you don’t. Those who support Trump may help him win the White House, and they should never be allowed to forget that.

Politics are about trade-offs and working for the common good. But the one principle that should never be compromised, no matter the alternative, is equality. The belief in equality is paramount to our democracy. As a country, we have never lived up to the total equality we sometimes claim, but we have been slowly trying to move in the right direction for decades. A Trump presidency would signal a reversal of all that has been gained and prove to half of the country that they are really and truly second class citizens.

No matter the party or the political persuasion, the President must  believe that we are all created equal and no one should be judged based on the color of their skin, their sex, their religion, or who their parents are. And yet Donald Trump has done all of that in just the past few months.

I can live with a president who I generally don’t agree with (I’ve done that most of my life), but I can’t live with a President who characterizes a group of millions of people who are simply looking for a better life as rapists and thieves. I can’t live with a President who calls a man’s character into question simply because his parents are Mexican. I can’t live with a President who tells the entire world that a woman is on her period when she dares ask him an intelligent, tough question. I can’t live with a president who would ban an entire religion from our country in direct opposition to the constitution he claims to hold so dear. I don’t care what his domestic or foreign policies are if he can’t be trusted to treat everyone with the same dignity.

(Side Note: Maybe this should be our new litmus test for the Presidency.

Questionnaire: What is your opinion of people from Mexico.

Candidate: Some are OK, but most are just sexual predators.

Questionnaire: Thank you. You are free to have those beliefs, but you can not run for office.)

And don’t start telling me how bad Hillary Clinton is. If your argument is that while Trump may be a racist/misogynist at least he’s not as bad a Clinton, you’re more concerned with power and status than honest conservative ideology. I don’t agree with the former Secretary of State on much of anything and I’m not asking anyone to vote for her, but that is beside the point. For America to be a functional democracy, we can’t have half of the populace knowing our leader thinks less of them because of their race, sex, or religion. I’d rather disagree with our president on every idea than help put someone in office who disagrees with people because of who they are. If the conservative movement is going to have any hope at a future, they can’t put a person who discriminates against others on the basis of their nationality and religion in office.

Where are the political leaders with the ideology of small yet effective government and maximum personal liberty? Are there any politicians who believe in limited but smart corporate regulation, and keeping a strong military that is only used when absolutely necessary, and promoting a tax system that helps small business and yet understands globalized markets which bring financial opportunity to Americans and development to people around the globe, and in the separation of church and state? I don’t see anyone on the horizon that could carry this torch. Maybe that’s why George Will recently left the Republican Party. Maybe it’s why Arthur Brooks calls himself an independent.

Last night, Ted Cruz told CNN that he believes that he is the head of the conservative movement, and I fear he is right. In a nation more concerned with what Stephen Colbert calls “the feels”, Cruz throws social conservatives populist red meat while offering to kill the terrorists and bring jobs back.

I appreciate that Cruz isn’t endorsing Trump, even if it’s for reasons different than mine. But that also shows how the movement is split even further. Since labels are now more for the people that claim them than their academic definitions, Cruz may carry the conservative name into the next decade and cause the rest of us to find new homes.

No matter who wins this election, I do believe America will endure. The struggle for a more perfect union will continue. Just know that sometime in the not-too-distant future, someone will ask who you supported in 2016. And while you hopefully won’t be judged by the color of your skin, your sex, your religion or your political label; your answer will reflect on the content of your character. On that you will be judged.